by Eileen Mack
Engineering and marketing come together quite often in the consulting design business. Thankfully for me that is the case, as marketing and graphic design is what I do for GRAEF. I began thinking about this blend of relatively divergent services, and if we’re honest, personality types, over the summer as my family and I found ourselves packing up the SUV and heading south during the truly HOT days of 2012.
My husband, two daughters, and I were taking the ultimate family vacation. We were road tripping to Disney World in our own little version of the Griswold’s National Lampoon Summer Vacation! It has been nearly 25 years since I last stepped onto the hallowed grounds, and then it was just for a day with college friends on spring break. Before that, well, let’s just say it was a smidge earlier when I was in grade school!
The comparisons between then and now are stark. My first trip to Disney World offered, well, Disney World. It was only the Magic Kingdom. That included stuff like Mickey Mouse, the big Cinderella Castle, the singing children in a Small World, and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. There was no Epcot, no Animal Kingdom, no Hollywood Studies, no Blizzard Beach, and no Typhoon Lagoon! Today, it is almost as stressful deciding which park to go to each day as it is routing the perfect path through the lucky winner so as not to miss a single, really good attraction!
The Tree of Life in Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Finally you arrive at your park of choice. Let’s pick Animal Kingdom, my personal favorite. Everything is perfect! The trees look real, even if they aren’t. The buildings are clearly designed to the minutest detail, and where else can you stand in sweltering 98 degree heat looking at Mt. Everest. Watching the show “It’s Tough to be a Bug” takes you on a multi-sensory entomology tour, and even waiting in lines is made tolerable because of HVAC magic and visually interesting everything. The work of the thousands of Walt Disney
Mr. Everest on a sunny day in Florida.
”Imagineers” (those responsible for the design and development arm of the Walt Disney Company, responsible for the creation and construction of Disney theme parks worldwide) is incomparable. According to one internet source (Wikipedia – I know, not a scholarly source), “Imagineering is responsible for designing and building Disney theme parks, resorts, cruise ships, and other entertainment venues at all levels of project development. Imagineers possess a broad range of skills and talents, and thus over 140 different job titles fall under the banner of Imagineering, including illustrators, architects, engineers, lighting designers, show writers, graphic designers, and many more.” Now that is a cool job! It is especially cool when you consider that the following is one of their core philosophies: “… there is the principle of “blue sky speculation,” a process where Imagineers generate ideas with no limitations. The custom at Imagineering has been to start the creative process with what is referred to as “eyewash” – the boldest, wildest, best idea one can come up with, presented in absolutely convincing detail. Many Imagineers consider this to be the true beginning of the design process and operate under the notion that if it can be dreamt, it can be built.”
The iconic Epcot “golf ball” in Future World.
What is clearly evident as you travel through any of the theme parks is that in addition to the imagineers, there is a crew of equally amazing marketing geniuses at work. Every detail is thought out, making the experience both emotionally and physically wonderful. The music in each distinct park area subtly infuses you with the appropriate spirit. You bounce along the pathway to rhythmic African beats in the Animal Kingdom, patriotically stroll down Main Street in the Magic Kingdom, and hear the cosmically futuristic buzz of space travel at Epcot. To a person, everybody that we met was friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable. In Epcot’s World Showcase, they were not just costumed in ethnically appropriate outfits, but most service personnel, or “cast members,” were native to the “country” you were “visiting.”
In a seemingly simple, but demonstrative show of marketing genius, guests even get cute little towel animals in their rooms upon arrival at the resort. The cast members responsible for making up guest rooms take detail to the extreme and make everyone’s stay extra memorable.
It would be wise for us to consider how the perfect blending of engineering and marketing has combined for success throughout Disney’s mega-empire of entertainment. It has a lot to do with details, details, and more details. But those details are thought of by creative, collaborative teams that understand that technology without marketing might become just another technology.