I'm one of those people. I admit it... I don't turn my cell phone off in a movie theater.
It's not that I want to be rude; I do put it on silent; but I have to keep the vibrate setting on. The nature of my job is such that I'm always on call to monitor a few very important websites for a few of my clients. So I can't be out of touch from those computers and servers. In fact, the only times I'm unplugged is when I'm at 38,000 over the Atlantic. WiFi isn't available on the transatlantic flights I take. If it was, I know I'd be online.
This leads me to the cleverness of "The Mouse."
I'm a big Marvel movie fan. I don't read the comics, but I've always been a fan of the superhero TV shows and movies.
In the past few years, I've really enjoyed how the writers at Marvel Studios have interwoven all the storylines from their blockbuster movies and TV shows. The storylines and characters in the Agents of Shield TV show have served as the cleanup crew for the events that took place in "Thor: The Dark World" and "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" movies.
In fact, the Agents of Shield episode from April 28, 2015 was the precursor storyline and introduction for "Avengers: Age of Ultron," where they close out the episode saying they need to call the Avengers for help.
Meanwhile, the just-released Netflix series, Daredevil, is set in New York City's Hell's Kitchen in the wake of "The Avengers" movie.
All these interwoven storylines aren't just good, fun storytelling for fans; they are a genius marketing ploy that plays into the watcher's discovery process. Some people might say that it's the strictly Millennial generation feeding these interwoven stories and marketing, but the skyrocketing box office sales seem to indicate that a lot of other in different age camps derive enjoyment from it.
If you can't tell, I'm hooked too.
A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to be in France for the premiere of "Avengers: Age of Ultron" on April 21 for an 11:55pm showing. You can check out my ticket stub here on my Instagram account. The movie didn't open in the U.S. until May 1, 2015.
Mouse's Magnetic Marketing
As part of my ongoing research for these Daily Nuggets, I keep myself signed up for many jewelry company email lists. I'm probably on hundreds of email lists by now. This is how I derive my statistics and trends I frequently report.
I'm also signed up for emails from a few big brands, like Toys R Us and Macy's just so I can compare those big brand methods to small business email marketing methods.
Ever since my honeymoon in June 2014, I've been signed up for Disney's email list. Actually, I didn't realize I would be so drawn to Disney's daily marketing, but they are so good at it.
Originally, I had to sign up for their email list as part of the trip preplanning process. Disney didn't solicit anything during the trip planning period, they just kept sending me reminders of what I had to do before arriving, like invitations to sign up for MagicBand activities.
You can tell by the name on the back, that that's a photo of my MagicBand from the trip. Although the Apple Watch is the latest buzz in wearable tech, this simple bracelet is probably the most sophisticated, and useful wearable tech I've found so far.
While I was in Disney World, I started receiving email suggestions for current activities. I found it fascinating how brilliantly the email marketing department was able to guide our activities. Disney sends emails directly to the address I read on my iPhone.
As an example, on July 4, 2014 I was getting email notices of which parks were at capacity, along with suggestions of what to do if I wasn't in a park already. That's an amazing way to notify your customer in live-time with directly actionable and time-saving information.
Imagine the complexity of real world data collection and immediate application of that data. Naturally, it's much bigger than any small business would need, but the idea of live time notifications for your customers is not.
I was so impressed by their email marketing that I never took my name off their list. As a marketing guy, I have a feeling they engineered their emails like this to be helpful and addictive.
Most other companies using email marketing will limit their sending to once a week or once a month while The Mouse sends at least one email per day. Although it might seem obnoxious, they always include something really creative. Of course they will; they have an army of animators and creative writers at their disposal.
Disney has engineered addictive emails. There's no other way to describe them.
Mouse's Flawless Timing
One of the most difficult parts of email marketing is understanding the right times to send them. There are ways to measure audience response times and coordinate the delivery when you feel your audience will be most aware. Any good email marketing agency should be able to figure out this for you.
In 2012, I standardized my Daily Golden Nuggets to send at 5am Eastern every day. It's been a while since I tested my open rates for other times of the day; perhaps I should. On the other hand, Disney is much more clever with sending mails throughout the day.
In case you're not aware, Disney owns Marvel's film distribution. While "Avengers: Age of Ultron" achieved the 2nd highest sales records for opening weekend, Disney expected it would be in first place... And they planned accordingly.
There is no better way to announce your next (hopefully) box office event by showing previews at the beginning of the current box office event, and they did just that.
If you went to see Age of Ultron in an IMAX theatre, you might have been privy to a special Disney "Tomorrowland" preview, which is slated for release on May 22, 2015. Honestly, even though I knew Disney was making a movie based on the concept of The Magic Kingdom's Tomorrowland and even saw now-forgotten teasers for it earlier in the year, I didn't pay much attention to it... After all, I didn't get a Disney email about it yet!
So there I am; it's just after midnight on April 22 and the movie spins up. There are a few typical movie theater commercials and then the movie fades in. But it didn't seem to be the movie, and there was no forewarning if it was a preview or not. I realized it wasn't the Avengers movie only when George Clooney appeared on the screen after about 30 seconds.
This was the special "Tomorrowland" preview that was supposed to show in IMAX theaters, but I didn't know it at the time. The entire 6+ minutes was riveting.
My phone buzzes in my pocket just as the preview ends and the film fades into the well known red-page-flipping-Marvel-logo that's common at the beginning of movie. Keep in mind that it's just after midnight in France, but it's just after 6PM on the East Coast where my main office is. I fish for my phone hoping it's not an emergency and that it will be the only interruption for the next few hours.
To my absolute surprise, there's an email push notification popup on my screen that says:
George Clooney stars in Disney's Newest Film!
Quite dumbfounded, I swipe the message open to see this:
A close look at the time on that email and you'll see it says 6:17PM on April 21, 2015. The "Tomorrowland" preview concluded with a shot of that same futuristic looking city just 45 seconds prior to receiving that email!
Could The Mouse really be timing things that accurately? I assume they have the technology to track where I am when I open all those emails; heck, if I use that technology to track people, then Disney must be using it to!
I'm not saying that they were tracking me in a movie theater; just that I was in France, and that I like Marvel movies. Did they expect the timing would work out that perfectly to give me a 1-2 punch of their movie announcement? I'll tip my hat, and even my Mickey Ears, to their marketing team that manages the segmentation of their email marketing list.
I'm guessing that the marketing team had hoped to simply use that email to remind people about "Tomorrowland" after Age of Ultron was over; you know, while we're all sitting there checking our emails, still in the theater watching the credits and waiting for the next Marvel preview. (By the way, there's no preview for the next film at the very end of the credits.)
Learn From The Mouse
Perhaps Disney sent out that email to their entire list. Perhaps I wasn't segmented into a subset. Regardless, the timing was extremely intentional because I don't usually get their emails at that time of the evening.
When you take the time to truly understand who your customers are and how to organize them, you can reveal amazing subsets of demographics within your customer base. Use those demographics to laser target your messages.
Assuming you have good customer management software, you can segment your list according to what they buy, their age, job, family life, important dates... this list is endless and it only needs to be as detailed as you want it to be. Implementing it isn't hard as long as your staff is willing to collect the information that you then put to good use.
In my retelling of these stories today I hope that you can understand how powerful customer segmentation is, how powerful location tracking it, and how powerful notification timing is. Most of the time these factors never match up as well as I experienced them on April 21st, but as the Chief Thinker in my company that *is* usually trying to organize the minutia, I was impressed.
Segmentation. Tracking. Timing... Yeah, we should all follow the leader. His name happens to be Mickey.
See you real soon.