Cracks in the armor

There is no place on Earth with a greater reality distortion field (since Steve Jobs passed away, at any rate) than Disney World, which is where I was for the last week. Yet even Disney World, the self-described “happiest place on Earth”, is losing its power to shield you from reality.

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Disney World does an absolutely masterful job of quarantining reality. If you wanted a master class in managing large groups of people, go to Disney World and pay attention. Line queues have interactive exhibits and multiple blind spots so that it’s difficult to tell how long the line is. Rides are engineered to move large groups of people at a steady pace, because a short line that doesn’t move is more infuriating than a long line that inches forward steadily. Food is portioned to be healthy, but not so filling that you’re not hungry a short while later – just in time to pass many of the snack kiosks. Your experiences are manicured, groomed, and managed to the greatest practical extent possible… but that extent is beginning to fade.

Why? Disney made the choice to bring the Internet into the park everywhere. It’s part of the experience in many ways – the mobile app experience is incredible. Lines have near real-time wait times. There’s a restrooms near me button, arguably the most useful thing ever. You can plan your entire visit – but the penalty is that the Internet is in the park everywhere.

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That means that parents can be absent in-person. More parents than ever were taking calls, checking email, and not being wholly present with their families. More kids were texting, Snapchatting, and Instagramming. The Internet’s reach into the park brings reality back into Fantasyland in an unparalleled intrusive way.

If you want to see where the armor really cracks, fire up any geo-located pseudo-anonymous messaging app such as Whisper, Yik Yak, etc. and you get a sharp dose of reality that completely breaks the illusion.

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More and more, if you want to have a reality-distorting experience, it now has to be a conscious, willing, disciplined choice. Discipline means not checking your email, even though you can. Discipline means turning off Facebook. Discipline means actually seeing and hearing your kids scream with delight when they meet a Disney princess, and not looking at a phone instead.

The reward for your mental toughness is the richness of the experience you’ll have. It’s a mighty struggle to be present, to be focused, to be in the moment, but the struggle is worth it.


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The new meaning of privacy

Privacy doesn’t mean private any more.

Private used to mean you didn’t have access to something. We denied you access to certain information.

Think about today, this world for a second. We say we want privacy. Then we hand over all of our information to app makes, to devices, to the world to see in our social feeds.

This occurred to me as I watched the early adopted gush over Amazon’s new Echo speaker/interface, the primary purpose of which is to listen to you and respond when you ask it something… which in turn means that it’s surveilling you ALL THE TIME.

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This is a device… connected to a corporation that supposedly people mistrust… listening to every word you say and shipping it back to a server farm in the cloud.

So when we say privacy, we don’t mean actual privacy. We mean something else.

Maybe we mean using the data we give only for what we believe to be its intended purpose.

Maybe we mean simply not misusing our data, or not using our data against us.

Whatever we mean, we don’t mean private in the sense of “I don’t want to give you my data” and we haven’t meant that in some time.

Food for thought as you consider how to integrate the new meaning of privacy into your marketing: the more private you are as a company, the less trustworthy you are. The less private you are as a company about what you do with customers’ data, the more trustworthy you are. Take this into account when you’re talking about privacy as a company or brand!


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Ripe for Disruption

Some food for thought for you, if you’re into politics. If you’re not, feel free to skip this post and come back another day, or go read my “Everything is measurable in PR” article over at SHIFT Communications.

When the major airlines failed to offer anything compelling, companies like AirTran, Southwest, and JetBlue stepped into the mix and disrupted the space.

When Blackberry and Nokia were the dominant choices in phones, Apple stepped in and changed everything.

When telecom companies failed to innovate, Skype started to eat their lunches, until the mobile era started.

In every case where stagnation has become the norm, a startup disrupted the space or a new entrant hit the market and the game changed, usually to the benefit of the consumer.

There’s one space that hasn’t experienced a disruption in quite some time, and is filled with two major failed brands in America: politics. We cynically joke that voting is like choosing which mugger gets to mug you and take your wallet, but underneath that cynicism is a latent wish for another choice.

Given the acerbic, uncivil conditions in politics right now, the space is ripe for disruption. What that disruption is, no one can tell, in the same way that no taxi company foresaw Uber/Lyft. It won’t be more of the same – it won’t be another party inside the same failing system. It’ll be something else that we would have difficulty even imagining…

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… you never know. (the above is a reference to Panem, from The Hunger Games)


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