Services Marketing in Theme Parks mgmt e-6020

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Services Marketing in Theme Parks

MGMT E-6020 | Fall 2011

Submitted on Dec 12, 2011 by:

Zeynep Belge

Ellen E. McCarthy

Hassan Osman

Raghunathan T. Saranathan

Table of Contents

I. Overview 3

II. Positioning and Value Proposition 3

III. Brand Identity 13

IV. Market Segmentation 19

V. Financial Information, Industry Reports and Recent Press 26

VI. 7 P’s: What to emulate, what to improve 30

VII. Appendices 35

VIII. Endnotes 37


According to a 2011 report, the amusement park and arcade industry in the United States includes about 3,000 establishments and boasts combined annual revenue of roughly $13 billion. Close to 85% of the combined annual revenue is generated by the 50 largest companies in the industry. Three of the largest companies include Walt Disney, SeaWorld, and Universal Parks & Resorts.1 This analysis places focus on specific locations of these 3 larger companies: Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World (Lake Buena Vista, FL, U.S.A.), Universal Studios at Universal Orlando (Orlando, FL, U.S.A.), and SeaWorld Florida (Orlando, FL, U.S.A.). The focus on Florida locations is in line with tourism concentration for large theme park attractions.

Excluding arcades, according to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) (2009), there are more than 400 amusement parks and attractions in the United States and the largest ones are located in California and Florida.”2 The Orlando Visitors Bureau estimates that in Orlando alone a person would need 41 eight-hour days to visit all of the attractions Orlando has to offer.3 According to, all 3 Florida-based parks included in this analysis are on the list of Top 10 Theme Parks in the US as determined by 2010 attendance.4

II.Positioning and Value Proposition

Magic Kingdom, Universal Studios, and SeaWorld are all successful entertainment destinations for reasons that are both similar and unique to each service organization. Each company’s success is driven in part by clearly articulated positioning tied to specific value propositions, as well as a focus on social and environmental responsibility. Key to any service organization is positioning, which distinguishes a brand from its competitors by creating a “unique selling proposition relative to the competition.”5 While each of these theme parks does not expressly state a particular positioning statement to the public, it is clearly evident from each park’s website how each park hopes to distinguish itself, as well as how each helps “prospective customers to get a mental “fix” on what to expect” given the “intangible, experiential nature” of the service.6

Tied closely to positioning is a company’s customer value proposition (CVP), which is the “sum of benefits the customer will receive.” The CVP explains why the customer should buy the service and also serves to differentiate the company from its competitors7. The CVP is typically used as a marketing strategy which, coupled with positioning, focuses on distinguishing the brand.8 While there are several components to the CVP, a key component of a theme park’s value proposition is the servicescape, which is touched upon later in the analysis.9 In terms of servicescape it can be stated that “physical surroundings help to shape appropriate feelings and reactions in customers and employees.” Many theme parks effectively use the servicescape concept to enhance their service offerings by creating, for instance, a fun, high energy environment coupled with thematically costumed characters and bright colors.10

Magic Kingdom is said to provide “classic experiences that pay tribute to Walt Disney’s concepts and designs” while capturing “the enchantment of fairy tales with exciting entertainment, classic attractions, backstage tours and beloved Disney characters.” The park is designed in a wheel-like pattern, with the center in front of Cinderella’s Castle and “pathways (that) spoke out across the 107 acres of Magic Kingdom theme park and lead to . . . six whimsical lands.”11 The Magic Kingdom website explains that, as you, the visitor, meander through these six lands, you “see how fantasy becomes reality when you learn how to be a pirate, match wits with funny monsters and conquer mountains. Get swept up in the spectacle of splendid parades and fireworks shows at Magic Kingdom theme park—it's here that dreams come true for children of all ages.”12

It is clearly evident from the park’s website that the goal of the park is to provide an enchanted experience through various outlets, and that the park is designed to appeal to all children, regardless of age, including the adult who is a child at heart. Rides and attractions focus, for the most part, on nostalgic or newer characters, which is in keeping with the park’s appeal to all ages. Rides include The Hall of Presidents, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Peter Pan’s Flight, and newer attractions such as Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin. For those seeking more speed, the park offers rides like Space Mountain.13 There are options that appeal to everyone.

If one had to create a specific positioning statement for Magic Kingdom it might be as follows: For children of all ages who wish to see their dreams come true, Disney’s Magic Kingdom is an enchanted land that provides visitors with whimsy and memories to last a lifetime. Unlike some theme parks, the Magic Kingdom celebrates imagination, fantasy, and the past and future, while providing wholesome fun for the entire family.14 The emphasis on being a wholesome, great time for visitors of all ages is a key component of Magic Kingdom’s positioning and value.

In contrast to Magic Kingdom, Universal Studios is marketed as a place where visitors can “go behind the scenes, beyond the screen, and jump right into the action of [their] favorite movies at . . . the world's premier movie and TV based theme park.” The park caters to the belief that “It’s everybody’s fantasy… to leap through the screen and find yourself in the middle of your favorite motion pictures” and makes “YOU become the star of some of the greatest movies and TV shows ever made.”15 A quote from Steven Spielberg, the park’s creative consultant, is prominently featured on the site, driving the message home by stating “Universal puts people inside incredible and timeless stories and gives them a chance to discover their own inner hero.”16 Like the Magic Kingdom, core aspects of Universal Studio’s positioning are fantasy and fun, but these traits are positioned in very different ways. While Magic Kingdom targets younger children and wholesome family fun, Universal Studios targets older children and adults by focusing on the edgier aspects of the same concepts. Excitement is approached in a different way at each location.

It is clearly evident from the park’s website that Universal Studios focuses on being viewed as not only a place where visitors can feel and experience being a part of their favorite movies and TV shows, but also focuses on being Orlando’s best attraction. In keeping with the park’s focus, the site’s wording throughout suggests excitement, movement, and action. A section of the site is devoted to what the park has to offer and highlights exciting rides to appeal to potential visitors. The tag line of the park’s website offers a glimpse at one of the park’s main focuses - “Your Orlando Vacation Destination.”17 The following excerpt from the park’s website also supports

Universal Studios’ position as THE park to see in Orlando. Universal Studios is described as

more than a theme park. It’s an entire universe of action and thrills . . . unlike anything else in Orlando . . . Every member of the family can share unforgettable experiences together. You can have the ultimate adventure, enjoy fun with your kids, rejuvenate yourself, have a romantic dinner, challenge yourself on incredible theme park rides, and relax by the pool in a beautiful Florida setting. . . Nobody puts you in the picture like Universal Studios®. Here an amazing array of rides, shows and attractions make YOU the star, putting you right in your favorite scenes from your favorite movies and TV shows. Universal Studios is the only place on earth where you can experience all the nail-biting excitement, all the pulse-quickening thrills, all the side-splitting comedy of the greatest movies and TV shows ever created… with YOU right in the middle of the action!”18
The park focuses specifically on being Orlando’s best attraction for good reason. A popular belief is that Orlando is “broken down into the categories: Disney and "all others."”19 It is key to the park’s livelihood to distinguish itself as better than any other attraction in Orlando, including Disney’s parks, like the Magic Kingdom. An important value proposition that Universal focuses on is convenience as compared to Disney. As Bob Gault, former President and COO of Universal Studios, puts it,

Our guests, the ones who have stayed at Disney before, are telling us that our destination is much more convenient. It is more user friendly. Our canal system makes everything convenient to everything else. Unlike Disney which is spread over thousands of acres, it's a great deal easier to get around here. You're just a five-minute walk or boat ride to anything in the destination. People really enjoy that synergy and convenience.” 20

The selection of rides that Universal Studios has to offer is key to attracting potential customers. Ride highlights include, but are not limited to, descriptions of The Simpsons Ride, Revenge of the Mummy, and MEN IN BLACK Alien Attack. Each ride description emphasizes excitement. For instance, the Men in Black ride, targeted for visitors ages ten and under, is described as “All right rookies… this is no drill! It's up to YOU to protect the Earth from aliens in MEN IN BLACK Alien Attack. As an agent trainee, you'll zap aliens as you chase them through the streets of New York in this high-tech, interactive ride based on the hit movies. But be warned... these aliens zap back, spinning your vehicle out of control.”21

If one had to create a specific positioning statement for Universal Studios it might be as follows: For movie and TV enthusiasts who want more than just a theme park, Universal Studios Orlando is an entire universe of action and thrills that provides every member of the family an unforgettable experience that can be shared together. Unlike other theme parks in Florida and the US at large, Universal Studios Orlando has an amazing array of rides, shows and attractions that make YOU the star and put YOU right in the middle of the action. The emphasis on YOU is key and can be recognized as a core aspect of the park’s positioning and value.

SeaWorld distinguishes itself in a markedly different way as compared to Magic Kingdom and Universal Studios. While SeaWorld Florida also offers rides and attractions, the main focuses are on experiences with animals, education, and the conservation of marine life. These focuses are readily apparent on SeaWorld Florida’s website. In a departure from the “about us” features of the Magic Kingdom and Universal Studios websites, SeaWorld does not offer an “about us” section. That being said, SeaWorld’s focus is immediately noticeable. In addition to highlighting different park attractions and experiences, there is a section on the main page of the site concerning Educational, as well a link to Conservation. These will both be discussed further later in the analysis.22 SeaWorld has fewer rides and attractions than Magic Kingdom and Universal Studios but, per the main sites tagline, the park is where “Where Worlds Connect,” which is in keeping with why the site’s focus is on animal experiences and not simply on rides.23

SeaWorld Florida, like Magic Kingdom, is meant to be a mellower experience than Universal Studios. While both Magic Kingdom and Universal Studios can easily get heavily lined, “even when it is crowded, you get the sense that Sea World is designed to offer more of a mellow stroll.”24

If one had to create a specific positioning statement for SeaWorld Florida it might be as follows: For animal lovers who desire not just rides but experiences, SeaWorld Florida is a destination like no other, one that provides every member of the family unforgettable memories with each other and some of the world’s most majestic marine animals. Unlike other theme parks, SeaWorld Florida brings the wonders of the ocean directly to you through an array of rides, shows, attractions, and educational experiences. Experience SeaWorld, where worlds connect, and gain an even deeper appreciation for the ocean and its inhabitants. The emphasis on connection and experiences, rather than rides alone, is key to the park’s positioning and value.

Generally, parks in Florida tend to be segmented into two categories – Disney parks and all other parks. “The "all others" have banded together, in a way, by creating the Orlando Flex Ticket, which packages admissions to Sea World, Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, the Wet 'n Wild Water Park and the Busch Gardens Park in Tampa.”25 By using this option, visitors can see SeaWorld for unmatched marine life experiences and Universal Studios for exciting and edgy movie and TV fun, all while on the same trip, and perhaps even in the same day.

The positioning and value propositions of all three parks are clearly articulated and deliberate. The park’s websites leave little, if any, question or doubt in the potential visitors mind of what to expect. To bolster this judgment, it is crucial to note that all three park websites have extensive sections devoted to helping potential visitors plan their trips to get the most out of the park experience, and the overall experience of vacationing in Florida. Included are tips of dining, transportation, lodging, and much more. Universal Studios goes as far as to have a specific link for Florida residents, which offers special discounts. Magic Kingdom offers, under “Plan Your Vacation,” a Moms Panel Advice area and also a Let the Memories Begin area where people can post pictures of their family memories to give other visitors a glimpse at what can be expected.26 In its “Know Before You Go” section, SeaWorld’s website, like Magic Kingdom and Universal Studios, offers ride information, parking information, addresses frequently asked questions, and provides helpful tips on other topics.

It is important to note that all three parks focus on social responsibility and the environment. The findings of a study by Hamilton et al. (1993) of these three companies suggest that “the three theme park companies have embedded the idea of their CSR activities in their vision, mission, business models, and strategies. . . . Their CSR activities are linked with their overall corporate vision, mission, and business strategies.”27 The study states that

in addition to their extensive CSR activities, perhaps the most important social contribution of the theme park companies studied is their commitment to quality entertainment and their goal to educate and inform their customers and employees. All these three theme park companies are known globally for offering exemplary entertainment.”28
Disney, as a larger company, has a CSR strategy that focuses on children and families and is meant to

encourage positive development of children by making content of products and services appropriate for kids of all ages. In addition, partnering with parents and creating safe environments for children not only in theme parks but also outside the theme park environment.”29

The company’s overall CSR strategy reads:

We believe that being a good corporate citizen is not just the right thing to do; it also benefits our guests, our employees and our businesses. It makes the company a desirable place to work, reinforces the attractiveness of our brands and products and strengthens our bonds with consumers and neighbors in communities the world over. It is evident that children and families are key in the company’s CSR efforts: Children and families are at the heart of so much of what we do at Disney, which is why setting positive examples through the

entertainment and experiences we produce is critical to our business approach.” 30
In addition to a focus on children and families, Disney’s CSR efforts point to environmental consciousness as well.

Since the company’s earliest days, conservation and their environmental efforts have been recurring themes in the company’s offerings . . . the company focuses on water and energy conservation, greenhouse gas emissions reduction, waste minimization, ecosystem conservation, and inspire action.”31

Universal Studios, like Disney, focuses on corporate social responsibility and the environment. There is a particular focus on Florida, in keeping with the park’s positioning as the best attraction in Orlando. The park’s social responsibility efforts focus on “environmental sustainability; learning development; public education early and post secondary education; diversity issues; child abuse, neglect, and prevention of both;

foster care – meeting the needs of our young people; and children with life threatening/serious illnesses or with disabilities” through a variety of mediums, including the work of the Universal Orlando Foundation. The Florida focus is evident from an excerpt from Universal’s Universe of Caring website, which is mentioned in the study:

Universal Orlando is committed to being the #1 entertainment destination in the world while improving the quality of life where our team members live, work, and play. Being a good corporate citizen and employer of choice is a top priority for our company. We do this because it will result in a better Central Florida for all of us and because it is the right thing to do [. . .] Universal Orlando’s Community Relations efforts, along with the Universal Orlando Foundation grant-making program, focus on the areas of education, children, and families.” 32
Like Disney, Universal Studios shows a commitment to environmental initiatives in areas including conservation, recycling, education, and designing environmentally friendly attractions. The company at large developed an initiative called “Green is Universal,” which shows their “commitment to bringing an environmental perspective to their networks, platforms, audiences, and communities.” The following is a statement from the dedicated Green is Universal website, which can be reached from the main Universal Studios site, as well as Universal Orlando’s site:

““Going green” is no small undertaking – whether you are a big media company or an individual hoping to make a change – so we’ll be posting all of our exciting news on this site along with green tips, green clips, and a fast-paced blog covering everything we’re doing at National Broadcasting Company (NBC) Universal Studios Orlando, and beyond. We hope you’ll dive in, join the conversation, and help us make “green” as universal as we can.”33

The park’s green initiatives are evident in the building of rides such as The Simpsons Ride, through which “Universal Orlando [has] employed a variety of technological innovations in the design and construction . . . and are ushering in a new era of environmentally conscious theme park ride construction.”34

According to the study, SeaWorld at large has a social responsibility philosophy stated as follows: “our longtime belief has been “Making Friends is Our Business.”” SeaWorld’s initiatives can be categorized as responsibility, environment, people, community, and accountability. The study further sites that “the company rescues, rehabilitates and releases more marine animals than any other company” and, as “a leader in animal rescue and rehabilitation, SeaWorld has supported conservation projects worldwide for more than 30 years.” In addition, “as one of the world’s leading marine mammal rescue and rehabilitation facilities, SeaWorld routinely assists with efforts to save wildlife around the world. Since 1970, our staff of animal care experts and veterinarians has helped rescue more than 15,000 animals.”35 It is quite clear that all three parks have strong positioning that is bolstered by socially and environmentally responsible practices and focus.

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