Living in Orlando, we get to see and do some pretty wonderful and unusual things.
As avid readers of the Harry Potter books, my kids and myself were supremely excited about Universal Studios working on the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and the fact that it would be in our back yard! All year as we traveled to and from Dr. Phillips High School (across the street from the back of Universal, Islands of Adventure) we watched as they put Hogwarts together.
From the high school parking lot, we could see the turrets and roofs being built. It was quite exciting and helped build the anticipation of what it would look from the other side – inside the theme park, that is – not the dark side!
But as we watched the construction take shape, the turrets appear and the anticipation built, I couldn’t help wonder (as a marketer) why I hadn’t heard ANYTHING from Universal about what was going on inside the park and what we could expect when it was done. I mean, we live in Orlando, we see the construction every day – but no effort was made to contact the High School or the students at the High School – talk about a leaving, breathing, marketing machine in your own backyard!
I car pool with some other parents so I had 4 high school kids in my car at least 4 times a week and many times all they talked about was what was going on at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. They did their own research, they passed information and photos around to all their social networks, they questioned bloggers and local folk. I learned more about what was going on from them than I ever did from Universal. Was there a reason for this colossal lack of marketing for such a unique and wonderful product?
Perhaps I am being a little harsh? I don’t think so. When you are competing with the likes of Disney and the SeaWorld parks, you cannot assume anything – you should NOT assume anything.
All that aside, of course, I had to go find out what the end result was. I watched the opening ceremonies on the Wednesday night via computer. Quite impressive even from afar! You can check out the highlights here – Universal Studios Media Release. My son did go to the opening day on June 18th. I dropped him off – suitably attired as a Ravenclaw student at Hogwarts – at 5.20am so he could meet his other [crazy] Harry Potter friends and become a part of the historic bedlam. According to him, it was a fantastic day, despite the crowds and the heat and he was thrilled to have been a part of history.
While he sweated with thousands of others at the Park, I couldn’t help wonder if they could have handled the whole opening day somewhat differently. Judging by
the sheer numbers in line [pretty much all day long...] could they have marketed VIP packages for entry each day for an entire week? How much would your average Harry Potter fan have paid for that particular privilege? I guess we’ll never know because it was not something they offered. Premium pricing for a premium experience should be a no-brainer for such a unique experience. But what do I know, I’m only a marketer by nature and a student of Dan Kennedy marketing principles. I know there are others that agree with me….
Anywhoo, on to my actual experience of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I juggled schedules, called in a Gift Certificate from my friends at Kissimmee Guest Services [ best ticket prices and insider info in the Orlando area] and made arrangements to meet up with my good friend Marilyn and her grand-daughter Kelly, visiting from the UK. Check out the next blog post for more photos, updates and video. I promise it will be worth it!