Many of you will have heard (and perhaps even fully digested) the news from
last week by now: Disney's replacement for the Year of a Million Dreams
(YOAMD) marketing initiative was announced, and it boils down to a
banal-sounding invitation to celebrate your special occasions
(anniversaries, birthdays, weddings, engagements) at Disney parks. But it
immediately gets interesting when you hear the easy-to-remember kicker: free
admission on your birthday! Or, you could choose to pay your admission, and
reap a four-FASPTASS ticket for you and your party of five other adults.
There's a third alternative, too: a gift card for merchandise purchases
worth the price of a one-day ticket.
Reaction has been slightly mixed, ranging from the muted and grudging
acceptance that this program is at least better than YOAMD, to indifference,
to outright elation. I tend to fall in the latter camp. In fact, I consider
this program to be marketing genius, and the rare example of a win-win-win
situation. Frequent visitors win, infrequent visitors win, the park
employees win, and the company's bottom line wins too. Those on the customer
end save money, and those on the company end make money. Funny how that
works. See why it's such a rare situation to have marketing alone drive such
outrageously positive results?
First, let's look at the parameters of the deal. Although the wider
promotion is trying to court visitors for all kinds of events and
celebrations, the prizes have to do with birthdays. Anyone who needs a paid
admission ticket (i.e., anyone over 3 years old) can get the prize on their
birthday. If you just show up at the gate without informing them of your
birthday ahead of time, you can still get your prize, but you must fill out
forms on the spot. To save time, Disney advocates that you register online
ahead of time. You can do this starting now, for any birthday in 2009. Here
are the direct links:
Walt Disney World
There's a page of Frequently Asked Questions on both DL and WDW websites
that answer questions about unusual situations. One bit of info I gleaned
there was that proof of your child's birthday is going to be required. I
can't blame Disney for this – abuse would be pretty rampant otherwise – but
at the same time, I'm not sure how many families will leave home for
vacation without remembering to bring an ORIGINAL birth certificate (or a
notarized copy). Emphasis on "original," folks.
In addition to the free admission (or the Family FastPass, or the Merch
Gift Card), they are trying to sell you additional things for your
celebration. Add-on experiences that cost extra include:
Custom Bakery Cakes and Signature Desserts:
Disney chefs create an unforgettable finale to a special dinner with a
beautifully decorated cake themed to any occasion or a new line of
For Lovebirds: Sweetheart dinners for two in
which couples can clink "Celebrate Today!" champagne flutes.
Family Portraits: Capture the memory with a
portrait session with Walt Disney World photographers. Build a custom
photo album with Disney's PhotoPass.
Personalized Souvenirs: Mark your occasion
with personalized Mouse ears, character T-shirts and collectible pins.
Decorate Your Disney Guest Room: Step into a
resort room decorated to fit your celebration theme with confetti,
banners, surprises and more.
Stay Inside a Dream Theme: Book a themed guest
room at either destination – princess-themed or Mickey-inspired at
Disneyland or – coming in 2009 – pirate-themed at Walt Disney World
Set Sail: Book a private romantic cruise on a
yacht or set your party afloat on a shared magical fireworks voyage.
Go Inside the Magic: Behind-the-scenes tours
take you inside the storytelling, adventure and history of Disney Parks.
Disney Story Book Experiences: Choose from
pirate adventures, tea parties, princess makeovers and more – all with
the magic of Disney.
Disneyland Parties: "Celebration Roundup and
Barbecue at Big Thunder Ranch," all-new, is a full-blown party complete
with frontier entertainment, goodie bags and a surprise treat for
everyone – no matter what they're celebrating. "My Disneyland Birthday
Party" features cake decorating, party hats and even Mickey and Minnie
pay a visit.
Many of these exist already. Personalized Mouse Ears at an extra cost?
That's been available for purchase for ages, so it's a little disingenuous
to include them here.