A trip to Disneyland can produce sore feet, the incurable echo of "It's a Small World" and profound insight on how to communicate.
Okay, the latter may be a stretch, but here's what I learned from my five-day trip to the happiest place on earth, which coincided with "Graduation Night" at the famous theme park:
1. The world is a crowded, noisy place.
I already knew this before going to Disneyland, but wandering around in jam-packed crowds, waiting in interminable lines and listening to a cacophony of sounds from retro buses, loud bands and rides such as Splash Mountain reminds you of the noise that surrounds us everyday. Even people with headphones get an earful.
It takes a lot to break through the sound barrier so the people you want to reach hear what you have to say. Often it takes communications that appeal to the eye and to the touch to grab the attention of your intended audience. Sensory overload tends to make people resistant to more noise, so another good strategy is to find — or create — a quiet place to convey your message.
2. It's about them, not you.
As the day wears on and the weather heats up, tempers grow short and patience fades away. People have kids to corral and meals to plan. They are operating on overload. The last thing they need or want is a wordy, clumsy intrusion.
If you want to connect with busy people, you need to do it on their schedule, not yours. A clear concise message shows you respect their time. You need to offer something of value to them, not you.
3. Simple courtesy goes a long ways.
Amid a sea of baby carriages, teenagers staring at smartphones and adults looking for the nearest restroom, random acts of kindness are deeply appreciated. I saw people helping a mother find a lost baby bottle and making way for someone in a wheelchair. Their kindness was greeted with warm appreciation. I also saw people shove others aside, walk carelessly through a crowd and ignore signs. They provoked irritation and occasionally even anger.
Extending a helping hand can be a magic moment when you connect with not only the person you help, but with everyone else who witnesses your generous act. Courtesy reflects empathy and self-confidence, good vibes to send out.
4. Have fun.
People from all walks of life, of all ages and of all backgrounds wore hats. Mouse ears were most prevalent, but there was every conceivable kind of headwear on display. People knew they looked funny, and they were glad. They came to Disneyland to have fun.
We take ourselves too seriously too often. If we lighten up and put some playfulness in our messaging, we may be surprised at the receptivity it gets and the reputation you get in return. Fun is not a four-letter word.
5. Don't undervalue association.
Nearly every little girl entering Disneyland came dressed as a Disney-inspired princess. Some (my grandchildren) had more than one princess costume in their backpack. Disneyland for them is more than a place; it is an experience.
Finding ways for customers to associate with you can be an important and durable part of your marketing efforts. You become more to them than just a place to shop.