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The Importance Of Disney's MyMagic+

A Snarketing post by Ron Shevlin, Director of Research at Cornerstone Advisors

Disney announced that it plans to introduce something called MyMagic+. The company calls it a “vacation management system,” incorporating rubber bracelets encoded with credit card information. The bracelets would enable alerts to be sent to guests, as well as — you guessed it — offers to buy things, and (very importantly) the ability to pay for things.

My take: Disney is legitimizing the notion that Payments is the new 5th P of marketing. 


To refresh your memory, some time ago, someone came up with the notion that there are 4 Ps of marketing — product, place, price, and promotion. These 4 Ps are the levers that marketers can pull or adjust to influence marketing performance. 

These 4 Ps have survived many changes in the world of marketing. Some folks have tried to introduce new Ps — like “people” or “personality” or “personalization” — but none have stuck (rightfully, so) because they don’t really clear the bar of being a lever that marketers can adjust. People, personality, personalization — and other Ps — are simply not part of the marketing mix.

Last August, I tried to argue that Payments were emerging as the new P in marketing. That, in effect, changing how someone paid for a product or service could influence their choice of product or service in the first place. 


What Disney is doing with its MyMagic+ bracelet is changing the customer experience by changing how the customer pays for something. 

Disney is rumored to be spending $800 million to $1 billion on MyMagic+. 

There are a lot of ways Disney could be spending that money. It could build new rides (Product), it could build a new park somewhere (Place), it could provide $800 million in discounted prices to lure more people to visit (Price), or it could spend that money on advertising (Promotion).

But its not. The company is spending it on changing the way guests pay for things. And by doing so, changing what people buy, and changing the overall customer experience.


What Disney is demonstrating is that payments — as the 5th P of marketing — isn’t an opportunity for just financial services firms and upstarts. 

There’s a saying that politics makes strange bedfellows. The same is true for profits.

The opportunity to increase profits by changing the payment experience is going to create new partnerships for retailers, merchants, travel providers, etc. and financial services firms. 

The problem — from a financial services industry perspective — is threefold. Many financial services marketers:

  1. Lack the marketing sophistication of retailers and merchants.
  2. Are stuck in “interchange fee maximization” mode.
  3. Think their role in payments is “money movement” not “purchase influence.”

The problem — from a retailer/merchant perspective — is twofold. Many retailers/merchants:

  1. Don’t effectively allocate marketing dollars across the existing marketing mix, so adding a new P to the mix causes confusion, not opportunity.
  2. Partnerships with financial services firms have historically delivered little value, and new ventures (e.g. card-linked offers) haven’t proven their mettle yet, so retailers/merchants are disinclined to shift investments to the new P.


Disney’s investment in MyMagic+ shines a spotlight on payments as the 5th P.  You’ll see.

Ron ShevlinRon Shevlin is Director of Research at Cornerstone Advisors. Get a copy of his best-selling book, Smarter Bank: Why Money Management is More Important Than Money Movement. And don't forget to follow him on Twitter at @rshevlin.

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  1. Roger Conant says:

    So right, Ron. As John Lass says, just another piece of the “kodak moment” for financial services.

  2. Trevor Rasmussen says:

    There have been a lot of attempts to change the way people pay for things over the years. I remember Mobil coming out with those keyfob things to swipe at the gas station but people have been slow to attach to them. The problem is that they really need to be universal for people to be willing to take on yet another “thing” to carry around.

  3. Trevor: Agree about the “universal” point. But Mobil’s PayPass (?) wasn’t a complete failure. The problem it had wasn’t so much the “one more thing to carry” as it was its competition: Rewards cards. Regardless of whether or not it was successful — or how long these attempts have been around — I think we’re entering an era where payments becomes a more important element to the marketing mix.

  4. I don’t know…it was never about rewards for me. I liked the idea of what they were doing, but for them to get that space, they needed to provide me with more places to use it. I also had concerns about security…what if it falls off and I don’t notice. The reward aspect certainly played into it for people too though. I think a major company like AMEX or Discover would have to get behind this kind of product to give it mass appeal to really see it take off.

    I could see this working. They need to market it as an opportunity to leave your wallet or purse at home (one less thing to lug to the park). I bet it will provide a LOT of consumer feedback into how people use the park…do you swipe it before each ride too to track where people go and when? I could see this type of tool being about SO much more than just payment. That is just how you get the customer on board to strap on a bracelet (provides a value to them to warrant the change in how they use the park). I see this as being their step into doing what Target was highlighted for doing earlier this year with their efforts to track how customers engage with their stores/brands. Its very smart marketing.

  5. Brian Stearns says:

    It’s going to be very interesting to see where this goes. I don’t think this type of payment system is the end game though. Really, this electronifying the wristband of tickets you get to ride the rides at the fair.

    I think the bigger opportunity is leveraging the technology that Starbucks uses in their mobile app. The potential for this technology in Disney’s environment is huge. An app that would allow customers to use their phone to pay for their purchases would also allow Disney to deliver advertising content, coupons, etc. to their customers and incent them to continue spending money (as they do so well). Imagine being at a park at being notified that, if you spend $20 through the mobile app, you can get a fast pass to a certain ride. Or if a specific park is low on customers for a day, Disney could push an offer to customers at a more populated a discounted park hopper upgrade. Add in ride wait times to the app, and people might be willing to pay a few dollars for the app. And maybe they can pay $2 to buy a fast pass for a ride with a long line.

    It’s interesting to see Disney take the step with MyMagic, but this is probably a

  6. Brian: Totally agree that this is not the end game. But I think it puts payments in a more strategic light, and raises the awareness of the impact payments could have on the customer experience.

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