Facebook Top 10

Facebook Year In Review 2014

I’m happy to share Universal Studios Hollywood made Facebook’s Year In ReviewMost Checked-Into Places in the US” list for the 3rd straight year. This year the park was #2, up 5 spot’s from #7 in 2013 and #8 in 2012.

Congratulations to the social media marketing team I’m proud to have hired and led, and everyone at Universal Studios Hollywood who helps make the park so much fun (i.e., a place where guests want to tell their friends they are visiting).

Facebook’s Year In review includes other Top 10 category lists, including the Most Talked About Global Topics.

Here’s their overview video if you haven’t seen it yet.

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving week is a perfect time to stop and reconsider the importance of saying “thank you” — in our personal lives for sure, and also at work.

It’s also a perfect time to think about how expressing gratitude should be a year-round focus, voiced whenever it’s deserved.

With this in mind, I was thinking about a post I previously wrote (Our Moms Were Right).

It was inspired by a Wall St Journal article about research indicating “The workplace ranks dead last among the places people express gratitude…”

The article was written two years ago, but it’s very unlikely the volume of workplace thank-you’s has increased much.

Here’s the link to my older post. It highlights reasons why managers should be more generous in expressing gratitude, both for the recipients’ benefit as well as their own.

Have a very happy and restful Thanksgiving!

New Halloween Horror Nights Videos

 

Just a quick follow-up to my post about Halloween Horror Nights last week. The event keeps many Universal Studios employees, including my team and me (with digital advertising, social media, website content and e-commerce ticket sales) busy this time of the year. Luckily it’s a lot of fun to work on. For these reasons, I’ve got Halloween Horror Nights (a.k.a., HHN) on the brain.

While the event is top of mind for me, I know some readers aren’t familiar with it and may be curious to learn more, so I wanted to share two new videos we just released.

The video above is our first Guest Reactions video of the year. It provides a glimpse of what the event experience — i.e., walking through the themed mazes and scare-zones — is like. It also showcases why we don’t recommend HHN for kids.

We’ve been putting out Guest Reaction videos for years and, in the spirit of “imitation is flattery,” are proud to note that many other Halloween events have copied the style.

We also create Behind the Scenes videos. This is the latest in the series:

 

I’m happy to share that we’ve received a lot of good media coverage, such as this USA Today article.

If you’re in the L.A or Orlando areas and like Halloween / Horror content, please check out this year’s event.

 

(Disclosure and disclaimer:  As noted throughout this blog, I am an employee of NBCUniversal / Universal Studios Hollywood. All company information mentioned in this post is publicly available. All opinions are personal and do not represent the opinions of the company. See media relations website for official press contacts and press releases. To state the obvious, the achievements of Universal Studios Parks & Resorts are the result of the hard work and commitment of many people.)

Halloween. It’s back…. Again!

 

One year ago I wrote a post just before the start of Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights 2013. It looked at how our use of social media to market the event reflected the major developments in mainstream U.S. social media since the days of MySpace.

Now another year has flown by. Tonight marks the start of the 2014 event, including the opening night Eyegore Awards ceremony.

Halloween Horror Nights is a great event to market. The nature of the content — gruesome entertainment largely created in partnership with horror-film directors and producers, TV shows (such as The Walking Dead), and musicians (like this year’s collaboration with Slash) — combined with the young-adult target audience allows for a lot of creativity.

The content and the audience are both perfectly suited to digital marketing.

As in past years, we’re creating videos to highlight the guest experience as well as our entertainment team’s creative partnerships; for example:

 

Social media fan engagement is a year-round activity but naturally intensifies during the event period. We have active fan bases on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. This year we also started posting on Snapchat.

My team and I are responsible for the event website, a work in progress as we always continue to add videos and photos as the event progresses. Please check it out. (Note: it includes some gory images).

For commerce, this year’s ticket store is optimized for mobile check-out.

All this work keeps us busy but it really is a lot of fun.

If you’ve been to Halloween Horror Nights, please share your thoughts about the experience in a comment below.

(Disclosure and disclaimer:  As noted throughout this blog, I am an employee of NBCUniversal / Universal Studios Hollywood. All company information mentioned in this post is publicly available. All opinions are personal and do not represent the opinions of the company. See media relations website for official press contacts and press releases. To state the obvious, the achievements of Universal Studios Parks & Resorts are the result of the hard work and commitment of many people.)

Baby Break

baby at heart of Contrast Principle break

Hello again!

As you may have noticed, this is my first new post since Spring. I’m very happy to share that this break was the result of joyful news:  my wife and I welcomed the arrival of our second child into the world. He’s a smiling, healthy baby boy, now almost four months old.

Anyone with experience with babies knows that along with the joy comes a serious disruption in previous life patterns, most obviously of the sleep variety. But in addition tasks like getting your other kid(s) off to school in the morning or to sleep at night become more complicated. This isn’t news to anyone living with kids.

Our experience has been no exception. The adjustment from family of 3 to 4 has been exciting but at times exhausting. One implication of this was… no blog posts.

But then, breaks can be very healthy. We all need time to relax, reflect and re-focus.

To that point, I hope the readers of this blog have had the chance to do the same over the past months, especially those who took time off during the summer. (“Summer” for those of you living in the northern hemisphere; I know many readers don’t, living in Argentina, Australia, etc.)

On that note, the New York Times recently published an article (“Hit the Reset Button in Your Brain“) about the importance and benefits of taking breaks. There’s a wealth of research on this topic these days, which isn’t surprising given our march toward constant connectedness and information overflow. (This article cites a statistic about brain strain: “According to a 2011 study, on a typical day, we take in the equivalent of about 174 newspapers’ worth of information, five times as much as we did in 1986”).

The article reflects upon the importance of resting and daydreaming to the creative process.

If we can train ourselves to take regular vacations — true vacations without work — and to set aside time for naps and contemplation, we will be in a more powerful position to start solving some of the world’s big problems. And to be happier and well rested while we’re doing it.”

I don’t anticipate solving any of the world’s serious problems anytime soon, but I do have hopes set on increased happiness and maybe even more rest (haha, see above, “baby”).

Thank you as always for reading The Contrast Principle. I look forward to posting more and continuing to connect with you.

Regards,

Josh

Instagram

Image

Are you on Instagram?

I recently started a personal account and would be honored if readers of this blog were to follow me.

My user name is ContrastPrinciple (http://instagram.com/contrastprinciple)

I’ll be happy to follow you back!


 

As you probably know, Instagram is on a tear.

Unique users were up 66% in 2013, making it the fastest growing of the top 10 apps according to Nielsen, and its momentum continues in 2014 (with brands as well as individuals).

One reason for its popularity: its core functionality specifically matches a prevailing trend in digital content creation and consumption — namely, more photos and short videos, and less text. And selfies. Not only the functionality but also the ethos of the environment is selfie-friendly.

Instagram’s functionality is easy to use and is also an almost perfect time kill — scrolling through photos and short videos (15 seconds max) requires very low mental commitment while waiting in a line, etc.

I’ve been involved with Instagram in my job since my team launched accounts for Universal Studios Hollywood, Halloween Horror Nights, and CityWalk. However, unlike our Facebook profiles which I was actively involved in starting, my input with the Instagram accounts has been on an oversight basis. Luckily, since the days when we first began social media initiatives, I’ve been able to hire social-media experts who have taken our initiatives to a much higher place. (I’m very proud of the team’s fantastic work).

Instagram has really caught my attention lately and in an effort to become more actively involved, I’m off and running with the new personal account.

Please join me.

Minion-fueled growth

As unlikely as it may have seemed during the 2000 – 2009 decade, when successive corporate owners (Vivendi and GE) didn’t make meaningful investments in the company, and a period punctuated by the Great Recession, this week Universal Studios Hollywood is celebrating an outlook of unprecedented growth.

It’s truly been a monumental week for the Universal Studios Hollywood theme park, with expansion-related news coming fast and furiously (literally).

Most tangible for 2014 is tomorrow’s grand opening of the new Despicable Me Minion Mayhem ride. Also opening is Super Silly Fun Land, a Despicable Me-themed family play area.

As you can imagine, we have numerous initiatives underway to spread awareness of the new ride. For me personally an interesting one was the video embedded above, featuring James Franco and some Minion friends. It was created for online use, particularly social-media sharing. (Developing and releasing this video has been an experience — one that would make for a good blog post if only the details didn’t fall into the realm of confidential information.)

Ride launches are big deals for theme parks. Given the high development and construction costs, they tend to be fairly infrequent.

That makes this week’s situation at Universal Studios Hollywood extra unusual.

Not only do we have the Despicable Me grand opening, but we also announced two 2015 launches: Fast and Furious – Supercharged and the expansion of the Simpsons Ride area to include stores and venues right out of Springfield (e.g., Mo’s Tavern). Also it was officially announced that the Wizarding World of Harry Potter will open in 2016 (the date hadn’t previously been communicated).

The New York Times published an article that provides a very good overview of the expansion plans, which include infrastructure improvements such as new parking garages.

Unlike previous corporate owners, current owner Comcast is making a huge (over $1 billion) investment in the Universal theme park business.

This investment in physical expansion coincides with a period of strong financial expansion. Comcast/NBC Universal publicly reported the theme parks division’s operating cash flow increased from $400 million in 2009 to over $1 billion in 2013.

Walt Disney has also reported strong financial results from its theme parks division. Disney and Universal Studios are also both increasing their international footprints with new overseas parks in development.

A heightened appreciation for real-world entertainment?

The growth of Disney and Universal Studios theme park businesses runs counter to a fear that was whispered a few years ago.

While never an official outlook, I recall hearing people in the industry privately express concern that the emergence of high-quality digital entertainment (HD TVs, highly realistic video games, and the unknown impact of the Internet) would render theme parks less relevant. The concern was that less expensive in-home entertainment would rival or outpace the park experience.

Perhaps what really happened is that increased time spent with digital devices has made reliable out-of-home entertainment more valuable. This might be especially true for parents who see a day at a theme park as being a way to get kids away from the Xbox for a period of shared, heads-up family fun.

These last thoughts are only personal speculation. However, it’s noteworthy to me that so many theme parks are thriving despite an ever-increasing volume of competitive leisure-time activities and attention-grabbing digital devices.

For many families, experiencing fun attractions together — with kids looking away from iPads — is worth the price of admission.

(Disclosure and disclaimer: As noted elsewhere on this blog, I am an employee of NBC Universal. All company information mentioned in this post is already publicly available. All opinions are personal and do not represent the opinions of the company. See media relations website for official press contacts and press releases.  To state the obvious, the achievements of Universal Studios Parks & Resorts are the result of the hard work and commitment of many people.)