New Year, New Job

2015 started with a big career change for me.

Just before the holidays I resigned my position at NBC Universal. I came into the new year excited to be starting a new role in a very different organization, Sky Zone.

Sky Zone is the original indoor trampoline park. It’s the category leader, with over 95 parks now open in US, Canada, Australia and Mexico.

Job changes, as you already know, are the norm these days and something most people are accustomed to. But for me it was an unusual NBCU 15-Year Pin in boxexperience, having worked the past 15 years (two thirds of my adult life!) with Universal Studios.

Coincidentally, my tenure was almost exactly 15 years to the day. It felt a bit surreal to receive a 15-year anniversary pin and leave the company the same week.

But more so, I saw this timing as a sign that I was making the right decision. It felt harmonious. I had completed a circle.

In any event, I went for it….

So where exactly did “it” take me, and why?

First, The ‘Why’

Mainly I was craving newness. A new environment, new industry, new competitors and challenges.

It was like the famous movie title, “The Seven Year Itch.” It just took me twice as long to get there.

Seriously, one reason I’d been able to stay engaged at Universal for such a long time was that there had been considerable internal change. During my tenure Universal was sold numerous times — from Seagram to Vivendi to GE to Comcast — with each parent company influencing the culture, processes and priorities in its own way. Also Universal itself expanded and changed with the growth.

On a more personal level, my job responsibilities shifted over time. Plus the nature of digital marketing changed radically and rapidly along the way, and, therefore, so did jobs such the one I had.

But eventually I felt the need to make a more radical change. I needed to shake the tree.

Luckily, I found an opportunity with an exciting company offering a fun, fitness-oriented product I already enjoyed.

Sky Zone

Change is what I wanted, and change is what I got.

Sky Zone Franchise Group is extremely different than Universal, especially in terms of company culture.

Sky Zone is, and has the ethos of, a Millenial-run company. It’s not hierarchical. There’s a strong spirit of transparency. The office space is wide open and dog friendly. I went from having a corner office to having a middle desk (or, as I like to put it, from having an “open door” policy to having no door at all).

Business-wise, there are considerable differences between implementing marketing programs for an ‘owned and operated’ company like Universal and a franchise business. All things franchise-related is a great learning opportunity for me.

Actually, I feel the whole situation is a great opportunity. Sky Zone Franchise Group is a small company filled with incredible talent, and the company is expanding rapidly, both domestically and internationally.

Historically the company did not put a strong emphasis on marketing. It’s growth (and also the emergence of category entrants / competitors) has been fueled by the strength of its concept.

Another full circle

The situation I find myself in at Sky Zone reminds me of my early days at Universal Studios, when almost nothing was being done on the digital marketing front, and thus the potential impact of new programs was considerable. In many cases the fruit isn’t low hanging, it’s on the ground.

It’s exciting for me to think about the potential impact increased marketing can have on the business growth.

I’m invigorated by the need to start fresh, learn about a new industry, adapt to a very different company culture, roll up my sleeves and start the building process again.

Also I’m happy to be marketing a product that promotes active, healthy fun.

Please wish me luck in the new venture, and please stay in touch for updates along the way.

Wishing you the best

Candy Tree

Parties, family and old friends, festive moods all around…  as the old song says, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”

I wish you & yours a happy and healthy holiday season. Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah and happy end of 2014!

And thank you very much for being a reader of The Contrast Principle. I don’t take anyone’s time or attention lightly, and am very appreciative of every moment you’ve spent with this blog.

Kind regards, and best wishes for a great 2015 ahead,
Josh

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