This blog is modified from an article originally posted on Medium. You can read the original here


Thanks to my team at Mindstate Group, we had one of the best years on record in 2019. We expanded our client list and did some truly amazing work. But with that growth came a lot of travel in quarter four that kept me away from my family for several days during most weeks.

This hit me hard emotionally in November, so I sat down with my wife, Melanie, and asked if we could use the downtime to really connect as a family over the Christmas holidays. Three days later we broke the news to our extended families that rather than traveling to see them over the Christmas break, we would instead spend seven days together as a family on a Disney cruise.


Weeks later, I was still basking in the experience. It was exactly what we needed as a family. But, true to form, I couldn’t help but notice the amount of detail that went into making our trip so memorable—specifically how Disney Cruise Lines incorporated mindstate design strategy and tactics to optimize our experience psychologically. I’d like to share what I discovered.

What Was My Mindstate?

Before we get to my findings, let’s answer the question: What exactly is a mindstate?


Mindstates are activated in temporary moments of high emotional arousal, or what we call “hot states.” When in these mindstates, people are more susceptible to influence because they rely more on System 1 nonconscious emotional processing for purchasing decisions and behaviors. I talk about these extensively in my book, Marketing to Mindstates.


Given the state I was in at the end of last year, I was very focused on building some family connection and love. In the world of mindstate design, I was in the optimistic belonging and the optimistic nurturance mindstates. Therefore, I was seeking ways to build us up as a family, and it’s in some subtle details that Disney deploys on their cruise that I was able to achieve that.

Son sitting on fathers shoulders at Disney World

Welcoming Your Family Aboard

First, when we walked in through the cruise doors, we were celebrated as a family, not as individuals. We were asked our last name, and over the loudspeaker it was announced, “Introducing the Leach family!” All the crew members around us were clapping as Melanie, Nicholas, and I walked down the red carpet together. We all felt like celebrities.


Disney celebrated our togetherness as a family, not our uniqueness as individuals. Being in the optimistic belonging mindstate, this moment spoke to my desire for belonging with my family.


Disney character Goofy letting you kid touch his nose

Strategic Seating at Dinner

Secondly, we were seated at dinner with families with similar aged kids. I noticed this the first night when we met our table mates. Turns out, each of the kids was 10, the same age as Nicholas. I thought to myself, That’s weird. What are the chances of that happening?


Turns out, it wasn’t by chance—it was by design. I know this because I asked the host about it and he told me they seat families this way to create more of an inviting, relaxed atmosphere where families would want to stay together at the table versus leaving immediately after eating.


If we’d been seated at a table with a lot of babies, for example, we may have wanted to disband quickly after eating. Instead, we ended up taking advantage of that time together because the adults and kids had something in common with the other families at the table.

Disney world dinner looking up at a balcony with christmas decorations

Family Entertainment Options

Next, let’s talk about the family-centered game shows. There was “Family Feud” where two families square off. There was also a game show called “How Well Do You Know Your Family?” where they bring parents and kids onstage separately and ask them how the other party will respond to certain questions. As you can imagine, the responses on both sides were pure comedy.


Once again, Disney was celebrating family: families came together to watch the shows and competed together (not as individuals). It’s all about togetherness and winning as a family.


You’re Encouraged to be a Kid Again

The fourth thing I noticed was that being a kid is 100% encouraged. Disney uses character events to bring feelings of nostalgia to adults and wide-eyed wonder to kids. Almost every hour, you have the ability to interact with the greats of Disney like Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Aladdin, and Goofy, who’s my son’s new favorite.


When I saw these characters, all the feelings I had about them as a kid were evoked in my memory. As a result, I was every bit as excited to see them as Nicholas was! On top of that, I got to share my passion and memories with Nicholas as he met these characters for the first time. It was in these moments that I was reminded of what it feels like to be a kid again.

Family smiling with Santa Clause

Disney Is Masterful with Mindstate Design 

Finally, don’t even get me started about how they made it snow on the inside of the cruise liner in the middle of the Caribbean! Talk about the nostalgia and pure joy that's created when you see snow on the inside of a boat. I’ll never forget the feeling I had at that moment.


I could go on and on, but here’s the point: by understanding my true motivations for taking my family on a cruise—to connect and create greater love—Disney was able to design and include a number of mindstate experiences on that trip that we will never forget as a family.


Imagine what experiences you could create for your customers if you built your content strategy around their subconscious mindstate.

Young kid smiling infront of ironman mask and captain america shield

Target Your Customers’ Mindstate. Get Better Results.

Now more than ever, you can’t afford to waste time and money running marketing tactics that don’t provide a strong ROI. Take a play out of Disney’s book and apply Mindstate Marketing to your advertising creative so you can have greater control over your outcomes and career.


In our upcoming Mindstate Marketing Workshop, you’ll learn the science behind Marketing to Mindstates, the best way to determine your customers’ higher-order goals, and how to apply behavioral science and psychology to your content strategy.


Join my team in our next workshop, and let’s work together to fine-tune your marketing creative so you can stop holding your breath each time you launch a campaign, and instead, feel confident in your marketing.


Attend a Mindstate Marketing Workshop

Topics: Behavioral Design, Innovation, Marketing, Marketing Creative, Advertising Creative, Content Strategy