Seven Marketing Secrets We Can All Learn from Disney

Since the beginning of my marketing career, I have always respected and admired the marketing communications and branding expertise of the Disney brand.  Nowhere was this position more greatly strengthened than with my attendance at the D23 Destination D event held at Walt Disney World November 17-18, 2018. This was a special Destination D event because it also coincided with Mickey’s 90th birthday celebration. Destination D provided Disney’s chairman of parks, experiences, and consumer products, Bob Chapek, with the opportunity to share exciting news about the upcoming Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge and much more slated to come in the next few years.  However, what really struck me the most from this special event was certain key fundamentals and timeless attributes that seem to be at the core of Disney strategic marketing. These five key marketing secrets of Disney show us functional elements we should consider as potential lessons to promote each of our unique brands.

  1. Honor your brand ambassadors, friends, and fans – Disney goes out of their way to recognize and communicate with their fans and provide them with opportunities to become more deeply engaged with the company and the brand.  This also involves a way for Disney fans, friends, and ambassadors to be able to connect with the company via social media including numerous Instagram walls at the various parks.  The D23 Destination D event was a time for the company to communicate with one of their core audiences and provide them with the resources to further support the brand moving forward.
  2. Respect and openly recognize your history – More than anything, the Destination D event was a clear way for the company to lovingly share details about the history of the company and its products. This strategic history actually produces much greater audience engagement and understanding.  While the vast majority of us don’t have a brand with the notoriety of Disney, we all have significant historical contributions that make us stand out in the marketplace. The key is finding a new and unique way that builds a stronger relationship with our core audiences.
  3. Always focus on adapting to new audiences and market dynamics – Perhaps one of the greatest challenges of the Destination D event was understanding that while there is a deep-seated respect for the past there must be a willingness to adapt and innovate to reach new audiences and markets.  This element is true for each of us as we consider the need to build on our history, but to evolve into the market needs of the future. For Disney, this means accepting the new look and style of Mickey while still appreciating the previous “look and feel” of Mickey that was a part of our history and childhood. As corporate marketers, we need to also grow and evolve based upon the needs of our customers and the marketplace.  We find this to be true in the search engine optimization programs we create to social media campaigns that are under development.
  4. Be willing to stretch your marketing boundaries – During the Destination D event, we were given special access into some of the upcoming elements of the Disney universe as well as insights into their program communication and marketing elements.  It was truly inspiring. A transcending element of this program was how the company continues to push their boundaries to more effectively communicate with their target audiences. For example, the program involved a special live musical preview of the upcoming Mary Poppins Returns movie.  This amazing program showed how the company respects and honors the past while pushing forward into new uncharted waters.   
  5. Embrace the future including market changes – Perhaps one of the greatest lessons from Destination D was the way the numerous animators and illustrators shared their solid acknowledgment of historical animation/drawing techniques and character evolution while acknowledging the future role of advanced digital animation technology.  In other words, acknowledging the past, but focusing on the future.
  6. Refine and improve your processes – After hearing scores of Disney Imagineers, animators, and other Disney creative cast members, you very quickly understand that regardless of the role there is a clear process to all branding and marketing efforts. The important secondary element to this commitment to core ideals is the necessity to continually refine and improve the process for greater efficiency.  For example, the Disney team shared how the company embraced Vinylmation (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vinylmation) which was warmly received, but how the product team has been increasing segueing into Funko (https://shop.funko.com/catalogsearch/result/?q=disney).  The same principle was shared as part of the development of the new Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, which is leveraging practical elements that were used in Disney’s Steamboat Willie in 1928 with brand new immersive technology that has never been seen before. As marketers, we oftentimes have this same opportunity to acknowledge previous company accomplishments while acknowledging exciting new strategies and processes.
  7. Surround yourself with partners and team members who share your passion.  One of the most exciting elements of the D23 Destination D program was being able to see the significant value that comes when we surround ourselves with partners and other team members that are unified behind a single vision and direction.  Whether this was in the creation of a musical score for a movie or creating a new animation series, the importance of our collective team can never be overemphasized.

To learn more about how the Zephoria team might be able to help you and your organization feel free to reach out to Dan Noyes at (585)230-9565 or via email at [email protected].