January 2014
By Brian Heffron


5 marketing lessons from Disney


Telling a business to act more like Disney is like telling someone like me to look – or throw – more like Tom Brady. No problem, I’ll get right on that. Most marketers don’t have the luxury of bottomless budgets, 90 years of brand equity and hundreds of media channels.

But during a recent visit to Disney World I was struck by five things Disney does that most brands can apply to their own business.

  1. Make a promise. A brand is bigger than a simple business transaction. Disney guests aren’t just buying hotel rooms and rides. They’re creating a precious family memory. At the gates of the Magic Kingdom you pass under these words: Where Dreams Come True. Everything Disney does aims to make that happen. Tell your customers why they should do business with you, boiled down to a single, simple promise. And live it.
  2. Personalize the experience. Disney spends lots on advertising but it also understands the value of intimacy. Without me saying a word, I was greeted at my hotel by a host holding an iPad. “Welcome home, Mr. Heffron. How was your flight from Boston?” Good way to start my visit. This goes beyond customer service. It’s building a very personal connection between the brand and the customer. In this age of personalization and consumer control, that’s critical.
  3. Get emotional. At CTP, we believe tapping into the human spirit is key to building real, business-changing relationships with consumers. Is there another company that does this any better than Disney? With 52 million visitors to Disney World alone each year, its success is built on pure human emotion. That sounds easy when you’re giving parents unforgettable moments with their kids. But with some digging a hospital, bank or even a software company can mine human stories that bring a brand to life.
  4. Embrace technology and data.  Despite some recent security concerns you expect will be fixed, Starbucks’ iPhone app accounted for 11% of its U.S. transactions last quarter. Disney is starting to use a similar approach. With a simple scan of your MagicBand you don’t even need to dip into your wallet for that Toy Story t-shirt in the gift shop. (Good for Disney, dangerous for dad.) But beyond the seamless purchasing, fast pass benefits and built-in hotel room key, the bands provide Disney with invaluable data on consumer behavior. It’s information that will help personalize marketing going forward. It scares privacy advocates and some security experts, which shouldn’t be taken lightly. But it excites marketers for good reason. Don’t chase every shiny object but identify the tools that improve the customer experience and provide you rich insights.
  5. Don’t say goodbye. Consumers – not the brands – control the conversations these days. But there are ways to stay in touch with them on their terms. Since my stay, Disney has asked me to complete an online survey and, it seems, exposes me to digital advertising that follows me around the web. It’s important to understand the right balance for a given consumer but stay connected. Start with a simple ask for a follow / like on your social channels, and go from there.

By the way, I’ll let you know when I figure a way to incorporate 1.5 pound Turkey Leg into your marketing plan.

January 2014
By Brian Heffron