I recently returned from a family trip to Walt Disney World – a place that felt brand new to me, as I had little to no memory of my first time visiting this magical land.
Though I have little memory of my last visit, returning to the park at age 28 has afforded me a completely different understanding of the park and the Disney brand as a whole. My experience as a PR professional took over and all I saw was one of the best branding strategies in the world.
As I walked through Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Epcot, Downtown Disney and my resort (Old Key West), I picked up on a number of things that definitely build upon the “magic” that is Walt Disney World and are clearly what keeps people coming back.
For any brand out there, here are some things that you can learn from Walt Disney World as seen through the eyes of a public relations specialist:
Walt Disney’s biggest symbol by far is Mickey Mouse. As you venture through Walt Disney World, regardless of the theme park or resort, you will encounter some form of Mickey Mouse. There are hidden Mickeys everywhere and that is part of the fun of the experience. While browsing through the shops, you will be bombarded with the number of things that can resemble Mickey Mouse.
Mugs of Mickey’s bottoms, legs and huge white shoes, oven mitts in the shape of Mickey’s gloves, and Mickey ears in more colors and designs than one would ever imagine. Even if you want a sweet treat, you can buy a Mickey ice cream bar, which I definitely took part in, or a Mickey ice cream sandwich.
Yes, Walt Disney World celebrates all of its other characters and you can find memorabilia related to more than just Mickey, but he is essentially the mascot of this brand. Walt Disney World does a great job of incorporating his likeness throughout everything to fully make its brand cohesive.
Engage your customers
When I arrived at my resort, a very newly engaged lady, I promptly received a pin noting this recent momentous event in my life. Everywhere I went during my trip I wore that pin, and what resulted was an amazing feeling. Every character (what Walt Disney World calls its employees, whether they are dressed as a famous character or just wearing a uniform) congratulated my fiancé and I on our engagement. They were welcoming to us and made us feel extra special.
At one cart where we stopped to buy a beverage, we were offered complimentary ice cream treats just for being engaged! I was completely blown away.
In walking through the parks, I noticed almost everyone had a pin, whether it was for a birthday they were celebrating, a first time visit to Walt Disney World or a celebration of a special anniversary. By providing these pins to its patrons, the Disney characters were able to consistently reach out to each person individually during their stay.
Doing something like this made my trip much more enjoyable and actually made me feel like the people working at Walt Disney World were happy for me – a great feeling to have, especially from a brand.
Leverage your reputation
Walt Disney World is an age-old tradition and a place that has been around forever. Yet, as time goes by, new movies and characters are introduced and technology becomes more advanced. You can see these changes being made at Walt Disney World and it’s very exciting to see. The theme park has not lost its true identity, as mentioned in my first point, but it continues to grow with the times and cater to a wide audience.
Adults will participate in attractions including the movies they grew up watching and young children today will get to take pictures with some of the newer Disney characters. Through all of its changes, Walt Disney World has not forgotten who it is. The parks may now utilize Magic Bands where everything is associated with that band and there is no longer a need for paper tickets or plastic cards, but you still feel like you are visiting the original Walt Disney World.
As brands mature and grow, it is crucial to not forget the original roots that brought you to where you are today. The recognition of staple characters such as Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, the ability to adapt to the times with new properties including Marvel Comics and Star Wars, and a dedication to making the theme park experience more convenient with new technology has helped make Disney number 17 on the Forbes World’s Most Valuable Brands list and number 108 on the Forbes Global 2000 list.
Do you have any examples of other brands that we can learn from? We’d love to hear your thoughts!