It’s a place of awe and wonder. A place where make believe brings fantasies to life. A place where everything is just as it should be.
It’s the “happiest place on earth” and I had avoided it my entire life … until last week.
When a family vacation just happened to kick off in LA, thanks to the ease and affordability of a direct flight, Carrie felt it was the perfect time to introduce our two boys—and me—to the spectacle that is Disneyland.
I wasn’t exactly excited.
In fact, I was somewhat pessimistic and had adopted a “well, if we have to” attitude. However, once inside the gates, I was officially won over, not just because I was able to see it through the eyes of my 10 and six year-old, but because I was able to see it as the true Marketing case study that it is.
Below are just a few of the marketing lessons I was taught/reminded of during our two-day pilgrimage through Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park.
1. Never let them see you out of character
We have written in the past about the importance of being consistent when it comes to building a great brand, but at Disney, they take it to a whole other level.
I had heard about the rules and guidelines governing the actors portraying Disney characters within the park, but when you witness it firsthand, it is incredible. By never stepping out of character, these actors (and I am not using that term loosely) bring the Disney brand to life, make it personal and make connections that will likely never be broken.
The most extreme example of this was when I witnessed an international tourist (probably in her mid 20s) break down in tears when she met “Captain America.” At first it was kind of funny and made me ask myself, “what in the heck is wrong with this chick?” but then it became somewhat emotional as you realized that the whole Disney illusion was touching on something deep inside of her.
Consider the marketing bar raised.
2. Make every day worthy of a parade
Disney knows that sometimes you only get one chance to hit it out of the park and, 365 days a year, they pull out all of the stops.
From parades to fireworks, it’s never just a “Monday” at Disneyland it’s “the day you have looked forward to your entire life, the one you have saved up for the past 12 months (or more) and the day you will try to capture in a photo and hang on your wall for years to come.”
Now for most of us, going to the extremes Disney goes to is probably not realistic, but providing good customer service and a little smile is.
3. Don’t change what’s working
One of the main things we wanted to see at Disneyland was the new Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Let me tell you, it did not disappoint me or the six-year-old Star Wars freak at my side. However, what I really wanted to experience was “old school” Disneyland.
So, I rode the teacups, I rode the carousel and, yes, I rode “It’s a Small World!”
And you know what? I loved it.
From a design standpoint, it was beautiful. (Good design is good design, whether it was created 60 years ago or today.) It also proved to me that just because something is new doesn’t make it better.
In marketing we often fall into the trap of thinking that we somehow need a new logo or a new tagline when what we currently have is still working and maybe even loved.
I can’t remember who originally said it, but I always fall back on the quote that says something to the effect of “only change your marketing when your accountant tells you it’s time.”
4. Do give everything a fresh coat of paint every once in a while
While I don’t advocate scrapping anything just because it’s old, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it a facelift every once in a while.
At Disneyland, I was amazed by just how new and pristine everything was and I can’t even begin imagine the work that must go on behind the scenes from midnight to 8 a.m. when the park is closed.
In the marketing world, that could mean tweaking your logo every once and a while, adjusting your color palette or maybe just looking at how you speak about yourself. Do it correctly and no one will ever notice and your brand will be forever young.
5. Sweat the small stuff
I loved looking for the little Disney Easter eggs I heard were hidden throughout the park (little mouse ears in the scrolls of a railing or a hidden meaning in the name of a street). Not only was it fun to do, but subconsciously it was that attention to detail that elevated my overall appreciation of everything Disney.
It was a great reminder that it’s the “little things” that have a real impact on your customers and the overall strength of your brand.
6. Make it as easy (and fast) as possible
If you have ever tracked user experience while building a website, you have probably seen firsthand that if you make people jump through too many hoops, eventually they stop jumping and just leave.
From fast passes that let you bypass the lines to employees willing to take your purchases to the front gate so that you don’t have to carry them around all day, Disney knows how to keep people happy and keep interacting with the brand (i.e. spending money).
Take a look at your own operation. Are there steps you can remove? Is there pain you can alleviate for your customers? Do it and you’ll always keep them coming back for more.
7. Don’t forget the back story
The people at Disney know how to tell a good story and therefore, Walt and Mickey were everywhere at Disneyland. Not only did their presence give the place a sense of nostalgia and history, it made the visit more personal and made us feel as if we true “guests” into a world that Walt had created specifically for us.
All great brands keep their creation story front and center, it makes them real, it gives them a face and it allows them to connect with customers on a deeply personal level.
So, that’s it. Along with some great memories I was able to create with my family (and a few souvenirs) those were my takeaways from Disneyland. Yours will probably be different, but this hesitant first-timer encourages you to experience it for yourself.
Have your own Disney experiences you want to share? Leave them below.
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