For this month’s Fandom Friday, I was tasked to try and figure out some of Disney’s marketing secrets. It says right in my bio that I enjoy all things nerdy. And that shone through this past weekend as I attended Disney’s D23 Convention in Anaheim. Think of it as all the fandom of a Comic Con, but just for Disney stuff. Yes, it was nerdy, and it was so great. And as I spent three days immersed in the culture of one of the biggest companies on Earth, I learned a lot of things that we all can apply in our places of business.
Listen and provide the kinds of experiences that only your company can provide.
Disney has branded itself as the only place on Earth where you can find real magic. And I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not sure how they pull off some of their experiences. But that doesn’t mean you can’t provide your customers with some magic of your own. It starts with listening to your customers and clients and understanding what they want from your business. In every panel I went to at the D23 convention, the C-level execs with Disney would say over and over that they listened to their fans when creating new experiences. Even at panels presenting new movies, the writers and directors of the upcoming big hits would say they really created this for the fans. Every actor appearing in them would thank the fans who make their work possible.
I know we hear things like that all the time from companies, but this didn’t just feel like lip service. I saw several feedback and listening stations at the convention where people could leave their feedback and ideas. To me, that shows that Disney actually listens. They want to know the kinds of experiences that people want when they come to their parks, resorts, or to go see their movies. Create an experience and it creates a memory for people. You can do that with your business. Make every experience memorable.
You have something about your business that makes it unique and special. Take that and figure out how to maximize that experience. Listen to your customers and see what you can do to improve their experiences. The best ideas sometimes come from those who are already invested in your brand. They want to make it better for themselves, and for the other customers who come to your business. Your business, brand, and overall company can greatly improve by just listening to what your customers have to say and figuring out exactly what they want. Your company wouldn’t exist without your customers, so make sure they’re have a good experience at every touchpoint along the way.
Find places where you know you can win.
As sat in a panel where Disney gave sneak peaks at all the upcoming movies for the next few years, I couldn’t help but notice some obvious announcements. Based on my previous section, Disney listened to their fans and formally announced two movies we all knew were coming. Black Panther 2, due out in 2022, and this November’s Frozen 2.
Disney knows they can win with these movies. They are two of the biggest movies of all time in their own rights. With well-planned and executed sequels, Disney can already count on securing more big wins by continuing the story. You can do the same thing! It’s not cheating or tacky to find places where you know you can win. Those moments tackling the “low hanging fruit” on things where you know you will win can help build your brand and create those memorable experiences for your customers. Taking on those winnable challenges will give you a sense of accomplishment to take on some of the bigger ideas you have that might take more time.
Always be pushing ahead and trying new things.
No one would ever accuse Disney of sitting back and watching things happen. Inspired by the vision of Walt Disney himself, the company always pushes ahead to the next great idea. One thought I heard over and over again from presenters at D23 was how they feel so lucky to work for a company that lets them try and execute on new ideas. The biggest challenge comes from figuring out which idea to start trying.
So what does that mean for your company? It’s important to never just stay within the status quo. You know what works for your business, but pushing ahead to innovate and expand rarely turns out unsuccessful. We’ve seen so many times the companies that don’t change and adapt to a change in the marketplace. (Think internet shopping or digital photography.) These companies fall behind, and it’s too late to catch up. These are extreme examples, but I’m guessing a few brands came to mind when you read that. Don’t sit back thinking your business model will always work. Because the chances are something will come along to shake things up, and your businesses needs to be able to adapt. That comes from having a mindset that’s willing and open to change. As well as always pushing the limit of what is possible.
Today’s culture of instant gratification also means customers are looking to make sure you can take care of their needs. If you can’t, they’ll move onto something else. By pushing ahead and trying new things, you can create those experiences that today’s customers crave. And they’ll continue to be loyal and come back for years to come.
Stay true to your roots.
What made you want to start or work at your company? What’s the driving factor that makes it special? Never lose sight of that. No matter how much you want to innovate, push ahead, and take on those easy wins, always remember why you started on this journey. Even though Disneyland is very different from the park Walt opened up over half a century ago, they still remain true to his storytelling and animation vision. All new attractions, rides, parades, shows, and films tell a story and create an experience you won’t forget. These experiences make sure people don’t forget that they’re still part of what has made Disney magic for all these years. Walt Disney is known for saying, “It all started with a mouse.” Find that moment where it all started for your business, then move forward and innovate with that vision in mind.