The Disney Experience – A lesson for all marketers

by Ian Turner

Earlier this spring, I returned from our annual trip to the home Walt built – Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California. This year however, I used the trip as a point of reflection, from a business and marketing perspective, on what makes Disney so successful at what they do – in spite of the many societal changes from when the park opened in 1955.

What I quickly realized is that there’s no magic formula to what makes Disney so successful. It’s simply hyper-attention to some critical issues, and an unwavering awareness that they’re only as good as the last satisfied customer. Having recently read Walt Disney’s fabulous biography by Bob Thomas, I quickly learned that Walt did little without a well-defined plan in mind.

So what lessons does Disneyland and the so-called “Disney Experience” have for marketers and businesses of all types? I’ve summarized this down to 4 key points.

1.     Define your brand – Then live by it

Of all the business clichés out there, none is more pertinent than “walk the talk”. It’s very easy for any business to say whatever’s required to attract customers. But will that keep them for the long-term? Unlikely, unless the business can ensure that their marketing messages and positioning reflect how staff operate and behave.

2.     Wow your customers - They’ll become your best brand advocates & ambassadors

There’s little about the Disney Experience that leaves customers anything but “raving fans”. From the meticulously clean parks to the courteousness of staff to the quality of the food, merchandise and attractions, Disney is all about wowing the customer.

Do you know of anyone that returned from a Disney vacation with anything but glowing remarks about the experience? I don’t. These customers become the best brand advocates, advertisements, PR campaigns and social media programs a company could buy. Why? Because they’re real, authentic and memorable!

3.     Customer service is part of the marketing mix

A marketing strategy focused primarily on the 4 Ps of the marketing mix (price, place, promotion and product) is of little consequence if it can’t also deliver outstanding customer service. Why? Because in doing the latter, you’re ensuring your business develops a customer-centric service strategy that’s fully integrated with your marketing efforts.

By making customer service part of the marketing mix, you’re ensuring you align your servicing capabilities with your marketing, and even sales efforts. Much like 2) above, defining and delivering a superior customer experience needs to be at the forefront of your marketing activities. Anything less is setting your business up for failure.

4.     Invite your customers to be a part of your brand

One thing I’ve realized in this era of social networking is that if you treat your customers well, they’ll spread this good news like wildfire. Social consciousness within society, especially at a business level, has never been so acute. How can marketers and business people achieve this?

By giving your clients exactly what they want – and a little bit more! And when you’ve done that, encourage and even ask them to engage with your brand and share their positive experiences with others. The more intimate your customers can become with your brand, the more enduring their relationship will be with you, and the more likely they’ll provide free word of mouth advertising. And by doing so, you’re developing the long-term client relationships that will pay dividends for years to come.

So there you have it, a fairly straightforward blueprint for making your business memorable and successful. I realize not everything will be relevant for all businesses, especially in the B2B market. Nevertheless, a focus on wowing your clients in and of itself is a very sure-fired approach to business prosperity.

Ian Turner is the Principal of Sydcam Marketing Communications, which provides a wide array of marketing communications services to small and medium sized businesses, including marketing strategy, planning and implementation - online and off.

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