Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Magical Branding of Disney

I just came back from Walt Disney World (Florida) and I’m tanned and stoked. I'm stoked not just because Disney is truly a magical imagination playground for kids and kids at heart- but because Disney has done an exceptionally excellent job at branding. There are so many directions that I could take tonight’s post- but I’ll focus on just one key part: the consistent and integrative promotion of Disney brand values. But first, some fun facts that would make David Letterman proud:

• Walt Disney World size: 47 square miles of property.(2) That’s about double the size of Manhatten.
• One third of Disney World property is developed, one quarter will always be preserved in its natural state. (1)
• More than 75 million Cokes are consumed each year at Walt Disney World Resort along with 13 million bottles of water.(1)
• 62,000 employees work at Walt Disney World Florida (1)
• About 47 million visitors visit Walt Disney World per year. (2) That makes it the most visited tourist attraction on the planet. Incidentally, Times Square is #2 at 45 million.(3)
• Since 1971, an estimated 1.65 million pairs of glasses have been returned to Walt Disney World's "lost bin".(1)
• There is a tree farm on site so that when a mature tree needs to be replaced, a thirty-year-old tree will be available to replace it.(1)
• More than 30 tons of fruits and vegetables grown at The Land pavilion at Epcot are served in Walt Disney World restaurants.

The Magic of Walt Disney
The Disney brand is about magic, memories, and Americana wholesomeness. Each of these intangible values are intertwined and impeccably guarded through Disney’s brand building measures. Very little of the brand is left to chance- and so much of it is steeped in Walt’s vision. I watched a video on the founding of Disney at one of the pavilions. Walt started Walt Disney parks where children and parents could be whisked away into a world of imagination. He resented the foul language and “dirty” living habits of carnival people. In a world that has been desensitized to “immoral living”, when you walk in a Disney park, you won’t hear foul language, see R-rated attire, drunkards, or litter.

But it is the “magic” value that drives the Disney brand. Anyone quasi-familiar with the Disney brand viscerally understands that Disney magic does not mean what David Copperfield magic means. Disney magic refers to that imagination zone- where anything is possible. It is the magic of adventure, childhood escapism, cartoon dreams and never having to grow up. It involves the magic of being in a world of innocence and make-believe- a place where goodness triumphs and fun flourishes.

I tell my students that “there are 3 ways to build a brand” (theoretically they are brand elements, marketing programs, and secondary associations). These brand builders largely refer to consumer touch-points and Disney masterfully executes on all of them. Check out this quick selection of how “magic” is constantly emphasized in Disney's branding efforts.

• Walt Disney World’s Flagship Park: Disney’s Magic Kingdom
• Walt Disney’s World’s Flagship Pavillion: Magic Castle
• Magic Kingdom’s official slogan: The Most Magical Place On Earth
• Walt Disney World’s Bus: Disney’s Magical Express Bus
• Walt Disney Cruise: Disney’s Magical Cruise
• Disney/Coke co-brand drink machine (click here): Where magic is real.
• Employee greetings at the Disney Boardwalk hotel – “Have a magical day”

Of course, the Disney characters, pavilions, promotions (“Welcome to Walt Disney World. Come and enjoy the magic of Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, FL”),signage, and employees (“Have a magical day Bob") support this magical brand value. Heck, even Aladdin asking me if I wanted to go on a magic carpet ride reinforced the notion. By the way I accepted under the condition that I could go alone with Jasmine. Instead Aladdin and Jasmine agreed to the picture below.
As a kid I was a fan of Disney. As a marketing professional, I am impressed with its branding.


  1. The 3 ways, namely Brand element, Marketing programs and Secondary association, right?

    Brand is always your top priority, even while travelling, HAHA


  2. Very interesting post. But what about Six Flags, or the other parks? They're also emphasizing their own message. Why isn't it working as well as Disney?

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  4. @Six Flags Comment above: Really? have you been to a Disney Park before? Take a trip then tell me why six flags isn't as successful.

    @Bob: As a current employee at Disney you couldn't be more right. Any communication that reaches the market, across any division at the company, is thoroughly reviewed and scrutinized, ad nauseum, to maintain the integrity of the brand. But the company pulls in $30+ billion in revenue/year, so they must be doing something right.