The Power of Disney

The Company
22 November 2019

As far as iconic brands go, Disney is one that grandparents and great-grandparents have in common with their beloved little ones. Founded in 1923, generations of people across the world have grown up to the memorable sights and sounds produced by The Walt Disney Company — sights and sounds that endure to this day.

From its origins of hand-animated, black-and-white silent films to Mickey Mouse whistling behind a ship wheel in ‘Steamboat Willie’, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, to Inside Out and Frozen, Disney has never faded out of style.

And it’s highly likely that it never will.

Cartoons come and go. Generations of kids in Australia have only seen Blinky Bill on chocolate bars, but will name every character on Star Wars, Frozen, and Toy Story. What is it about Disney (outside of its sheer size and reach) that keeps it in the minds of millions?

Nostalgia marketing

We’ve talked about nostalgia marketing and the wonders it can do for a brand. There are few companies that use nostalgia the way Disney does, neither do they do it as well. Disney’s brand is all about telling stories that stay with their audiences and are never quite outgrown.

Whether it was the devastating sight of Mufasa’s death or the upbeat tune of Hakuna Matata, Disney has mastered the art of nostalgia marketing in their latest revamps of The Lion King, The Jungle Book, and even Beauty and the Beast.

The 2019 live-action remake of The Lion King grossed a worldwide sum of US$1.655 billion in its opening week alone. Talk about a ‘roaring’ success.

… Moving on.

Understanding the power of emotions was the first step Disney took to turning themselves into a thriving business.

They made stories worth retelling.

Then they made stories worth retailing.

Omnichannel targeting

Omnichannel targeting isn’t just about social media accounts for Disney. Their history tells of successful multi-channel targeting that originated from the OG of all channels — retail.

Disney toys have swept the market of toy collections since the days of Winnie the Pooh and Mickey Mouse himself. Each generation of viewers find something to look forward to with each release of Disney toys.

For some, they become collector’s items. For others, they become well-loved toys passed down through the generations. Children of this generation roleplay princesses in Elsa and Anna costumes, or march about in Stormtrooper regalia. No one really outgrows toys, they simply change the way they engage with them.

Think big. Think ComicCon.

Disney’s omnichannel engagement crosses platforms like Instagram and Facebook today by appealing to older generations looking for a nostalgic kick. They practice strategic content creation according to the niche audience of each channel: Instagram for older generations and large retailers (think Target, Kmart, etc) for the little ones who can’t resist shelf after shelf of toys from their favourite Disney animated films.

With Disney+ launching around the world, Disney has just opened up another, if not most powerful, channel to appeal to the coming generations.

Turning fairytales into reality

Disney didn’t just bring fairytales to life on the big screen — it brought them to life in the real world too. There isn’t a child in the world who doesn’t have the Magic Kingdom as a destination of choice. It’s almost a rite of passage for any Disney fan to set foot at least once into the wonderland of Disney World or Disneyland.

Children who dream of living out the lives of their favourite fairytale characters see them brought to life in life-sized replicas of worlds and castles. With Disney adding onto their plethora of rides and various theme parks, their projected revenue with the launch of newer film franchises can only skyrocket from here.

Disney World alone averages over 52 million visitors a year, whereas Disneyland has a sum of over 20 million annual visitors. The total revenue of Disney’s parks and resorts was US$20.29 billion in 2018 alone.

More than just the most iconic mouse of recent generations, Mickey Mouse is in fact, a cash cow.

A legacy of storytelling

The Walt Disney Company has spent the last several decades filling the heads and hearts of children and adults alike with the wonders of fairytale storytelling brought to life. It developed its business model around the goal of storytelling instead of revenue.

The revenue part came later. Because of this, it has become an enduring brand and one of the most effective storytellers of recent times.

Disney is just one of many brands that put storytelling first and get their fairytale ending. Who knows? Maybe your brand might be next.

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