Is Walt’s Brand of Marketing the Way of the Future?

A story in the NY Times Media Decoder blog brings the good news that Disney Parks have arranged a partnership with the cranberry farm collective Ocean Spray. This will involve Disney selling Ocean Spray products, such as a co-branded Craisin package that features Chip & Dale, in the parks and hotels, and probably adding a cranberry bog display to one of the pavilions at EPCOT. I’m hoping this is in ‘The Land’ not in ‘Innoventions’. Of course, it would also work well as part of the Food & Wine festival (right next to the “I love Lucy”-esque grape stomping exhibit they should build).

The story mentions how this is part of a move among consumer marketers to “experiential marketing, which refers to efforts by brands to make themselves more tangible to consumers by venturing outside stores.” Um, Walt had that figured out when he built Disneyland. Put your brand on a Disney Imagineered attraction that echos what your company promises consumers and reflects your values in a positive way then reap the benefits of improved brand recognition and consumer loyalty.

Unfortunately, that equation fell out of favor in the 90s and 00s. Since the early 90s, the number one complaint I heard from Imagineers was the difficulty in securing sponsors willing to pay for the sorts of experiences that Disney Imagineering is uniquely suited to provide (arguably that uniqueness subsided some after WDI let go hundreds of their most talented Imagineers who then started their own companies and built other theme parks that needed sponsors).

Now consumers who are used to interacting with a brand online via social media are looking for that same sort of experience when they visit theme parks. This should play right into Disney’s hands. Companies like Ocean Spray will be forced to follow their customers into this ‘new’ experiential marketing relationship or risk losing market share. In turn Disney will find new ways to provide interactivity for brands in the parks and hotels and bring in some much needed sponsorship money to revitalize it’s world famous parks like EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and the Magic Kingdom.

Finally adding Craisins, which is a product I love (try them in a chicken salad with chopped walnuts and diced red onions), to the food offerings (hopefully as alternative for kids meal sides) is another way Disney can add healthy, yummy, choices to the mix. That seals the deal for me.

7 thoughts on “Is Walt’s Brand of Marketing the Way of the Future?”

  1. I agree that this is a great form of reciprocal marketing that, unlike some partnerships, makes *sense* within the Epcot park and as you said, hopefully the Land pavilion. I’m excited about it and hope it signals the start of returning to past successes that Walt figured out long ago.

  2. It could be argued that this kind of marketing never really went away, just that Disney Parks stopped being a significant contributor to helping companies justify the huge cost associated. Starting in the 90s and running into the 00s Disney’s innovation when it came to Imagineering took a nose-dive in favor of cost-consciousness, or they just went for cheap Six Flags-like parks and attractions. Gone were the unique, creations such as Carousel of Progress, Small World and Space Mountain, the types of attractions that were innovative and made people stop and say “Wow”. Given this lack of innovation, I would guess that many companies opted not to invest. Hopefully, that trend is making a turnaround that will be noticeable in the parks. I’ve long thought that Epcot should be a shining star in the Disney parks lineup, and the opportunities there to market a brand name are virtually unlimited, yet for some reason it’s a pretty quiet park when it comes to big names. Something I think would be hugely beneficial would be to hire someone as an “evangelist” to go and promote Disney and Epcot, specifically to potential customers who would want to get their name plastered on some great attraction. Perhaps with the right creative talent and ideas, they could build a team that would do something like this and would help restore this old marketing strategy, yet give it a 21st century touch. That’s my hope at least.

    1. A few imagineers I’ve spoken with lay the blame for off the shelf rides with cringe-worthy themes at the doorstep of the drop in sponsor dollars, not the other way around. I feel it’s a chicken and egg thing.

  3. John, didn’t we say kinda the same thing? Off the shelf rides with cringe-worthy themes translates to a lack of innovation in my book. I blame a lot of it on the accountants and upper management though for trying to turn a quick buck. Very few companies, including Disney, shoot for the long-term investment any more. Most look for what they can recognize on a balance sheet the quickest in order to keep the stockholders happy. Not that I don’t necessarily agree that they need to do that, but it has drawbacks, and can bite you in the rear if you go too cheap like in the case of DCA, and I think also in the case of DAK and some of the decisions they’ve made there.

    This may be a pipe dream, but if I were in charge at Disney, I would build a team of Imagineers and Marketing gurus to target some of the top companies in the world right now. Build an attack plan with some rough ideas and storyboards of how they could sell their brand in the parks with a new attraction. Walt did this with some of the companies he worked with, and it was quite successful, I think. Another idea would be to build a Science and Technology center at WDW, maybe in Epcot, maybe standalone. But, invite the top businesses and universities to come and show off their projects. Another idea might be to hold design challenges where businesses and colleges could compete to build something for Disney, and the prize being an award of X dollars going to them for so many years and of course recognition to the winner.

Comments are closed.