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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.