How Disney Built an Empire by Designing Brand Experience

By Janil Jean , Dec 11 2015
Disney Built an Empire

Featured Image: Unplash/Jayme McColgan

Remember how your childhood was surrounded by lovable characters from Disney animations? All the hours we spent watching the adventures of Mickey and Minnie Mouse. The lessons on unconditional love learnt from the story of friendship between a little girl and the most wanted alien – Lilo & Stitch.

We were captivated, our imagination bedazzled by Winnie the Pooh, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Donald Duck, Goofy, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and dozens of other characters. That was just the beginning of our Disney’s brand experience.

Disney’s brand experience
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“Oh! All they ever told me about love was a lie?”

After decades of struggle with the entertainment industry to satisfy consumers, Disney has achieved the perfect recipe to fully enchant the world in as many ways as possible. Other than making amazing cartoons and animations, the colossal entertainment and media enterprise has upped their game. The Walt Disney Company is providing a holistic, memorable, and attractive brand experience through motion pictures, animations, theatrical and musical performances, vast media networks, interactive websites and games, toys and other merchandise, and the huge set up of recreational parks and resorts all over the world.

Disney’s empire is the sum of a brand experience design, from which many of us can learn a lot.

Disney’s brand experience
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“This is it guys. When these doors open, we got to make a very first impression.” – Mickey Mouse

The Walt Disney Logo

There is only one way to go about explaining the logo used by the company – in the words of Walt Disney himself:

“Mickey Mouse is to me a symbol of independence.”

Yes, you’ve guessed it. The logo looks exactly like the one you’re thinking of right now. It is a fun, decorative script with a fairytale castle as a backdrop and shooting star curving atop it.

The text is Walt Disney’s signature and the typography is simple, curvy, and cheerful. It instantly makes the viewer expect exciting entertainment, a fun filled storyline, and a memorable experience. The castle is to represent the fairytales which is such a core part of their stories. The star alludes to the charming and wonderful world that Disney takes you in.

Disney’s brand experience
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“But wait! What does Mickey Mouse have to do with this logo?”

See that dot above the letter ‘I’ in the logo? That is not just any dot – as per popular belief, it is Mickey’s ears cleverly (and eternally) placed in the signature of the company’s founder. Mickey Mouse is also extensively used as a character in many of the company’s subsidiaries’ logo designs, as you will see below.

Disney’s brand experience
“Well, I am now the team mascot!”

What is the Disney Brand Experience?

Over the years, Disney has perfected its brand experience so much that it has become the epitome for those entering the field. From the storytelling technique implemented in its mascot logo to the title sequence for its movie and animation releases, Disney excels in designing brand experiences.

Every Disney product first starts with its studio where the cartoon, animated movie or feature film is released. While the studios are one of the brand testing points, it’s not actually the touch point until reaches the customers in cinemas, stores, and point of sales. That’s where the Walt Disneyland theme park (aka Disney World) comes in.

Walt Disney created Disney World to reach out to the end customers and interact with them in every possible sense. That had been the first of brand experience idea implemented by Disney. Over the years, Disney has refined its strategy so much that it has become a unique interaction strategy, with touch points created for each of its featured products, and focus on the senses rather than the visual appeal only.

Take for example its feature “Pirates of the Caribbean”, the adventurous series which have hit box office many times over doesn’t end with the movie itself. Visual themes, live characters, parades and dedicated theme park attack the senses, and touches you physically and mentally. That’s how Disney World enchants its customers from start to end, from children to adults.

How to Design a Brand Experience Like Disney?

The most compelling aspect of Disney’s brand experience is the strategy to build customer loyalty from generation to generation. Disney’s brand experience has been designed to create interaction opportunities to achieve the following:

  1. Make customers happy
  2. Increase brand loyalty
  3. Increase customer retention
  4. Spread positive word of mouth
  5. Reduce marketing costs in the long run
  6. Help in crises management

And in essence the company achieves the totality of the brand experience, a continuous improvement process that does not accept the traditional business model of “sell and forget”.

How Disney does it is inherent in the understanding of human psychology and what makes people tick. Essentially people are happy creatures, and what makes them happy motivates them to do more. By ensuring that all Disney productions are inspirational and motivational, the brand touches customer hearts and captivates their imagination. Frozen’s everlasting love between siblings, and Tomorrowland’s utopian world are two latest great examples of how Disney creates such touch points.

Furthermore, when people are happy with something they tend to repeat the experience several times over to achieve a new level of “high”. In the same way, Disney capitalizes on this by creating opportunities to repeat their experiences, and in essence cultivate a culture of loyalty.

Cultivating customer loyalty and retention are two of the most important aspects of marketing for a growing business but most fail miserably because they fail to deliver on the brand promise. At the point of sale (POS) which is incidentally also your brand’s touch point, if you fail to deliver then customers are bound to be disappointed and go elsewhere, most likely to your competitors. One of the reasons why Disney has a huge fan following and loyal customers is because, it has always been able to deliver on its brand promise.

Take for example the studio production of Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King cartoon animations. These two beloved features which started as visual entertainments later on developed into themes at Disney World as well as theatrical reproductions worldwide, interacted with more customers at each of these touch points. Moreover, Disney has never been shy of embracing technology to enhance its brand’s touch points. This is evident in the launch of Disney Infinity, an all-in-one all-characters packed game/app for the young generation of video game fans, thus ensured longevity of its brands.

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“The young and the reckless.”

But that is not all. If you look at Disney’s business model, you will realize that each of its business unit has been strategically incorporated with the aim to create more channels to push its products and services to customers readily. From books to clubs; from media network channels to portals, from travel resorts to theatrical productions; interactive digital media to consumer products etc.

Business Model Walt Disney
Original Image Here

What Have We Learned from Disney?

The company, over the century, has without failure provided the most mesmerizing brand experience its customers could ask for. They’ve kept their pace with contemporary drifts and technology, so much so that they became the trend-setters of the industry in many cases. The journey that began with a mouse has taken all of us with it into a sublime, enchanting, and mesmeric world of imaginary characters that resonate, regardless of our age or circumstance. That is the true beauty of Disney’s brand experience design.

About The Author

Janil Jean is an idealist blogger and social media addict who loves conversations related to branding, storytelling, startups and small business technology and design.

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