24 March 2007

The Magi© of Disney® Marketing™

So, I spent a week at the California Disneyland Resort with my family. Wow! Does Disney get it when it comes to marketing and service. They really understand their customer - they create an environment that takes you away from reality. You are fully consumed in their world and forget about everything outside the front gates. Nearly every detail, from the wallpaper in our hotel room (Disneyland Hotel) that glowed with pixie dust after the lights turned out - and if you followed the pixie dust around the perimiter of the room it lead to Tinkerbell in the corner - to the incredible performance of all of their cast (all of their staff) was without flaw. You could say that everything was perfect.

And, if you think Disneyland simply relies on what its done in the past or known for, forget it... they constantly are changing and welcoming popular culture into their little world from having the Red Hot Chili Peppers create the sound experience for the Space Mountain and California Screaming rides to including Jack Sparrow and many of the elements from the Pirates of the Carribean franchise into their Pirates of the Carribean ride. These changes are what keeps it fresh but at the same time they are able to keep some of the same visuals and attractions that you remember seeing when you visited as a kid (in my case over 29 years ago). This makes going back to the park memorable everytime.

In Disney culture they call this incredible attention to detail 'Shaking the Post'. I can't remember the book or paper that I read on this but it stems from a complete corporate culture at Disney based on a cartoon, where a character in the animation falls against a lamp post and it shakes... and so does the shadow of the post. This attention to detail (the shaking of the posts shadow) may only be noticed by a small percentage of the audience conciously but it is remembered and appreciated. There are examples of this all over the park; intentionally drop a piece of paper on the ground, it takes about 5 minutes before it is picked up by a cast member; ask any cast member of any level, where anything on the park is and they will answer, without hesitation. Great training and an understanding of why 'shaking the post' is important is key to providing this level of service.

When you take this same 'shaking the post' theory and apply it to your own service staff or marketing approach there are no limits to what you can achieve.

I have spoken to a number of corporations about customer service, marketing & brand experience and even discussed this 'shaking the post' level of approach on service. You don't need to see a flow chart to understand the merits of this type of service, it's quite evident. The problem is that it takes time, education and a buy-in at all levels to implement. The good and the bad of this type of approach in business is that it takes effort. Remember, effort is free. But effort is where it usually fails, you see, this approach must become part of the culture or it will never see the light of day and effort is simply priced too high for some.

I look at the marvel and the wonder of Disneyland they way that any good marketer should... I look for holes, I look for flaws and I look for mistakes. Unfortunately, once you get in their gates, you drop your marketing hat for one with mouse ears and you are quickly influenced by the shear goodness and enjoyment of everything. I guess there were no holes, flaws or mistakes. OK, there may have been a few but I can't remember them.

If I were to criticize one thing about our Diney experience it would be the food. I did not have one good meal on the park (Disneyland, California Adventure or Downtown Disney). Overall the food was very high priced, which we were expecting - but to pay such high prices and not get good food... that sucks. We had a great meal off park at Los Sanchez restaurant where we absolutely pigged out on a delicious Mexican meal (7 entreés, 2 appetizers 5 drinks and a picher of beer) for $56 versus the typical meal on the park for around $180 that left us unsatisfied. We ate at the Rainforest Café one day, that was memorable - memorable in that I remember saying, "I'll never eat here again"... unless, of course, I'm looking to pay premium prices for stale food and bad service. Stay away from the Rainforest Café... you could probably scrounge a better meal off the ground in an actual rain forest.

Oh yeah, the kids had the time of their lives.

Bottomline - Disneyland is awesome, just pack a lunch.