Written by Melanie Donahoo for Startup Princess.
I was 28 the first time I went to Disneyland. And while I’m sure we could have a lengthy discussion about how sad and ridiculous that is, or talk for hours about my deprived childhood, I think maybe we should tackle that with my therapist another day.
Because my first experience at Disneyland was when I was “older,” I viewed it through a different lens than, well a 5-year-old would. As I made my way through the park, my entrepreneur mind couldn’t help but recognize how Disneyland has handily mastered the fine art of marketing.
I mean, how many places on earth can you go and see adults happily pay to walk around wearing crazy hats and ears? If you were to go to a morning business meeting in a set of mouse ears, you’d likely be looking for a new job by lunchtime. But when you’re inside Disneyland, nobody even thinks twice about it.
So how did they do it? How did Disneyland manage to create a marketing-centric atmosphere that is accepted, embraced, and even sought after? What Disneyland knows, and the rest of us should learn, is how to make the marketing a part of the overall experience.
I recently attended a social media event where I was privileged to chat with and hear from the Disneyland team, including Kathy Mangum, the executive producer and vice president for Walt Disney Imagineering. Kathy gave a fabulous presentation about how Disneyland’s newest attraction, Cars Land, came to be.
As she presented, I couldn’t help but recognize a few marketing lessons we could all learn from Disneyland’s experience building Cars Land.
1. Do Your Research
I’m sure all of Disney’s Imagineers were fairly well versed with the movie Cars when they set out to build the Cars Land attraction, but that wasn’t enough. They wanted to know and understand it completely. That’s why their team took a road trip along Route 66 to see the same sights, meet the same people, and even eat the same food as the creators of the movie. It was from this trip that they gathered information for their project.
Now your marketing might not require driving across the U.S. with your team, but it should include plenty of research. Before you lay out your marketing plan, talk to your customers and your potential customers. Dig in and get familiar with your product or service and even check out your competition. Figure out what people think of you, or what they will think of you. Examine what makes you different, better, or weaker. Ask why people buy from you. Determine why people buy from your competitors.
If you’re approaching your marketing without doing research, you’re guessing. Before anything else, get the facts.
2. Be Innovative
Saying the Walt Disney Company is innovative, is like calling the Statue of Liberty a “nice piece of art.” I mean, they have people with the job title “imagineer,” who are tasked with, you guessed it, coming up with new and innovative ideas.
This innovation can be seen throughout Cars Land. They could have built a ride or two and let the rest of the area remain as it was, but they didn’t. Even the concession stands fit the theme and are housed in giant orange cone buildings where you can get things like “popcone” or other tasty “cone-coctions.” They pushed the limits of their imagination to carry the theme everywhere.
Disneyland isn’t content with giving people the same experience over and over, and you shouldn’t be either. Work within the confines of your budget and the realities of your industry, but never be afraid to push the limits. Never settle for the same old marketing techniques just because it’s what you’ve always done, or worse, because it’s what your competition is doing.
So what if you don’t have a huge budget? Don’t let that hold you back. History is replete with creative marketing ideas that have been executed using little or no budgets. That’s where innovation really comes into play.
3. Plan for the Future
Flash in the pan marketing efforts may boost traffic or sales for a day, a week, or maybe longer, but they won’t get the long-term results you’re seeking. For Cars Land, Disneyland built a mountain. They built a mountain! Since most businesses don’t just throw a mountain up on a whim, I’m willing to bet that they thought ahead and envisioned how the attraction would work as part of the park’s future.
Most people know they should plan, so why is it that there’s no shortage of “shiny object chasing” syndrome? Trying something “just to see if it works” is a waste of time and money. Think before you execute, and always ask yourself how your effort fits into your long-term plan.
4. Integrate Your Efforts
Today, there’s no such thing as single channel marketing. You can’t expect to reach your all your customers with a radio commercial. Not everyone in your target market will see your Facebook or Twitter post. And many people will never even visit your website or read your blog. That’s why diversifying your efforts is essential.
Disneyland reached across multiple platforms to promote Cars Land. They promoted it on the construction signs inside the park, as well as through social and traditional media, and much more, because they knew that to generate interest and spark conversations, they would need multiple ways to reach people.
Sound expensive? It doesn’t have to be. Sound like a lot of content to create? It doesn’t have to be. Learn where your customers are and reach them there. Then, repurpose your content for various platforms. Would that blog post you wrote make a great Tweet? Is there a customer question that would make a great YouTube video? Look at your marketing efforts holistically and integrate your efforts across multiple channels.
5. There’s Magic in the Details
Each time you visit Cars Land, you’ll likely discover something new. That’s because even the simplest details have been so painstakingly executed that it would be impossible to notice them all the first time around. Why did Disney go to so much trouble? Wouldn’t people have been happy if they’d just thrown together a new ride or two?
It all goes back to the earlier statement about how Disney doesn’t just do marketing, they create experiences. Part of creating those experiences is integrating the small details that allow people to get lost and forget there is marketing happening.
Once again, the magic question is, how do you apply that in your business? Paying attention to the details in your business can mean anything from responding quickly to customers or listening to their needs and implementing their suggestions. It can mean that you look at ways to make the buying experience/working relationship more pleasant. It can mean that you make it easy for people to share your content, give you referrals, or talk about your company. Whatever those details are for you, they could make all the difference and keep people coming back again and again.
Those are a few of the things I learned about marketing from Disneyland’s Cars Land. What do you think you could learn from it?
Melanie Donahoo has worked in many different areas of the advertising industry and has always utilized her strong writing skills. She’s written everything from blogs and billboards to sales pages and video scripts, and everything in between. She even wrote a stand-up comedy routine for a client. Today, Melanie owns her own copywriting and marketing and social media consulting company. She specializes in helping small business owners and entrepreneurs identify their audience and create powerful messages that resonate and drive sales.
Disney, Disneyland, Cars Land, etc are registered trademarks of Disney.