The Walt Disney Company is an entertainment company that produces films, shows, owns several large production studios, as well as media networks. Disney carries on the marketing for their film and television franchises by selling memorabilia in Disney Stores across the world as well as having theme parks that draw inspiration from films and TV, selling the experience of meeting beloved characters, and visiting the worlds showcased on the big and small screen, as well as selling more memorabilia in the parks’ gift shops. This report will focus on the Walt Disney Company’s marketing approach in relation to their parks and stores.
- Disney’s product, in a sense, is themselves. The products sold revolve around their films and TV shows, and the company in general.
- Due to the nature of the Disney company as an entertainment franchise, the parks and stores are in a constant shift to allow for the new merchandise from new films to be sold, new characters are constantly added to the cast of costumed workers in the parks, and new areas are added to the parks to accommodate for the new films coming out, this has expended more in recent years as Disney have been acquiring more production studios such as Marvel Studios and more recently, fox (BBC News, 2017).
- In the Disney stores you can find a variety of different items, from toys, to mugs, fancy dress and everyday items of clothing, to Christmas ornaments. The key factor that ties it all together is that they are all relating to a Disney film or show.
- The Disney store offers the option of purchasing products based on the product style itself, as well as to buy it based on character. (Disney, 2019)
- The main branding of the Disney product is the magic it offers. Inside Walt Disney World in Florida lies Magic Kingdom “Where Your Fantasy Becomes a Reality” (Disney, 2019). This idea idea transitions to the larger Disney brand, preserving the magic of cinema and bringing it in to the “real world”. Inside the world of Disney, by visiting their parks and stores, the magic of the cinema becomes a reality.
- The prices in the Disney Store range depending on the type of product, however the prices are in line with what is expected for branded merchandise and for the type of product across the market.
- One example is in the soft toy department. Toys range from £5-£500 pounds depending on the size of the toy. A Flying Dumbo Soft Toy measures at H31 x W19 x D47cm approx and costs £20 (Disney, 2019).
- A competitor in the branded soft toy market is Build-A-Bear Workshop. A similar sized stuff toy of Toothless from a film by a competitor studio DreamWorks stands at a height of 38m and costs £22.50 (Build-A-Bear Workshop, 2019).
- The Disney Store has also collaborated with some luxury brands such as Swarovski to sell products such as crystal figurines that range in price between £69-£349. These prices are similar to non branded figurines that can be purchased directly from the Swarovski website.
- For the parks the price difference is much more apparent, when comparing the price of Walt Disney World in Florida to the neighbouring competitor of Universal Studios resort on the surface the Disney tickets appear more expensive, standing at £375 for a 14 day pass per adult, in comparison to the £295 Universal studios offer, however the tickets to the Walt Disney World resort include entrance to 6 parks (as opposed to the 3 parks the Universal Studios resort offers).
- The memorabilia can be purchased online, in physical stores, and in the gift shops in the parks and resorts
- Disney store locations are spread across North America, Europe, and East Asia.
- In 2017 Disney has launched the brand new ShopDisney website, designated to attract different types of consumers. Alongside this change the physical stores have had a new design tested in several different locations in an attempt to bring the Disney magic to the retail experience (Disney, 2017).
- Similarly to the shops. the Disney parks and resorts are spread across the world, with locations with two in the United States, one on each coast, locations in Tokyo, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Paris, as well as Disney themed cruises.
- Being a company that works in an international scale, Disney have been known to adapt their products to fit in with the culture of the place it works in. For example, when opening their Hong Kong location, Disney have changed their well known Haunted Mansion and turned it into Mystic Manor, due to the different perception the chines culture has with ghosts (Rath, 2014).
- Each park has their own dedicated website rather than all being a part of one website, to make it easier to find the correct park. All park website can be accessed from the general The Walt Disney Company website under Parks, Experiences and Consumer Products in their About page (The Walt Disney Company, 2019).
- Disney is a unique company to study the promotion of, as the parks and shops are itself a promotion for the Disney brand and for the media it produces (i.e the films and shows). Nonetheless the parks and shops do still use several promotions as well.
- The first way Disney advertises is old fashion adverts such as TV adverts. One example can be seen in The Little Duck video published on Christmas Day 2018 by the official Disneyland Paris youtube page. The Advert shared the journey of a small duckling who found a comic book showcasing the tales of Donald Duck, a well known Disney character. The ducking carries it around and attempts to imitate Donald until he eventually loses the book. At the end of the the video the duckling arrives at Disneyland and meets Donald Duck himself. The video ends with the tagline “Disneyland Paris: where the magic gets real”. (Disneyland Paris, 2018). This advert expertly showcases the Disney branding of “magic”.
- Another way Disney promotes their brand is through social media influencers. Recently Disneyland Paris have gifted tickets to several social media influencers who in return shared photos of their trip on their various social media channels showcasing the trip. “Disney vlogs” are a popular content category on YouTube where content creators showcase their trips to the parks, however most of them are not gifted or sponsored content, by gifting tickets to content creators Disney are able to increase the content shared of their company even more than it already is.
- Social media is a prominent way in which Disney promotes their fashion products that can be found in their shops. The website Disney Style has their own Instagram page where they share different outfits and news of the company.
- Within the Disney stores the process is similar to any other retailer. The products can be easily found displayed around the shop and in order to pay customers need to queue up to a till.
- In order to book tickets to one of the parks one needs to go to the wanted park’s website and book tickets.
- Disney offers a variety of passes from fastpass that offers a quicker entrance to some of the attractions.
- It is possible to book tickets a year in advanced which allows for cheaper tickets and allows visitors to plan their trips ahead of time.
- On the website Disney also showcases places to stay while visiting the parks, whether it is the hotels and resorts that belong to the Disney company, or partners hotels that are located in close proximity to the parks.
- The Disney Stores are often designed with a clean modern design, accompanied by elements from the Disney films brought in by wallpaper or exhibits of castles and more within the shop itself.
- The stores will often change in design depending on the current more relevant film to be released and is currently promoted.
- The parks keep the fairytale atmosphere with a design reminiscent of a movie set and complete with a castle that has become the Disney companies trademark.
- The employees in the Disney Store are known as Cast Members and their job is to “engages Guests and in magical experiences throughout the Store, delighting them with stories” (Disney Careers, 2019).
- The cast members are easily recognisable by wearing their uniform, often in the form of a vest over a bottom down shirt, and wearing a name tag or a lanyard.
- In the park there are costumed employees dressed as characters from Disney’s films and shows. Some characters are dressed in a full suit and mask such as Mickey mouse, and some, mainly the princesses, are dressed in costumes that do not cover their faces.
The product view of The Walt Disney Company is somewhat unique, whilst the stores sell a variety of different products from soft toys to costumes, and the parks are a product which also sells similar products in the various gift shops, all these are an advertisement of one bigger product. the Disney Companies films and TV shows, and in a way, the company as a whole. In this section I will breaking down the various different products that the Disney Company has to offer.
The Walt Disney company is, first and foremost, a film production company. However over time Disney has become a household name, one that is mainly associated with American culture becoming a brand powerhouse with it’s parks, stores, TV channels and an overall a mass media organisation (Byrne, McQuillan, and McQuillan, 1999). On their official website The Walt Disney Company describes their mission to be “one of the world’s leading producers and providers of entertainment and information” (Disney, 2019). They own several media companies and television channels.
Disney would release several feature films each year, both animated as well as live action films mainly revolving around the Superhero genre, as they also own Marvel Studios, who specialise in character based films (Marvel, 2019). The first line of products often comes to promote new releases. These toys would depict the characters as seen in the film, which if released too early could cause key information from the film to be shared, as has recently happened with leaked toy design from Avengers: Endgame (Stolworthy, 2019).
Using products that coincide with film releases is an efficient way to promote new films, however as Disney have a very large repertoire of films and shows and they continue to sell memorabilia of, and original Disney characters like Mickey Mouse and the original Disney princesses can still be seen walking around the parks. This helps one of the key aspects of Disney’s marketing strategy, using nostalgia to create new customers, but also have them keep coming back (Polizzi, 2017).
Whilst for the most part, the Disney parks can be seen as a promotion tool for the films, on occasion the tables are turned and Disney would create a full based on a successful ride in one of their parks. A good example for this is The Pirates of The Caribbean film franchise which started as a ride in Disneyland in 1967, but as the popularity of the ride rose, so did the marketing potential of it, and a film inspired by the ride was released in 2003. Since the release of the film and the success of the original film and it’s many sequels, the original Pirates of The Caribbean ride was redesigned to include characters from the films (Tad, 2015). This is a great example of how the Disney product is truly woven into all aspects of the company.
The Walt Disney Company is a company that has become it’s own product, expending across many different areas of entertainment and using the concept of nostalgia as their catalyst for success. While they may be selling physical products, like toys, amusement parks, and films, the real product is the brand itself and the emotions it can entice in their customers.