3 Marketing Lessons I learned From Walt Disney

I’ve studied Disney for a long time because the company is an excellent case study of ideas you can implement in your own business. Disney stands out, not only among amusement parks, but from most companies in general, so it makes sense to study and learn from their example. Here are three lessons I observed during my recent visit.

1. Details matter

Disney pays closer attention to details than any other company I’ve seen. It’s easy to ignore the little details that don’t seem to matter, but they do. When people visit Disneyland, it truly is a different experience. What they call “magic,” is really them paying closer attention to every little detail.

For example, in our Disney hotel room, almost everything was shaped in the form of Mickey Mouse ears. The bathroom faucet handles, the lamp fixtures, and even the shampoo bottle tops were shaped as their signature mouse ears. There must have been ten sets of mouse ears in our room alone.

Even outside of the park, everything is immaculate, including the parking lot, landscaping and paint, and rarely will you ever find any trash in or near the park. Disney makes a point that you never see anything broken or out of order. When something is being maintained, they do a very good job of making sure the customer never sees it.

I’ve not seen another company that pays as close attention to the details as Disney does. These details are very important, because they contribute greatly to the customer’s experience, even though he or she may not directly notice them.

2. Clearly set customer expectations

It’s common for customers to wait in line for 1 to 1½ hours for a ten minute ride. In a normal world, this would be too much for most people. However, Disney sets very clear expectations in the customer’s mind, so they rarely object to the wait. Not only does Disney set your expectations, they meet them precisely.

This is where many companies fail without even realizing it. If the business doesn’t set the expectations, customers will set their own. Then customers are often disappointed, because their expectations may be greater than the business owner can realistically meet.

Even worse is when the business owner sets the customer’s expectations too high, and then fails to meet them. This is so common that customers often expect to be let down.

For example, if you drop your car off for repair and are told it will be finished in one day, you will be disappointed when it takes a week. However, if you were initially told it would take a week, you will be pleased when your car is finished precisely on time.

3. Everything is an up-sell

Disney is one never ending up-sell, and they do it brilliantly. I assume their park ticket sales are a loss leader. Meaning, if they only sold those very expensive park tickets, they would likely go out of business. The sale of admission into the park is solely so they can then start selling you the stuff that makes them their profits.

During our recent trip, when we purchased out tickets online, they were already trying to up-sell our tickets to more expensive “park hopper” passes. Then they put us on their email list to provide us with “helpful information.” Sure they provided information, but really each email was an up-sell for a longer trip, tours, better lodging and more.

After we checked in, the front desk person tried again to up-sell us to better park tickets and a breakfast with the costumed critters. And the biggest up-sell of them all is once you’re in the park. It’s impossible to leave the park without buying at least something for your kid; otherwise they will drive you insane. (Which, as one of my kids recording this video, is admitting with her overly large grin while I talk to the camera).

The most brilliant marketing idea I’ve ever seen was invented by Disney, and that is dumping you in the middle of the store after each ride. Good luck getting through those stores without buying something. This is the equivalent of walking through the toy store with your child every time you leave the grocery store.

This example is rarely used by other business, but it really can be applied to almost every industry with some creativity. Internet marketers have begun using this by offering an up-sell in the shopping cart, or a consultant that offers a separate, but related package, after the initial sale.

Those are three of the many brilliant marketing lessons you can learn just by observing Disney. With a little bit of work and creativity, you should be able to apply those ideas to your company and make it even better than it already is.

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