Disney’s Brand Value Increases 14% to $39.5 Billion: 5 Lessons for Your Brand

Categories Brands & Ads, EntrepreneurshipPosted on

Odds are you know something about Disney brand. Perhaps you’ve:

  • Watched Disney movies
  • Picked a favorite character
  • Made the trek to one of their theme parks
  • Bought a Disney toy
  • Or, interacted in one of a countless number of ways with Walt’s company.

Heck, you may even be a true Disneyphile (yes, that’s a term) defined as:

A Disneyphile is a word for someone who truly loves Disney. It’s usually associated with those who are hardcore into Disney; not your average Disney fan.  – Urban Dictionary

Disney has an extremely strong brand. That’s not just me speaking. Forbes ranks Disney #8 on its 2016 list of World’s Most Valuable Brands at $39.5 billion. That’s up three spots and nearly $5 billion in value over the past year.

Whether you are looking to build your personal or corporate brand, allow me to offer you 5 lessons from Disney’s success:

1. Lead; Don’t Just Differentiate

Disney doesn’t claim that 9 out of 10 kids prefer Mickey Mouse. They don’t advertise that Goofy is 13% funnier than others in his line of work.

Disney opted to be a leader from inception. They chose to be different in kind. The company received acclaim in the 1930s for the first ever full-length animated film. When land was tight in California, they transformed a Florida swamp into a world like no other.

What’s the point?

Differentiation is often a zero sum game.

Painful as it is to admit, your customers don’t live and breathe your company – you do. So, little differences in your products or services often go unnoticed. Ask yourself these questions:

  • How are you positioned against your competitors? Can customers even tell a difference?
  • How could you truly innovate your products or services? Your organization? Your industry?
  • What gap exists in your market that is calling out for a leader?

2. Create a Seamless Experience; Don’t Cause Customers to Pause

Step into a Disney theme park and you are immediately transported to another world. The sights, sounds, and aromas seamlessly work together to create and sustain the fantasy. If a park ‘guest’ sees something out of place, she might pause, and the moment will be ruined. This is key to Disney’s brand and the underlying principle is true for yours as well.

Whether you run a restaurant, manage an accounting firm, package consumer products, or accomplish a myriad of other worthwhile endeavors, you must create a seamless experience. If your customers pause because something feels out of place, the magic of your brand is lost. Consider these questions:

  • What type of experience are you creating for your customers?
  • Is the experience intentional and holistic or is it inconsistent and fragmented?
  • Do you stay true to your brand or do you create gaps that cause your customers to pause because something doesn’t feel right?

3. Drive Interaction; Don’t Settle for Passivity

One of Disney’s more recent animated films, Frozen, was an instant classic. In fact, Disney recently completed a Frozen attraction at Walt Disney World. It allows guests to ‘interact’ with the film, not simply sit in a theater. Guests will wait in line for hours for a chance to ride into the magical world of Frozen.

Fortunately, fans of the film didn’t have to wait for the Frozen ride’s construction to go beyond simply watching the movie. A sing-a-long version ran in theaters and patrons were encouraged to join in the show. Google ‘Frozen videos’ and you will see that fans have invested their personal time to produce Frozen-esque videos. Disney has tapped into the concept that customer participation breeds commitment. Consider these questions:

  • Are your customers investing their time to interact with your products/services?
  • When was the last time you provided your customers opportunities to interact?
  • Can they go to your website, office, or storefront and participate in some way?

4. Produce Memories; Don’t Be Forgettable

If you travel to Disney’s private island, you will likely put out a photo of the trip in your home. It makes sense; that’s a memorable vacation. What is surprising is that when customers visit a Disney store at the local mall, they smile for photos. Now, that’s uncommon. You don’t see people posing for pictures at Wal-Mart.

If you are thinking, “Sure, that works for Disney, but we don’t have loveable characters.” You’re missing the point. You don’t have to be memorable like Disney, you have to be memorable compared to your competitors. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you leave your customers with positive experiences that they are likely to remember?
  • Is your brand lost in a sea of ‘others’ or does it stand out?
  • When a customer looks to use a similar product or service in the future, will they recommend your organization? Or will they have forgotten all about you?

5. Build on Success; Don’t Settle

Walt Disney didn’t settle for Disneyland in California. He built on its success to create Disney World in Florida – many times larger and grander. That innovative spirit continues today. There are theme parks around the world, multiple ESPN channels, second and third versions of movies, Broadway shows, a fleet of cruise ships, and the list goes on and on…

Sure, other businesses grow and develop new offerings or locations. But Disney didn’t do that – nothing feels cookie cutter. Each new offering is unique and arguably better. Consider your brand:

  • Have you grown content with your brand and complacent with your efforts?
  • If you don’t strive for something better, where will you be a few short years from now?
  • What can you do today to capitalize on past success?

————

4 Decisions to Give Your Marking Efforts the Moves Like Jagger

Categories Brands & AdsPosted on

Whether you like the song or not, you are no doubt familiar with Maroon 5’s “Moves Like Jagger.” It debuted at #8 on the U.S. charts in July 2011. Since then, the upbeat ode to Mick Jagger’s dance moves has sold over 6.3 million copies in the U.S. (6 x platinum), 4.6 million copies in South Korea, and millions more in countries around the world. The song features Adam Levine, Maroon 5’s lead singer and People Magazine: 2013’s Sexiest Man Alive, along with Christina Aguilera on vocals.

Moves Like Jagger has been a huge success lauded by the music industry, but it could have been a laughable flop. It marked a departure for Maroon 5 in a number of ways. Here are 4 moves they made to create a Moves Like Jagger experience:

Move #1. Bold vs. Safe Claims

Claiming to have the moves like Mick Jagger is a bold statement. True, it’s not the same as saying you have the moves like Michael Jackson, but Jagger no doubt has his own flair and comparing oneself to him is no small claim. Levine said it well, it’s “one of those songs that was definitely a risk; it’s a bold statement.”

What are you saying about your product, your company, or yourself. Are you making bold claims (and then delivering on them) or are you playing it safe. I’m not saying to be unethical. I’m saying be bold. Are you playing to win or simply playing not to lose?

Move #2. Same vs. New Partners

We hear so much about the benefits of teaming; however, most teams tend to consist of the same players. We stick with people with whom we are comfortable. Maroon 5 took two major departures on this song. The first was that they used the work of an outside songwriter, Ammar Malik (and his colleagues). Second, they involved Christina Aguilera for back-up vocals. Both choices payed off for the band.

Consider your partners. Are you stuck in a rut, using the same people or have you branched out and invited others into the conversation? I’m not saying be disloyal. Maroon 5 stuck together as a group, I’m saying widen the aperture. Others often bring a new perspective and a new way of thinking that leads to better answers.

Move #3. Formulaic vs. Unconventional Methods

Maroon 5 has a distinctive sound and frankly many of their songs are about relationships gone bad. That formula has worked well for them; they have sold millions of songs. However, as Levine explained this song and the approach they took broke the mold and “totally revived the band.”

Take a look at your team. Does the ‘band’ need some reviving? Have you become stuck using the same formula? Are you producing the same or better results?

Move #4. Narrow vs Broad Appeal

My sister-in-law lives in Denmark. Her two little girls have yet to learn English and my Danish skills are virtually non-existent – but my nieces knew this song. (In fact, it ended #1 on the Danish pop song chart in 2011). When we visited a couple of years ago, we were able to connect because of the broad appeal of the work. Arguably most people alive today know either Adam Levine or Mick Jagger. As a middle ager, I split the universe on this issue and I’m familiar with both.

Going for a broad appeal reaps different rewards. In general, the marketing world has thrown ‘broad appeal’ or mass marketing into the ash heap. However, you can’t knock the ability to gain attention from those ranging from ages 8 to 80, male and female, and any language or geographic location around the world. I’m not saying throw out the individual marketing approach, I’m just asking if you are missing an opportunity.

What Disney’s $34B Brand Can Teach You & Your Business

Categories Brands & Ads, StrategiesPosted on

Odds are you know something about Disney. Perhaps you’ve:

  • Watched Disney movies
  • Picked a favorite character
  • Made the trek to one of their theme parks
  • Bought a Disney toy
  • Or, interacted in one of a countless number of ways with Walt’s company.

Heck, you may even be a true Disneyphile (yes, that’s a term) defined as:

A Disneyphile is a word for someone who truly loves Disney. It’s usually associated with those who are hardcore into Disney; not your average Disney fan.  – Urban Dictionary

Disney has an extremely strong brand. That’s not just me speaking. Forbes ranks Disney #8 on its 2016 list of World’s Most Valuable Brands at $39.5 billion. That’s up three spots and nearly $5 billion in value over the past year.

Whether you are looking to build your personal or corporate brand, allow me to offer you 5 lessons from Disney’s success:

1. Lead; Don’t Just Differentiate

Disney doesn’t claim that 9 out of 10 kids prefer Mickey Mouse. They don’t advertise that Goofy is 13% funnier than others in his line of work.

Disney opted to be a leader from inception. They chose to be different in kind. The company received acclaim in the 1930s for the first ever full-length animated film. When land was tight in California, they transformed a Florida swamp into a world like no other.

What’s the point?

Differentiation is often a zero sum game.

Painful as it is to admit, your customers don’t live and breathe your company – you do. So, little differences in your products or services often go unnoticed. Ask yourself these questions:

  • How are you positioned against your competitors? Can customers even tell a difference?
  • How could you truly innovate your products or services? Your organization? Your industry?
  • What gap exists in your market that is calling out for a leader?

2. Create a Seamless Experience; Don’t Cause Customers to Pause

Step into a Disney theme park and you are immediately transported to another world. The sights, sounds, and aromas seamlessly work together to create and sustain the fantasy. If a park ‘guest’ sees something out of place, she might pause, and the moment will be ruined. This is key to Disney’s brand and the underlying principle is true for yours as well.

Whether you run a restaurant, manage an accounting firm, package consumer products, or accomplish a myriad of other worthwhile endeavors, you must create a seamless experience. If your customers pause because something feels out of place, the magic of your brand is lost.

 

 

Consider these questions:

  • What type of experience are you creating for your customers?
  • Is the experience intentional and holistic or is it inconsistent and fragmented?
  • Do you stay true to your brand or do you create gaps that cause your customers to pause because something doesn’t feel right?

3. Drive Interaction; Don’t Settle for Passivity

One of Disney’s more recent animated films, Frozen, was an instant classic. In fact, Disney recently completed a Frozen attraction at Walt Disney World. It allows guests to ‘interact’ with the film, not simply sit in a theater. Guests will wait in line for hours for a chance to ride into the magical world of Frozen.

Fortunately, fans of the film didn’t have to wait for the Frozen ride’s construction to go beyond simply watching the movie. A sing-a-long version ran in theaters and patrons were encouraged to join in the show. Google ‘Frozen videos’ and you will see that fans have invested their personal time to produce Frozen-esque videos. Disney has tapped into the concept that customer participation breeds commitment. Consider these questions:

  • Are your customers investing their time to interact with your products/services?
  • When was the last time you provided your customers opportunities to interact?
  • Can they go to your website, office, or storefront and participate in some way?

4. Produce Memories; Don’t Be Forgettable

If you travel to Disney’s private island, you will likely put out a photo of the trip in your home. It makes sense; that’s a memorable vacation. What is surprising is that when customers visit a Disney store at the local mall, they smile for photos. Now, that’s uncommon. You don’t see people posing for pictures at Wal-Mart.

If you are thinking, “Sure, that works for Disney, but we don’t have loveable characters.” You’re missing the point. You don’t have to be memorable like Disney, you have to be memorable compared to your competitors. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you leave your customers with positive experiences that they are likely to remember?
  • Is your brand lost in a sea of ‘others’ or does it stand out?
  • When a customer looks to use a similar product or service in the future, will they recommend your organization? Or will they have forgotten all about you?

5. Build on Success; Don’t Settle

Walt Disney didn’t settle for Disneyland in California. He built on its success to create Disney World in Florida – many times larger and grander. That innovative spirit continues today. There are theme parks around the world, multiple ESPN channels, second and third versions of movies, Broadway shows, a fleet of cruise ships, and the list goes on and on…

Sure, other businesses grow and develop new offerings or locations, but Disney didn’t do that – nothing feels cookie cutter. Each new offering is unique and arguably better. Consider your brand:

  • Have you grown content with your brand and complacent with your efforts?
  • If you don’t strive for something better, where will you be a few short years from now?
  • What can you do today to capitalize on past success?

Can You Handle 6 Stern Branding Lessons?

Categories Brands & Ads, Your CareerPosted on

My old car had been a faithful servant, but nothing lasts forever.

I recently replaced it with something built in the 21st century.

The new vehicle came with SiriusXM radio. I quickly found myself enjoying the wide-range of channels. In short order, I stumbled across Howard Stern, the self-proclaimed King of All Media.

Admittedly, my knowledge on the radio host was fairly limited, so I decided to learn a bit about him.

Why? Well, I believe that we can often learn about branding from a wide range of sources, so I decided to dig deeper into the Stern phenomenon.

My unstudied impression suggested that he is a flamboyant and wealthy radio host, who was prone to crude, often sexist, behavior and has a willingness to exploit people.

After studying him, I determined that my initial impression was correct. He’s flamboyant, crude, sexist, and exploitive. Or, at least his on air persona is…

Stern is also extremely wealthy.

I also learned a few more things; perhaps, these are what has made him so ‘successful’.

Here’s what I discovered.

Stern isn’t wealthy, he’s crazy wealthy. His initial five-year Sirius contract was worth a reported $500 million. The subsequent one garnered him another five years at $80 million per year and an additional $100 million in stock.

He’s also a shrewd self-promoter, a skilled interviewer, and someone who offers more than a cursory glance at his on air persona might suggest.

Love him (openly or secretly) or hate him, you can’t deny Stern’s financial success and impact on the industry.

Here are 6 Stern Branding Lessons that I learned from studying Stern:

1. Be Worth Following

In the late 1990’s, Stern’s radio show had some 20 million listeners. Today, he has an estimated 2 million+ listeners.

The difference is that people today pay to hear his show.

Many listeners followed him from ‘free’ to ‘fee’ radio, because they felt he was worth following. Of course, not as many people followed him as Stern claims, but that’s the hype he creates.

Moreover, Stern’s avid fans who did follow him to Sirius actively fight for him, pray for him, and root for him.

Ask yourself these questions about your brand:

  • What do you do for free today, that 2 million people would pay you to do tomorrow?
  • If you left your current team, job, or company, would anyone follow you?
  • Who fights, prays, and roots for you?

2. Be Bold

What makes Stern bold is not solely his on air hijinks. Plenty of people try to copy his antics, but saying crazy, outrageous, or sophomoric things is not the brilliance of his boldness.

He’s bold in a very different way.

Stern makes bold moves.

  • When everyone was telling him how to behave on the radio, he acted boldly and went against them.
  • When he had 20 million listeners to his radio show, he acted bold and went to Sirius.
  • When he was a judge on America’s Got Talent, he acted bold and left. (Or, did Simon Cowell fire him?)

Ask yourself these questions about your brand:

  • Are you missing opportunities to be bold?
  • Have you been selecting the safe route as opposed to taking a calculated risk? How about an uncalculated one?
  • What is one bold move you could make that might make all of the difference?

 3. Be Opinionated

There is little doubt that Stern has been in charge of his career and his show. He has a strong opinion.

More importantly, he has amazing instincts. One without the other is useless.

Ask yourself these questions about your brand:

  • Do you openly share your opinions? If not, why not?
  • If you share your opinions, are they worth listening to, or have you simply become noise to those around you?
  • What idea do you have that you should take a risk on?

4. Be Connected

The movie Star Wars is about to launch. It will likely be the biggest film of the year.

The film’s director, J.J. Abrams (Lost, Star Trek IV, Mission Impossible III, and numerous other TV and movies) was on Stern’s show last week. This week, Stern was joined by Adam Driver, the actor playing Kylo Ren in the movie.

At first I thought, Of course they were on the show, they are promoting a movie. That doesn’t mean Stern is particularly relevant. 

Then I dug deeper and realized how connected Stern was to a wide-range of celebs. In recent weeks, Bryan Cranston, Alanis Morisette, Christie Brinkley, Whoopi Goldberg, Rod Stewart, Drew Barrymore, and a list of other stars joined Stern.

(If you are interested in the complete list of Stern last 1,600 or so guests, click here.)

Ask yourself these questions about your brand:

  • How relevant are your skills, abilities, and connections?
  • Do people seek you out because of what you have to offer? Do they even know what you have to offer?
  • What is one thing you can do today to be more relevant tomorrow?

5. Be Vulnerable

There are very few things Stern won’t talk about. Arguably, the main reason he succeeds is his willingness to be vulnerable.

  • Stern has learned that saying what you don’t know is often more powerful then stating what you do know.
  • He understands that self-deprecating humor has a disarming effect.
  • He invites listeners behind the curtain and makes them part of the show.

He isn’t just vulnerable, he’s naked. His autobiography (turned film), Private Parts, appropriately depicts a naked Stern standing in New York City with skyscrapers covering up the private portions of his 6’5” frame.

Ask yourself these questions about your brand:

  • Do you put yourself “out there” even if it means possible failure?
  • Are you willing to be a bit vulnerable so others feel a stronger connection to you and your work?
  • If you are guarded, how’s it working for you? What do you have to lose if you opened up, just a bit?

6. Be Aware of When to Call it Quits

Stern is 18 months into his current five-year contract. Many wonder if this will be the end of his career or if he will stay beyond the current term. Strong brands erode when they stay too long. At some point, it is time to let go.

If Stern stays too long, he will become a caricature of himself.

Ask yourself these questions about your brand:

  • Has your brand began to erode?
  • What can you do to ensure that you continue to remain of value?
  • Are you willing to ‘walk away’ when the time is right?

Watch a Brand Turn 2 Minutes into $246 Million

Categories Brands & AdsPosted on

May 6th is the first Saturday in May. That means it’s time for the Kentucky Derby (aka “the Run for Roses” or “the Fastest Two Minutes in Sports”).

The Derby rarely disappoints. That was certainly true two years ago when American Pharaoh began a three-win stretch to become the first Triple Crown Winner in over 30 years.

Forbes consistently ranks the Run for the Roses as one of the top 10 sporting events in the world. The NFL’s Super Bowl, the Summer & Winter Olympic Games, and MLB’s World Series rank above the Kentucky Derby, but no other event generates a whopping $123 million in economic impact per minute of actual ‘game time’.

The Kentucky Derby is much more than a two minute competition. It’s several days of races, weeks of events, and years of preparation – all leading up to The Fastest Two Minutes in Sports.

I offer 6 Kentucky Derby business lessons and questions you should consider about your organization. Applying some of these ideas might both improve your financial performance and your organization’s culture.

1. Pageantry

Imagine yourself walking into Churchill Downs on Derby Day. It’s crowded – very crowded. Everywhere you look, people are wearing their best. Women in beautiful dresses and stunning hats. Men decked out in suits and bow ties. Mint juleps in hand, people are singing My Old Kentucky Home.

At the same time, millions of viewers are watching the event on television. Many of them also donning derby attire, enjoying a good meal, and singing along.

The bugler plays The Call to the Post and horses are loaded into the starting gates. Everything is set. That’s pageantry!

  • Does your product or service create a bit of anticipation or excitement?
  • Do you and your people deliver a bit of a show?
  • If not, is there a chance to create something special for your customers and employees?

2. Past 

Every year, Churchill Downs and the city of Louisville add to the Kentucky Derby Festival. They host concerts, parades, road races, gala events, and fashion shows. Celebrities trek to the city to watch the horses run. Heck, in 2013 the Queen of England made the trip.

The annual improvements make the race interesting, but much of the appeal comes from the Derby’s long history. The first Kentucky Derby took place in 1875, making this year’s Run for the Roses the 143rd of its kind. In fact, the Kentucky Derby is the longest continuously held sporting event in the United States. It isn’t just a race; it’s legendary.

  • Do you have an organizational culture that pays homage to its history?
  • How does your business stay fresh and relevant?
  • Is your product or service both timely and timeless?

3. Place

The twin spires of Churchill Downs are iconic. If you think you don’t know what they look like, do a quick internet search and you will likely recognize them. If you do find them unfamiliar, register the image in your mind, because you will see it again and again.

Over the years, many additions have been made to Churchill Downs. However, the spires remain, the backside stables remain, and the infield remains. They are icons of this fabled place.

  • What is iconic about your business?
  • Does your organization stay true to certain images, names, and descriptions that create a ‘special’ place in your customers’ minds?
  • Does your workspace reflect the culture you desire?

4. Product (thoroughbreds and others)

When 20 horses leave the starting gate, you can’t help but get a rush of adrenaline. It is intense, frightening, and powerful all at once.

As post time approaches, we become familiar with where the horses were bred, their lineage, and their unusual names. We also learn about the trainers, jockeys, and owners. These are all products of the Kentucky Derby.

  • Do your products or service generate excitement, loyalty, or any other positive emotion?
  • What could your organization do to create something that deserves attention?

5. Preparation

Yes, the Kentucky Derby only lasts two minutes, but the event is not coordinated at a moment’s notice. It takes planning, coordination, and collaboration to make two minutes come together. Think about the level of preparation required by the media, the facility, the trainers and owners, the police, and the list goes on and on?

What’s make the event go so well every year is that much of the preparation appears seamless to the attendees.

  • Do you put Kentucky Derby like preparation into your organization’s most important events, projects, or initiatives?
  • What can you do to better coordinate future activities?
  • How often do you explicitly think through the experience you are trying to create for your employees and customers?

6. Participation

The annual Run for the Roses allows for a unique level of participation. Few people passively watch the Kentucky Derby – most participate. People aren’t watching a scripted movie or a long-running play.

The outcome is not predetermined. Even if you are not a gambler, you can’t help but pick a horse and do your best to cheer your steed to the Winner’s Circle.

  • Do your customers and employees have a vested interest in seeing your business win?
  • Is winning part of your organization’s culture?
  • What can you do to get more stakeholders cheering for your organization?

To Help You Prepare for the Race…

If you are reading this before the Derby, here are the odds on the top three horses to win the race:

  • Always Dreaming (odds 5-1)
  • Classic Empire (odds 5-1)
  • Gunnevera (odds 6-1)

For those who love long shots, here are the two longest shots at the moment:

  • Fast and Accurate (odds 80-1)
  • Fact Finding  (odds 100-1)

If the Derby has already taken place when you read this or you just can’t make it happen this time, make plans to mark it off your bucket list next year!