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?

5 Building Blocks of Lego Success

Categories StrategiesPosted on

Odds are that you have either bought, played with, or at least stepped on a Lego (fellow parents know what I mean).

Why do I believe this to be true? Well, there are lots of Lego pieces out there…

Since inception, Lego has produced over 650 billion pieces. That’s nearly 93 blocks for every man, woman, and child currently living on the planet. They’ve also manufactured 4 billion lego mini figures – one small Lego ‘person’ for every 1.75 people on earth.

Arguably more impressive than the shear number of parts and pieces in circulation is the unprecedented record of recent success.

Ten years ago, Lego was struggling on every financial front and headed toward ruin; however, they turned the business around and put themselves in a strong position. In the past five years alone, the company has quadrupled revenue while growing net income by 9% and gobbling up market share.

Here are five Business Building Blocks uncovered along the way. My hope is that you can build on Lego’s success.

1. Build Connectivity and Interdependence

Think about this – every Lego piece connects to every other Lego piece. There is no silo of blue pieces that refuse to connect with the reds. Yellow pieces aren’t busy trying to establish their own kingdom. Larger Lego pieces don’t take over meetings or demand more attention. All Lego pieces work together toward a common purpose. Yes, I’m being a bit lighthearted, but the point is useful.

Consider these questions about the connectivity and interdependence of your team or organization:

  • How much time and energy is spent defending kingdoms (budgets, personnel, and other resources) as opposed to working together for a common purpose?
  • Do your systems encourage connectivity and interdependence?
  • What do you do when divisive behaviors arise?

2. Build the Right Team

In his seminal work, Good to Great, Jim Collins discusses the need to get the right people on the bus. He argues that before an organization can be truly great, it must get the right people on (or off) the bus and ensure they are sitting in the right seats.

A decade ago, Lego was hemorrhaging money and directionally floundering, much of their turnaround is credited to getting the right people on the bus, starting with CEO Jørgen Vig Knudstorp. Knudstorp provided the clarity, decision-making, and accountability needed to take Lego through a very difficult period.

Consider these questions about your people:

  • Would you re-hire each person if given the chance?
  • Do you have right people in the right places?
  • Is someone hindering performance? What should you do to get it right?

3. Build a Simple and Clear Path

Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, once said, “We are the most focused company that I know of or have read of or have any knowledge of. We say no to good ideas every day. We say no to great ideas in order to keep the amount of things we focus on very small in number so that we can put enormous energy behind the ones we do choose.”

At one point Lego lost sight of its path. The company said “yes” to a lot of ideas – good, bad, or otherwise. As a result, Lego branched into areas ranging from toys to video games to theme parks. To correct the situation, Lego significantly reduced the number of SKUs offered, sold off the theme parks, and reconnected to its signature Lego block.

Consider these questions about your team or organization’s path:

  • Does every team member know what matters most?
  • Has saying ‘yes’ to low value efforts cost your organization money, energy, or commitment?
  • What should you do today to ensure the organization is on the right path?

4. Build Based on the Voice of the Customer

Lego customers spend an incredible 5 billion hours every year playing with Lego products. Arguably, customers know more about Lego blocks and mini figurines than some of the people who manufacture the product. Although Steve Jobs famously said that “It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” Lego has found the use of focus groups to be a necessity. Watching children play with its products led to Lego creating and launching the Lego Friends line in 2012. The Friends line doubled first year sales projections and tripled overall corporate sales to girls in 2013.

Consider these questions about your customers:

  • When was the last time you observed your customers interacting with your products or services?
  • Are you making assumptions about your customers based on outdated or inaccurate information?
  • How might you better capture the voice of your customer?

5. Build Strong Partnerships

Lego has found tremendous success through building and nurturing strong partnerships. The Lego Batman and Lego Star Wars products are just two examples. By partnering and producing these products Lego has raised the company’s visibility, increased sales, and encouraged fans of their partners to purchase and collect Lego products.

  • Is your organization nurturing important partnerships?
  • Should some relationships be revisited or dissolved?
  • Do your partners elevate your organization performance and stature?

Don’t Ignore Baby Elephants

Categories StrategiesPosted on

You are no doubt familiar with the expression, “ignoring the elephant in the room.” It refers to a big issue that no one in the organization talks about, but everyone knows exists.

Granted some elephants are thrust upon an organization by external forces (e.g., economy, regulatory issues, etc.); however, many are the direct result of allowing baby elephants to mature in front of everyone’s eyes.

Be bold enough to address young pachyderms in your workplace before it becomes a 10,000 pound behemoth stealing everyone’s attention.