A Lost Balloon and the Art of Brand Immersion

Picture the scene: A little girl dressed in a Sleeping Beauty costume emerges from dinner at Cinderella’s castle and skips across the streets of the Magic Kingdom clutching her prized princess balloon. Happiness incarnate! Then, just as quickly, as she is changing out of her dress-up glass slippers, the unthinkable happens: She loses her grip on the balloon and through tear-filled eyes watches it float away into the sunset. Utter desolation!

Like many parents, I watched it float away, and began fumbling to make my daughter feel better. What happened next was pure Disney magic. Out of nowhere, a Disney cast member appeared like the Blue Fairy herself and told my daughter not to cry. He ran off for a few minutes after promising, “Don’t worry, Princess, I’ll turn those tears into a smile soon.” He came back with a replacement balloon he had gotten from a nearby vendor and told me there would be no charge, simply saying that no one in Disney World is allowed to be unhappy. This prompted my 5-year old to dive into hugging him while shouting, “Thank you! Disney World IS the happiest place on earth!”

How’s that for branding and PR?

So, this got my marketing mind thinking. How often do companies focus so much on warranties and contractual obligations that they forget the value of simply doing something over-and-above the call of duty? I am sure if this had been any other park in the world, I would have had to shell out $10 to buy another balloon. But Disney believes that experience is worth more than cost, so they absorbed the small expense of a balloon to win the great reward of brand loyalty and engagement.

As marketers, we must ask ourselves what our organizations value most and what lengths we are willing to go to to deliver that to our customers. We must also ask where we fall short and determine where a small gesture – like replacing something that broke through no fault of our own or providing free consulting – might yield the greatest benefits. The big things will get customers in the door, but the little things will keep them coming back for more and encourage others to do the same.

Tell us about your favorite companies and why you love them. Like Mickey, we’re all EARS!!!!

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