Our perspective at VantagePoint

5 ways to create an immersive brand (part 2)

Disney World Magic Kingdom castle sideLast week I discussed points 1 and 2 of how Disney creates an immersive brand and makes billions doing so. I talked about the People and the Environment, based on a recent trip to Walt Disney World and a Disney cruise ship.

Without further ado, I’m going to jump right into points 3, 4 and 5.

3. The Expectation: When you go to a Disney property, you expect it to be clean, safe and family-friendly. You don’t expect to see any trash on the ground, or peeling paint, or grime-covered restrooms. You expect to have fun. And Disney, almost always, delivers. The fireworks are always fantastic, the parades are always a bit schmaltzy but well-done, the rides are always fun if not the most thrilling, the bathrooms are almost always clean, the food is almost always expensive but palatable — and the experience is always fun. It takes work to create that expectation, and you’d better believe Disney works really, really hard to make sure that they don’t let you down.

The application: make sure your customers know what to expect from their dealings with you. (And it should go without saying that you should deliver on their expectations.) Product quality, personal interaction, service times — without consistency, your brand is tremendously weakened. If a customer gets a good product the first time and a shoddy one the second, they may or may not give you another chance. (Of course, if they get a shoddy product the first time, your chances of repeat business are about zero.)

4. The Visual Cues: Disney’s staff are masters at using graphic design, architecture and foliage to enhance the guest experience. Whether entering a 1700s Spanish-style fort for the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, a 1920s mountain park service hotel at the Wilderness Lodge, or the maze-like narrow streets of the Morocco portion of Epcot Center, you really feel you’ve gone someplace else.

United Kingdom streeet in Epcot at Disney World

Disney's attention to detail can transport you to an English street in the middle of Orlando

One of the things that makes navigating all of these various “worlds” possible is the consistent visual branding and graphic design. Each park has its own guidemap and signage system, but they are similar enough that once you get the hang of it, you can go anywhere without getting lost. The graphic design elements for each hotel are unique to the property, but follow a common theme and architecture that makes it obvious you’re in Disney World, whether you’re at the Animal Kingdom Lodge or the Polynesian Resort. Wayfinding is simple, and you know what to expect.

The application: strive for consistency and ease of user experience in your visual branding and graphic design. Your colors, your website, your sales collateral, your advertising, even your teams shirts at your trade show booth, should all reflect a consistency of style. That’s not to say that everything has to be cookie-cutter; in fact, a “matching” approach will actually lead to confusion, as your audience can’t tell a spec sheet for one product from a promo brochure for another. But certainly a family look and approach, led by a skilled art director, can increase the perceived value of your brand.

5. The Feeling: OK, yes, this gets a bit vague. But the impression is real. When you go to a Disney property, or sail on a Disney ship, you feel as though you’ve been transported. Yes, sometimes its an over-sanitized version of the real world. But if you can, for a few hours or a few days, be transported somewhere else, who wouldn’t take the opportunity?

Disney realizes this. They understand how to produce this feeling through people, and botany, and architecture, and sound, and food. They understand they can make money by offering the same goods and packaging them with “the feeling.” And they do it well.

Case in point: On Main Street in Disney World is a hot dog store. It sells large hot dogs, nachos, Cracker Jack and drinks. A hot dog and fries is about $7. Yes, $7 — you can probably buy the same thing from a store near you for less than half that. But it wouldn’t be in a turn-of-the-century building with a piano player and folks that meet you at the door and counter staff dressed up in 1920s baseball uniforms. (And they probably don’t sell Cracker Jack, either.) You wouldn’t have the tradition. You wouldn’t have “the feeling.” And you wouldn’t, like our family does, make it the place we always eat dinner on the last night at Disney World.

The application: find a way to incorporate a “feeling” into doing business with your company. It could be something simple, like a pickle. It could be something significant, like having your president or VP of sales calling to check on every order of a certain size. But it’s an intangible that will set your company apart from the others — and perhaps allow you to charge a premium.

No, doing business will probably never be quite as fun as a trip to Disney World. But we can certainly take ideas from the master entertainers at Disney and find ways to improve our companies as a result.


  • Yvonne says:

    You make me want to go to Disney World. I think I’ll head down there this year. Thanks Dave!

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