Like many marketers, I took a vacation to get away from work for a week and came back inspired. The reason marketing is hard to explain simply is because it’s alive in so many ways—printed pieces, videos, advertising, signage, even smells. At the end of a week at Disney World, I realized that our family had been immersed in a deep pool of incredibly well-executed marketing and we loved every bit of it.
There’s a really cool story about Walt Disney talking with someone in the Tomorrowland area of Disneyland, when a cowboy walked by. Walt (we’re on a first-name basis), one of the most brilliant experiential marketing minds in history (imho) scolded the “cast member” for destroying the very experience he set out to create. A cowboy doesn’t fit in Tomorrowland. Instead, he rips visitors out of the future and plants them where they are in reality; a theme park in California on a hot day, where food is expensive and lines are long. And the cowboy is just a worker trying to get to his station in Frontierland to work a shift.
Learning from this one incident, Disney vowed to do it better when he built Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Because of that cowboy, an entire system of tunnels exists for travel under the park to ensure that this experience-destroying disaster never happens again. Trees and walls were placed strategically so that visitors in one section of the Magic Kingdom can’t see the other sections. The concrete, sounds, and fragrances all work together to create very distinct and separate worlds inside this one park.
People have documented the depth of Disney’s planning and execution, and his highest standard of consistent quality. He was so meticulous that no element of the park was compromised. Just in the Liberty Square section of Magic Kingdom alone, the details are mind-boggling. You can’t notice all of them, and that’s why the entire atmosphere does its job. The ground, though concrete, is designed to resemble the streets of the time. There’s a colored section of the street that resembles what a road may have looked like back then when residents (who didn’t have plumbing) would dump their home’s waste in the road. The shutters on all of the windows are slightly askew as they were back then because they were attached to buildings by leather straps that would stretch and give over time. Take a look at this quick list of details in Liberty Square.
When we create a marketing piece, even if it’s a simple brochure or sell sheet, we could take shortcuts. I call them “just statements.”
- “Just use a stock photo.”
- “Just Photoshop it to make it look right.”
- “Just write some copy to fill the space.”
But what if Disney did that?
- “Just paint a picture of Cinderella’s castle on a brick wall. No need to construct an entire castle.”
- “Just put in a Tilt-a-Whirl and call it Space Mountain. Rollercoasters are expensive.”
- “Just let the characters take their heads off, sit on a nearby bench, and take a smoke break. Who cares?”
Do you put the level of thought and planning into your marketing that Disney puts into creating magical experiences? Obviously we deal with budget restrictions and timelines, so we’re forced to compromise sometimes. But using quality where you can makes a big difference. Get a professional photo rather than using a stock photo that’s “close enough.” Write copy that doesn’t just fill the space, but speaks to the reader. Create an experience for your consumer and they won’t even notice that they’re being subjected to marketing tactics.
For an immersive seminar in how to do marketing “the right way,” convince your boss to let you expense a trip to Disney World. You’ll return 10 pounds heavier (the food is crazy good) and inspired to take your marketing higher than ever.