“Part of the Disney success is our ability to create a believable world of dreams that appeals to all age groups. The kind of entertainment we create is meant to appeal to every member of the family.” – Walt Disney
When my son, Avery, was eight, I couldn’t imagine what exposure, other than cartoons and commercials, he had to the Disney brand when his mother and I resolved to surprise him with a vacation to Disney World in 2005. So, leading up to the announcement we knew we would make, we made sure he got to see particular programs on the Travel Channel that highlighted the Disney experience. Already one who enjoyed his infrequent trips to Six Flags over Texas, he was impressed by what he saw but considered his chances to go very slim.
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We arranged with his school to allow him a leave of absence for the week before Christmas vacation was to begin, but we directed them to not tell Avery why he was doing more work than anyone else leading up to the vacation. They did a fabulous job (for which we are grateful), and we were able to maintain the secret up until the week before we left.
We tied our big reveal to the opening of our annual Christmas ornament, which we purchased from the Disney Store online. Knowing the time had come to let Avery in on our little secret, I got the camera out to capture the moment. The result reflects, I concluded, what is actually the ultimate goal of branding — spontaneously enjoining a child-like enthusiasm over the mere mentioning of an experience.
The trip, of course, was one of the most amazing experiences of my life for reasons I’ve reflected on before. Even though our feet hurt for more than a week after our trip, we constantly talk about our experience (as recently as last night) with warmth and affection. We can’t wait to go back. And because I’ve been so transformed by our 2005 vacation, the next time we go, I feel like I can cast away my learned cynicism and absorb my son’s enthusiasm for the duration of the trip. Hopefully someone will have a camera.
Not every brand has the luxury of being “fun” like Disney World, so it’s unrealistic to expect that, for instance, a bag of Cheetos will elicit the same reaction. However, there are more realistic emotions that can be engendered by applying the same principles of service, experience, and value that has made Disney so successful. If excitement is too much to ask, how about comfort or peace of mind? The best results will come from treating employees with respect, and customers as VIPs.
A big thanks to CK and Drew for inspiring this post. You can read Drew’s entire series about his observations about Disney World in this handy PDF. – Cam Beck
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