3 Things I Learned About Marketing By Being a Disney Character

For a brief time in 2006, I was a Character Performer at Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL. My roster of characters included Winnie The Pooh, Chip, Dale, Mike Wozowski, The White Rabbit and Sneezy. Being a part of “creating magic” is something that’s stuck with me, and I often think about how my time in Florida shaped who I am today, particularly in how I approach marketing. From our initial onboarding and training to brand statements that inspired, here are 3 takeaways from my experience of having Mickey Mouse be my boss.

1 – Impeccable storytelling is how you create an experience, and an experience is how you keep people coming back for more. It can boggle your mind when you think about how much time guests stand in line at Disney world, waiting for a ride that maybe lasts 6 minutes. We’re talking 90 – 120 minutes in some cases. But what makes it worth it is that even in line, Disney is weaving together a narrative that keeps you engaged and invested in the wait. Paying attention to the entire guest experience ensures that you don’t lose interested buyers or clients along the way! Now when thinking about the client experience, I don’t just approach it as moving people down a funnel – I want to tell a story that my audience is excited to enjoy at every step of the journey.

2 – Invest in EVERY customer touchpoint – especially the employee who they will interact with first. They are your brand ambassadors. Disney invested time and money into every single “cast member” – it didn’t matter if you were flipping burgers, sweeping the streets, or running the rides, everyone (including me, a college student only planning on being there for 6 months) attended hours of “traditions” training that infused Disney magic & translated the Disney story to every single employee. They empowered everyone to be “magic makers”, and inspired everyone to take that seriously. If you don’t train and invest in your front of house staff – your salespeople, your hostesses, receptionists, retail employees, etc. – you are leaving so much of your brand to chance. The people who interact with your customers are your brand ambassadors. They should be kept as up-to-date in the mission and vision of your business as the owner or CEO. 

3 – Stay true to your mission/ vision – even (and especially) as you grow. Disney’s mission is to create magical experiences through emotional, immersive & innovative storytelling. Your mission is HOW you’re going to accomplish your big goals (or, your vision) – and Disney clearly states that the way they are going to bring magic to their guests is by immersing them into the story. We’ve already talked about why I think that’s so effective – but the reason Disney is able to do it over and over again is because they can reference their mission statement to see if something is aligned. When someone proposes a new ride, or new kiosk selling food – they are able to decide by pointing back to their mission statement. Would this new ride immerse the guest in a new way? Would this kiosk tell the story in a way that’s not already being accomplished? It’s these small factors that keep Disney feeling “magical” and not like any other theme park. You can accomplish this in your own marketing by writing a mission statement that you can refer back to when making big decisions about your company/brand.

If you want to hear more about my experience as a Disney Character (yes, there is an entire underground Disney, and no, the costumes are NOT air-conditioned!) or talk about your marketing strategy, book a coffee chat with me here.

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