A Simple Lesson About Brand Taught By Disney

Day One of Our Disney Trip - Miami 165I went on a Disney Cruise with my kids in February. I specifically chose Disney because my husband wasn’t going with us (he’s busy working on his master’s thesis). I felt that if I was going to travel alone with my kids to unfamiliar places, I needed to have some back up. I needed to be completely confident that no matter what happened, we were covered. I wanted the comfort of a solid brand. Disney does that. It gives me comfort. Disney says you can feel safe taking your kids onto that giant ship and your first cruise.

We had a wonderful time – an excellent vacation complete with 200 plus photos. Based on the conversations I’ve had with different people both during and after my cruise, chances are I would have had an equally wonderful time on a number of other cruise lines too, but that’s not the point. I would not have taken another cruise. I took the cruise because of Disney. When you build a powerful brand, amazing things happen. Grown women dress-up like princesses, executives laugh like pirates and people take risks on new ventures based on your reputation.

So how do you get your brand to where you want it to be? Well if you’re a communications professional working in an association or not-for-profit, the most difficult things to accept are that a) good brand building isn’t up to you and b) you can’t help it along with advertising or promotional work. The best thing you can do to improve your brand is to talk internally. Your brand isn’t about what you portray, it’s about what you do and what the public and your clients perceive about you.

Let’s go back to the cruise for a minute. As you can imagine, if you put thousands of people in a confined space and throw hundreds of over-excited children into the mix, things don’t always go as planned. There were melt downs and temper tantrums, not to mention some of the children‘s bad behavior, but those things never got in the way of service.  The staff was always pleasant, funny, innovative and even on occasion suitably sarcastic. They got adults to laugh off situations that can quickly escalate into anger and distracted children who were revving up to whine. At one point, my 15-year-old came back from the breakfast buffet angry because another passenger had been rude to the server at the counter. When I asked him how the server dealt with the rude passenger, he said, “He just kept trying to do what the passenger asked.”

And there it is in a nutshell. You build a good brand by giving customers what they are asking for. My son didn’t want a scene at breakfast; neither did any of the other passengers at the buffet, so the server did his best not to create one. The result was that my son was angry at the passenger on behalf of the crew member. When a four-year-old girl had a fit while the ship was debarking at one of our island stops, the staff immediately distracted her. They got her attention focused on them and not her parents and managed to keep the rest of us moving.

So if you want to build a strong brand, build a strong service orientation into your team – even if that team only serves internal clients.  Make your raison d’être centred completely on helping your clients be successful. In health care we call it client-centred care, but experienced business people and the folks at Disney simply say, the customer knows best.

Lessons learned

  • Good brands come from good client centered experience.

About Debra Yearwood

Experienced communications and public relations executive who manages challenges with an eye on outcomes and a sense of humour. Learn more about how I think at https://commstorm.com/ Learn more about my experience at ca.linkedin.com/in/debrayearwood/
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32 Responses to A Simple Lesson About Brand Taught By Disney

  1. This is a perfect analogy, and an interesting story! The customer may not always be right, but they always have to come first.

  2. becc03 says:

    What a great comparison – you get the point across with such great examples.

  3. Back in the day when I worked in pre-sales, we used to always go the extra mile by giving our customers knowledge to make running there business easier. This in turn built the brand by customers always speaking highly of you. Yes selling the product was key, but added customer value was a greater offering long term.

  4. Leora says:

    I like how your son learned the lesson as well. We sometimes talk around the dinner table about how businesses make decisions – I want my children to learn younger than I did about the business world.

    Customer service can be difficult – I was in a bank recently, and I watched how the bank representative handled a client who kept insisting he wanted things his way. It was very smoothly handled, and it made me feel better when it was my turn for help.

  5. Agree with the points you are making Debra. A good brand starts from within and give the customers what they want. The fact that you decided to take a Disney cruise says it all. Would you if they hadn’t built up such a good brand? Imagine that Disney when he started out was told he didn’t have what it takes to succeed:-)

    • yearwoodcom says:

      Thanks Catarina. I sometimes wonder if successful entrepreneurs aren’t successful because they take criticism the way most people take praise, as an opportunity.

  6. TheGirl says:

    Customer Service. A term they could use in Europe.

  7. My own experiences of Disney go back to visits to Disneyland trips as a child. I can imagine that a Disney cruise would be wonderful! This piece really highlights how the brand has to go to the core of the customer experience. Thank you.

    • yearwoodcom says:

      Thanks Lindsay. It’s pretty impressive that they have managed to keep the brand intact for so long, but then our collective memories make up for those times when we’re not doing stuff with them.

  8. Simone Hart says:

    I found Disney to be client oriented from my first visits to Disney world in the early 80’s. Wish more service industries would take note.

    • yearwoodcom says:

      I believe Disney offers management training for other organizations, so other industries can literally take notes. Now how’s that for a work trip? I’d sign up. Thanks for commenting!

  9. Eleanor says:

    Like what you wrote. As parents we need to feel confident that in our travel arrangements 2 things will happen: Our children will be safe and they will have fun. Disney has reputation for being fun, safe and reliable. They are seen as being for family. Good example.

    Keep up your posts I always enjoy reading what you write.

  10. Disney is a good example and from what I have read they spend a lot of time with their staff to ensure their customers whether on the cruise ship or at the theme parks have a fantastic experience.

  11. wanderlustnginfo says:

    Interesting take on building a brand. Or maybe not, but it was for me. It makes complete sense though. It is all about managing expectations, consistent service and living up to a reputation you are trying to create. So exactly not hype, false promises and flash.

    Good points.

  12. What a great example and way to show how it all goes together… bravo! We can all find a lesson or two in your article for sure. I so glad you had a wonderful time with the kids too. 🙂

  13. shaun rosenberg says:

    Give the people what they want and they will give you what you want! It makes sense, but you do need to put in the time and possibly the money to get people coming to begin with. I think it is a two way streak, without promoting your service nobody is going to get it and without giving high quality service nobody is going to come back or tell others about it.

    • yearwoodcom says:

      I completely agree, people have to know you exist in the first place. I just worry when I run into a preoccupation with, “look at me” that supersedes the service end. The truth is, its easier to advertise than it is to improve your service delivery but with our collective preoccupation with social media, the word of a friend is still one of the most effective ways to advertise.

  14. This is a good example of why I am not directly in customer service. People can annoy me.

  15. mkslagel says:

    What a great example to explain building your brand. Some people forget the importance of this and instead try to just push their product or service rather than start internally with their company and the company image. Reputation is key.

  16. Karen says:

    I agree with this. I find myself going back to brands that have great customer service and a quality product. I know what you are saying about Disney, they really go out of their way to make sure guests are happy. I would love to go on one of their cruises, glad it was a great vacation.

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