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disney branding - mickey pancakes

How To Replicate Disney’s Brand Magic In Your Small Business

After working at Disney for over 15 years with powerhouse global brands Disney, Pixar, and Marvel, with films, characters, and stories loved by fans worldwide, I’m excited to bring some of the magic that Disney uses to create brand loyalty, fandom, and success to you in your small business.

How is it possible to replicate Disney’s magic, reach and wonder with your brand?

While it may seem like a huge undertaking, a good strategy can be applied no matter how big or small a business is.

A strategy is simply a plan of action or a specific approach, and despite Disney being an enormous, well-known global brand, there are ways to interpret their strategies to sprinkle some magic onto your brand.

The M.A.G.I.C. formula behind Disney’s successful brand strategy

This formula is going to give you 5 key brand strategies that you can take and apply to your small business today.

Of course, there are many, many more strategies and tactics Disney deploys regularly, but from my personal experience, if you start with these 5 essentials, you’ll be on your way to building a brand experience that inspires your audience and prioritizes your products/services so you’re known for what you do best.

Magic Strategy #1: Make it memorable

Disney is an entertainment brand. Its mission is to make people happy, whether it’s a new film being released, inviting people to their theme parks (where their tagline is literally: the happiest place on earth), or shopping at a Disney Store.

So the first brand strategy they use with everything they do is to make it memorable.

This supports my definition of a “brand” in the first place. A brand isn’t simply a color palette for your Instagram feed or a logo for your website.

A brand is an experience crafted specifically to attract a particular audience, speak their language, and leave them with such a positive feeling that they come back for more.

To make an experience memorable, ask yourself these questions:

  • How can you help your audience tap into HAPPY memories to associate with your brand?
  • How can you help them create NEW happy memories?
  • How can you level up the current experience of your brand to make every interaction your audience has – UNFORGETTABLE?

This first strategy can be encapsulated by a quote you may have heard before:

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

Takeaway: Your job as a small business owner is to be intentional about how you want your audience to feel. Choose how you can invite them into an experience that’s memorable.

disney couple at disneyland

Magic strategy #2: Audience first

Disney is known for its stellar customer service. This goes hand in hand with magic strategy #1 because it has everything to do with crafting a customer experience and keeping it consistent.

You’ve heard it before, but it’s true, the customer is number one.

With this “audience first” strategy, It’s important to not only know your audience but stay in touch with them.

You never want to create in a silo and simply unleash what you think is best for your audience (and then wonder why they’re not buying it). You want to ask your audience what they think, notice what they’re engaging with most, and pay attention to their feedback.

For your small business, it can look like this:

  • Testing new products/services with a small portion of your audience
  • Asking for feedback (surveys, polls, questionnaires, interviews)
  • Making them feel like they’re part of your decision-making process (allow them to help you choose the name of your new product or program, for instance)

Takeaway:

1. Stay connected with your audience so you know their challenges, desires, and goals

2. Be relatable with your ideal clients so they understand why you are the #1 choice with the ideal solution for them

3. Ensure relevance. You don’t want to speak to your audience in a way that doesn’t relate to where they are on their journey right now.

4. Craft a customer journey where they feel like your top priority.

Magic strategy #3: Great storytelling

Great stories really do make the world go round. We hear stories every day in our personal life and our work life.

The brands that leverage great storytelling are able to captivate and inspire their audience, thus becoming more memorable.

Disney tells immersive stories that captivate audiences. It’s the underdog story, it’s the animated adventure, fantasy worlds full of heroes and hope, or stories inspired by true events.

Your small business isn’t a movie studio, but you can draw your audience in through storytelling, too.

Stories evoke emotion and when you can find a way to develop emotional connection points with your audience, you win. Make them laugh, make them cry, inspire them.

What stories can you tell? Glad you asked…here are a few ideas for all of you entrepreneurs:

  • Tell stories of winning results & transformations
  • Full case studies with huge takeaways
  • Focus on the benefits of what your product/service delivers
  • Your own relevant journey to establish more trust & credibility

Takeaway: Storytelling helps your audience visualize what’s possible for them when they experience your brand. Help them visualize!

disney brand castle in france

Magic Strategy #4: Innovation and imagination

Innovation and imagination have been a big part of the fuel behind Disney’s success.

Disney prioritizes innovation as a core value to continually out-do themselves and strive for “never-been-done-before” status in order to consistently over-deliver.

While you might not be able to create a new theme park ride that immerses your audience in what they love most about your brand, there is a way to incorporate innovation into your small business.

Innovation can look like this:

  • Always improving (whatever that means for your product/service)
  • Refreshing your brand to keep up with your audience
  • Elevating your UVP (unique value proposition) as that’s what sets you apart from most

Imagination is just as important because it’s the magic that invites your audience in.

Tapping into your audiences’ internal motivation, connecting with their deepest desires, and painting a picture of dreams coming true is vital to this strategy.

People are drawn to the idea that “if you can dream it, you can do it.”

Show your audience that their imagination can become a reality by working with you, or using your products/services. 

Takeaway: Become the #1 choice for your audience by always innovating, and help your audience dream big.

Magic Strategy #5: Companywide synergy

One of Disney’s biggest competitive advantages and internal strategies is what they call Synergy.

It’s leveraging the company’s owned assets to create a bigger impact for the priority projects chosen by the CEO to have the most revenue and franchise potential.

It ensures that the entire company is pointing to the biggest opportunities in a certain timeframe.

How do you do this in your own business?

It’ll be different for different brands, but here’s where to start:

1. Make a list of every asset you have in your promotional toolbox. Consider all your social media channels, email marketing, blog, podcast, YouTube channel, etc.

2. Plan your annual promotional calendar and decide which projects/programs/launches are going to take priority each Quarter or for a particular time period of your choosing.

3. During that chosen time period, have one voice and one message among all your promotional assets to point to your priority. You want ubiquity!

Here are some examples for clarity: 

  • Change your FB cover photos with new creative that aligns with your marketing campaign and message for your priority project/launch
  • Update website with a splash page and/or announcement 
  • Create multiple blog posts or podcasts that naturally lead people to your priority

Takeaway: Essentially, everything you “own” is working together to create a bigger impact for the one priority you’ve chosen to focus on in that marketing window.


Want more branding tips, how-tos, and inspiration? Connect with me over on @hilaryhartling where I drop valuable brand and messaging insights regularly.