A few months ago I wrote an article that discussed the culture of Disney cast-members entitled “What You Can Learn From Disney.” The article focused mainly on the culture that Disney has cultivated among its employees. In this article, I want to talk about the Cult following that Disney has in its’ Guests.
If you read my previous article, you know that my family spends A LOT of time at Disney. We are unapologetic about the fanatical way that we plan and execute our trips. That process usually begins when we are at Disney World…planning the next trip before the one we are on is over. I am actually writing this article from our time-share just 3 miles away from the Magic Kingdom.
Yesterday, as I was walking around EPCOT, I was blown away by the sheer number of people in the park and the unbelievably high percentage of those people who were wearing branded Disney items…shirts, jackets, hats, ears; the list goes on and on.
I began to add up the amount of money that people were not just willing to pay, but seemed to spend with enthusiasm. Parking: $25. Daily Pass: $120. Food: $30. Clothing: $25-$50. It seemed as if ON AVERAGE, a single person would spend close to $200 PER DAY for the privilege of shoulder to shoulder crowds, long lines and crying kids. Yet amidst all of this, people were….happy! Being a fan of Disney myself, I completely identified with it. But why? What had Disney done to endear itself so completely to its’ fan base? Disney fandom is no casual affair or underground phenomenon: there are multitudes of fan blogs, clubs and conventions, official and unofficial. One couple went to Disneyland every day for a year. One man visited 37 Disney World attractions in one day. A father and son hit Disney World and Disneyland within 24 hours. Another pair followed in their footsteps and tacked on Tokyo. Not all Disney travelers take the extreme route, but many fans have made the pilgrimage to every park or are repeat visitors.
Disney has been around for nearly a hundred years. They continue to make great and epic movies, innovate (they often create the technology they need), and try very hard to do things with Walt Disney’s vision as their guide.
Their characters, movies and vision have remained timeless. I can share memories about beloved characters from my youth with my kids and they identify with those characters as well. Disney’s number one goal is a positive guest experience and they go to great lengths to make sure that happens. When they fail, which is rare, they will bend over backwards to set things right.
People don’t love Disney because of the characters and experience alone. This deep-down love is born during childhood and continues into adulthood. Some guy on his couch at 40 years old isn’t going to say “Wow…I really love Disney.” It becomes rooted deeply early in life.
Disney makes me happy. I can’t really explain why but I’ve spent nearly 45 years as a fan and that isn’t going to change anytime soon. So what do we learn from all this? Why is it important?
Companies spend millions of dollars a year trying to achieve what Disney has done. They advertise, they have focus groups, they provide cutting edge work spaces for their work force. All in an effort to drive sales and develop their customer relationships. Disney does none of that. They focus their energy on making sure ANY person who has contact with a customer is highly trained and understands the rules: The customer is always right and must ALWAYS be treated as if they were a guest in their own home.
The result is a company that has lasted, for the most part, the way they started…with their vision, goals and values intact. This is why Disney is a company worth emulation. There are few institutions in this country that can say the same. Disney has class. It is evident in the Cast members, in the characters it creates and in the environment it inspires for its’ guests.
No matter what you like (or dislike) about Disney, its hard to deny that they have a quality and essence like no other.