Market Like Mickey: How Disney's Theme-Park Merchandise Can Make You a Better Promotional Products Distributor
The Walt Disney Co. is a marketing juggernaut. As the world's second largest media company and 67th largest company overall, that's to be expected. Clearly, the company isn't hurting for marketing budget.
But for all its massive movie advertising campaigns and omnipresent toy commercials, Disney's smaller marketing efforts might be even more impressive—particularly the way it uses promotional items in its theme parks. Let's take a look at some recent examples and see what a promotional products distributor can learn from the Mouse House.
1. Know Your Audience
OK, this is an obvious one. It's kind of the golden rule in promotional marketing, one we advocate for in just about every piece we write. But Disney has it down to a science. It knows that a large portion of its theme park visitors are super-fans—Disney-obsessives who have been coming to the parks for years and stockpiling souvenirs. These are the collectors, the hardcore fans, and Disney knows just how to reach them.
Take this glow-in-the-dark Oogie Boogie (of "The Nightmare Before Christmas" fame) popcorn bucket, available for a limited time at just three of Disney's parks:
When Oogie Boogie Popcorn Buckets are in stock 🙌🏻🎉🙏🏻 How cute are these two?! Had to add him to my collection❤️ Find them at popcorn carts at both DCA and Disneyland Park. They seem to go quick so I'd recommend getting him as soon as you see him available in the mornings. #oogieboogie #halloweentime #halloweentimeatdisneyland #disneyhalloween #disneyhalloweentime #hollywoodland
A post shared by Jenny Flake (@disneyhungry) on
Despite its $15 price tag and what appears to be limited popcorn-carrying capabilities, park visitors have been waiting hours at food kiosks to bring home one of these collectibles. And the buckets are reselling on eBay at three times that price. Keep in mind, this is a relatively minor character from a 24-year-old movie that, while a hit, isn't exactly "The Lion King." But Disney knows the film has a dedicated following of hardcore fans, and designed this promotion specifically to target that small but committed subset of its audience.
Disney, of course, has had decades to research its audience. Your average promotional products distributor will have significantly less time when working with newer or smaller clients. But that's all the more reason to help clients clearly identify the target audience for a particular promotion and develop solutions that will resonate with that audience.
There was no way Disney's live-action "Beauty and the Beast" remake wasn't going to be a huge hit. Disney knew it and prepared accordingly, offering these rad enchanted rose tie-in cups for $15:
The Enchanted Rose cup is now at Gaston's Tavern pic.twitter.com/CRtYGdl77J
— WDW News Today (@WDWNT) April 21, 2017
First available at only a single location in Disneyland (it was later offered at a Disney World location), fans waited up to four hours in line for the collectible. That ties in with our next point on this list, as you'll see, but it also says a lot about Disney's commitment to creative products. The company could have gone with a standard decorated tumbler and still sold a gazillion units, but it instead went a step further in its merchandising to create a tie-in product with some serious panache.
Consider doing the same for your clients. Even if time or budget constraints make it impossible to land a truly custom product, it can't hurt to explore decorating techniques beyond the standard assortment. Or, try to put a creative twist on a product that elevates a common promotional item to exceptional, must-have status. There's no better value than that for your clients.
3. Create Demand
Anticipating demand is good. Disney does it all the time, offering seasonal or event-based merchandise (it's no coincidence our pal Oogie Boogie was released in the run-up to Halloween) and all the obvious movie tie-in products.
But creating demand is better, and Disney has that down, too. Take, for example, the recent closing of the The Great Movie Ride at Disney's Hollywood Studios. In action since 1989, the ride never quite reached the iconic status of the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster or Tower of Terror, making it a casualty of Disney's plan to expand and remodel the park.
Disney could have let the attraction ride off into the sunset with little fanfare, but that would have been a missed opportunity. Instead, it did this:
Great Movie Ride closing merchandise also released today pic.twitter.com/LtN2CAi0aP
— WDW News Today (@WDWNT) August 4, 2017
That's a whole line of merchandise designed specifically to commemorate the ride's closing (there's even a clever "that's a wrap" tagline), creating a sense of urgency among buyers who might otherwise have overlooked the gift shop's product offering. This is promotional merchandising at its best. The commemorative items made the ride's closing a bittersweet celebration and gave park visitors a compelling reason to take home another souvenir.
It's a challenge to create similar kinds of demand for your clients' promotional products, but it's not impossible. Try using language like "limited edition" in the corresponding marketing collateral (or even on the item itself). Or, if your client is buying, say, T-shirts for their merchandise store, suggest they order an additional, smaller run in different colors or with an additional decorative element, to display as an "exclusive" variant.