Brands with heart

Charlie Coleman
Hero brands with heart

Charlie Coleman shares why Disney keeps the art of magical storytelling at the heart of everything they do

The consumer marketplace is an ever-changing environment; increasingly there are unlimited entertainment choices, fewer distribution constraints, and every opportunity to share opinions and recommendations about what people like and don’t like — putting consumers very much in the driving seat of what, when and how they want to be entertained.

At Disney, we’ve needed to understand this behaviour and marketplace, and we adapt our business accordingly to continue to give consumers the best experience. We have to find the balance between having an open and active dialogue on social media that connects with our audiences, while staying true to our brand promise of providing high-quality, fun entertainment experiences, which are suitable for families. This can require a heavy dose of creativity to make a real impact.

Creating emotional touchpoints for the whole family is now visibly central to Disney’s brand promise. There was a time when Disney was seen as very female focused. Now, brands like Marvel and Star Wars give boys (and dads) a meaningful and relevant relationship with us. We’re delivering entertainment, stories and characters that they want to engage with, that we simply weren’t before.

We're delivering entertainment, stories and characters that they want to engage with

This is the Disney ecosystem: a very deliberate strategy to ensure we offer consumers a reason to stay connected to us — whether it’s grandparents buying their first grandchild a Winnie the Pooh from a Disney Store, families visiting our parks, a pre-schooler playing the Disney Junior App on their tablet, or the big kids who grew up with “Toy Story”.

The beauty of this is that we’re not prescribing the way people take this journey with us — it can start with Marvel’s “Avengers” or Disney Fairies or Cinderella — but the outcome is that people create their own stories with our brands.

The Princess franchise is particularly close to us at Disney, as it all began with “Snow White” back in 1937.

We’ve evolved Disney Princesses over the last 80 years to be respectful to the heritage of our ‘traditional’ Princesses while representing the broader attributes that are relevant to today’s generation.

The recent Academy Award®–winning “Frozen” is a great example. It’s a modern interpretation of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale, “The Snow Queen”, which tells the story of two sisters, Elsa and Anna, who also happen to be Princesses.

Together, they embody Disney’s heritage in Princess storytelling but with a contemporary twist. “Frozen” is now the fifth highest-grossing film of all time, and has great potential for growth across other facets of our company.

In the UK, we’ve looked at new ways to bring the Princess franchise to consumers. Most recently, we launched a Cinderella-inspired “Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique” at Harrods — marking the first time that a Disney Parks and Resorts offering has been recreated off Disney property.

We also share our IP with other brands to help them tell stories of their own and connect with consumers. For example, last Halloween, Disney•Pixar released a TV special called “Toy Story ”. Our Disneymedia+ integrated ad sales and promotions team worked closely with Sky Broadband to plan a fully integrated through-the-line campaign to support the special alongside their super-fast fibre optic broadband service.

But it was the opportunity to create a custom animated 50-second TV spot that was written and produced by the “Toy Story” animators at Pixar Animation Studios that is the real hallmark of success from this collaboration. It marked the first time Disney•Pixar had created something for a promotional campaign outside of a movie release, so it really broke new ground. It was a truly collaborative effort; the Disneymedia+ team even managed to accommodate Sky’s request to include the “Toy Story” aliens in the creative executions, even though they don’t appear in the short.

So we at Disney can maintain our position as a trusted brand that offers high-quality family entertainment with a specific set of values, as long as we are flexible, consider new ways to meet the ever-changing needs of consumers, and most importantly — keep the art of magical storytelling at the heart of everything we do.