Sunday, November 7, 2010

Disneyland/Disney Vacation Club

The Roy O.Disney waiting at Mickey's Toontown ...
My wife and I had the good fortune to spend a few days at Disneyland recently.  Dis ney is an interesting case.  They are both a large corporate entity and a world wide institution.  The company fell on hard times for a number of years which eventually led to long time CEO Eisner stepping down.  The main impetus for this change in power came from an effort spear headed by Walt Disney's nephew Roy E. Disney.  In early 2004  Roy E Disney was able to get enough proxy votes to essentially deliver a no confidence vote in the next round of board elections.  It's hard to believe that this success didn't play a part in Eisner announcing his retirement.  Eventually a compromise was reached and things have been going well for Disney ever since.

One thing I recall from late in Eisner's stewardship of the Disney corporation was the obviously deferred maintenance at Dinsyland.  That didn't sit well with me and I don't think I was alone.  Some of my best childhood memories are tied to Disnyland and seeing it in anything less than tip top condition was jarring.  I was annoyed. I wasn't alone.  The number of people and insitutions that Roy E. Disney was able to sign up for his proxy fight showed that a lot of people were unhappy with the way the company was being run.  Branding provides great benefits but it also incurs responsibilities.  Neglecting those responsibilities can be very risky both to the people in charge and the long term health of the business.

As a brand Disney has an amazing range of appeal.  At the parks you'll see people from a wide range of demographic groups.  A visit isn't cheap, but it is possible for most people to make the trip and ejoy the parks.

There are things though that a compnay like this probably shouldn't do.  Imagine Disney building tall condos near the park that included free admission to the parks and other perks and selling them for top dollar.  It would potentially mean a big influx of cash in the short term but how would most people coming to the parks feel about seeing those buildings?   What kind of message would this send?  They would have more flexibility in Florida as it is a much larger area.  Disney actually does something along these lines with their vacation club.  The Disney Vacation Club (DVC) is a points based time share.  The original DVC resort and several subsequent ones were opened at Walt Disney World but today DVC has many different themed resorts that span an ever increasing geographical area.  They added Disneyland a year or two back and will have a resort opening in Hawaii soon.

I'm always fascinated by brands that somehow manage to appeal across a broad spectrum of consumers.  To me they prove that branding is not science with hard and fast rules, but rather a series of approaches that when exectued properly can nudge public perception in a particular direction.   Disneyland was Walt Disney's vision.  Having read a fair bit about his life, it seems clear that he wasn't much of a business man.  That was the provence of his older brother Roy, who was Roy E. Disney's father.  In addition to being the visionary, Walt Disney was essentially the Disney brand manager, though I doubt he'd have used those words to describe his role.  He was very good at instilling in people the idea that the Disney company was there to provide quality family entertainment and Disneyland was meant to be the physical embodiement of that concept.  This essentially made Disneyland a part of a lot of people's families.  Given that, it isn't surprising that Eisner ran into serious opposition when people felt that the company was being poorly run.

Walt Disney has been gone for nearly forty four years now, but clearly his legacy lives on.

Image via Wikipedia

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