Recently my wife and I returned from a road trip through Florida. Planned beforehand, of course, was a trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando. Something you just have to do, right? Upon arrival at the Disney resort, we were greeted with the magic words: Welcome Home. With that, we knew that our visit to this place would be different.
Walt Disney himself said, "I don't want the public to see the world they live in while they're in the park. I want to feel they're in another world." Indeed, the world-famous amusement park lived up to its moniker: "The Happiest Place On Earth."
While many restaurants around Walt Disney World such as Sanaa in Animal Kingdom and Citrico at The Grand Floridian have received rave reviews from travel and dining critics, the food within the Magic Kingdom remains traditional amusement park fare, but the whole experience made me quite forgiving of lengthy ride lines and somewhat limited food choices. Both of these issues, the lines and in-park dining, Disney has plans to improve upon as well with the addition of a new and improved Downtown district, Disney Springs and the implementation of MyMagic+ digital wristbands.
I admit that I did spend money on a Disney t-shirt that I might not have seen myself buying beforehand, but when in Rome, right? After all, the experience was proving to be more enjoyable and relevant than I had ever imagined.
What began with one little mouse has transformed into one of the world’s largest and most beloved entertainment companies. While Disney is primarily understood to be a children's entertainment brand, there’s more than just great experiences for kids.
The different parks are meant to have a differentiated positioning, taking on their own life and in turn attracting their own crowd. While Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and Toy Story Mania appeal to kids, with Cinderella’s Castle as a backdrop, a spa at The Grand Floridian and adult focused entertainment at a piano bar, Jellyrolls, dancing at Atlantic Dance Hall and live radio sports shows at ESPN Club, Disney is expanding its appeal and becoming a wedding and honeymoon destination. Each of the resorts on the property has its own brand experience as well.
Despite the bubble-like atmosphere, sightings of external brand stores and restaurants provide flickers of reality, a fleeting reminder of the world beyond and an intricate part of the complex brand identity that is Disney. As with any retail hub, Disney is working on activating changes—some subtle, and others major—that will keep visitors from ever having a need to exit the resort. The planned overhaul of Downtown Disney into the new Disney Springs will include an expansion to over 150 retail and restaurant outlets, spanning an area double the size of the current park. The brand also recently began allowing alcohol sales in the Magic Kingdom, proof of the purchasing power that adult consumers hold for the brand.
As a branding professional, I can see why it isn’t any wonder Disney has ranked consistently in the top 20 of Interbrand’s Best Global Brands ranking. While the global economy might be recovering slowly, Disney continues to see increasing consumer demand for its parks, various resorts and retail merchandise. I’m sure that Disney’s rich heritage and continuing quest for relevance holds a strong promise for future success.
Ariën Breunis is Associate Director Brand Analytics in Interbrand Amsterdam.