Marketing July 3, 2015 Last updated September 18th, 2018 2,323 Reads share

Disney: Evil Marketing Genius

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Disney is oh so good at playing a lovable hero. The cutesy animal cartoons, the child friendly entertainment, and the company’s image as a family brand grants the company an ephemeral cloak of goodness.

To me, Disney has more in common with the Evil Step Mother (ESM) from

Most of the population would cast Disney not as an evil villain, but as a benevolent author who brings children’s dreams to life. Disney is, at the very least, unapologetically capitalistic. Kind of like Kuzko from Disney’s hit The Emperor’s New Groove before he learned that he should not bulldoze a town to create a new theme park for himself to enjoy (Disney didn’t do that…that I know of…).

And this, I believe, is what makes Disney a tad evil. Suzanne J. Piotrowski, an associate professor at  Rutgers, lists Disney as one of three companies who have been so lucrative due to their companies’ ability to encourage innovation on all fronts. That innovation has led to many big and small marketing and production campaigns over the years.

Like any good evil scheme, these campaigns tend to trigger my I want and aren’t they swell reflexes. And before I can say bippity boppity boo, I’m once again buying a twenty-five dollar DVD, purchasing the latest FunkoPop figure, and tweeting about the latest video or movie Disney has produced. Even though the little voice in the back of my head is screaming that Disney has become too powerful.

As either current or future business owners, there is a lot you can learn from Disney’s tactics. Disney isn’t just evil, they’re evil geniuses who intimately understand what they need to do to make it big. In order to make it in the competitive business marketplace, you could do worse than drawing inspiration for your innovation from the master of all evil.

Here are four evilly inspirational marketing and production ideas that have enchanted their buyers to drop money on their merchandise. If done right, they can work for you too.

#1. Disney Vault

Disney VaultThe Disney Vault is pure genius. Economics says that prices are higher when the demand for a product is high. Prices fall when the demand for the product falls. Normally, this means that movies start off around $20 to $30, and then as time passes the films gradually fall until you can find them for as little as $2 to $3.

The Disney Vault prevents any of their top movies from ever sinking too far below their original price by temporarily halting production of the movie for five to ten years. This increases demand for the products and gives the illusion when they do release the movie of a limited supply, and attaches a sense of urgency to the product. When the buyer sees the movie they think, Disney might move it to the vault tomorrow, I better buy it now. As a business owner, you should attempt to duplicate Disney’s skillful maneuvering of supply and demand to set higher prices.

#2. Special Releases

The special release is a magical creation that Disney utilizes to increase the appeal of movies newly released from the Vault. Disney kick started their first massive special edition campaign in 2001 with Platinum Edition addition of Snow White on VHS, DVD, and Blu-Ray. This special edition coupled with the fact that the film hadn’t been on the shelves of stores for years with dozens of special features made the film a hot commodity.

Since then the company has started re-release all of the platinum films in what they dub the Diamond Edition. The Diamond Edition offers buyers who purchased the platinum edition and people who missed the last release to get the films on DVD, Blu-Ray, and Blu-Ray 3D.

Additionally, Disney occasionally releases non-special editions of movies when they know the demand for the original will be universally high. The Diamond Edition of Cinderella was released in 2012, placed back in the vault, and then re-released recently when the live action version of the movie hit the big screen. I’m sure Disney will re-release Beauty and the Beast, Dumbo, and Mulan from the vault when those movies get their own live action version. The lesson here? Create special editions products occasionally on new mediums, with new features, and as demand is expected to rise.

#3. Let Others Market For You

Disney is the definition of a brand that inspires others to market for them. Artists, musicians, and actors who love the movies create spoofs, parodies, and fan music for fans to enjoy. Disney’s Youtube channel takes advantage of this free advertising by creating playlists that lists the music, mash-ups, and videos created for them. By bringing these artists into the creation process and spreading the videos themselves, they are able to “create traction with the new, creator generation.” Disney realizes that every like and share for the spoofs, mash-ups and fan videos will remind the viewer how much they loved the original version. The bottom line, keep an eye out for any positive editorial, music, and videos about your products. Someone took the time to create the pieces of advertising for you for free, take advantage of it. 

#4. Merchandise

Halloween CostumeDisney is the king of creating and selling memorabilia inspired by their films. The toy section of most stores in America are filled with Disney princess and Marvel toys. Some malls have an entire store dedicated to selling insanely expensive Disney inspired clothes for children. And since 2007, there’s only been two years where the top 5 costumes chosen by children and their parents for Halloween have not been a Disney character.

The good news for Disney? Every toy, costume, shirt, belt, and shoe purchased is free advertisement. People are essentially paying Disney to allow them the honor of being a walking, talking billboards. And most of the Disney obsessed don’t see a problem with paying more for a T-shirt with a Disney advertisement than they would for a normal t-shirt.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is what all business owners want to shoot for. Your goal is to form such a positive image in the minds of your costumers that they’re willing to pay you for the honor of advertising for you. In order to accomplish this sorcery, you will need to create cool merchandise and a very positive brand. For people in fields that don’t lead naturally to rabid attachment to a brand, you might consider creating a logo or a mascot to incorporate into your marketing endeavors. You occasionally see people wearing shirts with the Lucky Charms leprechaun, so creating an icon that will allow you to create killer merchandise can be done.

Disney is a marketing powerhouse. As business owners, you can learn a lot by studying how the teams at Disney have marketed and branded their way to Forbes Top Ten brand list. Carefully controlling supply and demand, releasing special edition products, keeping an eye out for artist and writer mentions, and creating merchandise for your costumers to go crazy over will take you a step in the right direction.

Images: “LONDON, UK – JULY 1, 2014: Disney Store exterior view in Oxford Street, London. Disney Store chain was founded in 1987 and has 479 locations./Shutterstock.com

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Samantha Stauf

Samantha Stauf

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