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Mickey Mouse: Five ways to achieve commercial success

In collaboration with MT/Sprout - Disney's success and position is something every company, no matter how small or large, can look to as an example. But what do they actually do so well? Here are the five lessons.

The Walt Disney Company's success seems to know no bounds. The synergy between business units such as film productions, theme parks, Disney + streaming service or the cruise line ensures billions in profits time and time again. In that respect, the corona pandemic also created a unique situation: all twelve theme parks were closing, four cruise ships could not sail anymore, filming was halted and new releases were postponed because of closed cinemas. For the first time in 40 years (!) The company made no profit.

But despite this, there is continued construction and investment in new films, series, cruise ships, hotels and attractions worldwide. And also in what is perhaps the most important element: in new techniques to reach and get to know that customer more and better.

What can other companies learn from Mickey Mouse?

Ralf Verhoef (45) is founder and CEO of IT company Angry Bytes. But he is also a big Disney fan. Every week he makes a podcast with Jorn Jokker and Michiel Veenstra (D- Tales), about the ins and outs of Mickey Mouse's media conglomerate. Disney's position is something that every company, no matter how small or large, can see as an example in day-to-day operations. What are the five technical lessons you can learn from Disney?


Tip 1: Dare to invest in technical progress

"Some years ago, Walt Disney World in Florida invested in My Disney Experience, perhaps the best example of technical progress and data aggregation," explains Verhoef. Visitors of the four theme parks and two water parks in Florida - some 60 million visits per year - can capture everything fom their hotel room, fast passes (where you can go on attractions without waiting), dinner reservations or credit card into one account in an app. That account is linked to a Magic Band , a waterproof bracelet containing two chips, so that visitors can be followed anonymously from close by and from far away. This allows the guest to perform basic activities in the park, such as entry, payment or identification , without the need to interact with a phone. Because you may also need to be able to consult the app in the parks, substantial investments had to be made throughout the resort in hundreds of WiFi points, because not every visitor has their own data bundle. Hotel doors, pay points, attraction queues, park entrances and park infrastructure were also addressed. A gigantic operation. As you can see, technical progress takes courage. And a hefty wallet. '

Tip 2: Tackle technological progress integrally: the entire company

Try to connect all parts and systems to each other as fluently as possible. Technology in the 90s was very different from today. Make the switch to the future and let the entire company participate in that technology. One of the best systems to do that is HubSpot: an industry standard that effectively helps to get more website visitors, leads and customers. You can link everything with it. Use the cloud, streamline the process, give an overview, and use the best result-certified HubSpot experts. A global player such as Disney also links business units in central systems. "Not only is the company growing, but the profile of consumers is also getting bigger and more comprehensive, " says Verhoef. ' Look at sports channel ESPN, that will be, as we speak, linked to your Disney profile. Preferences and transactions are increasingly being mapped out. "With Disney +, Disney's own streaming service, viewers see personalised offers based on previous choices. "From the email I receive via ESPN, I see that they are in the background busy connecting more services," Verhoef indicated. 'It's all there already in a central backend. Transaction data, behavior, interests, Disney oversees the entire chain. 

Tip 3: Don't give your own twist to well-known concepts

It sounds contradictory: invest in novelties, but stick to the standard in this. Yet that is easy to explain. 'For example, a shopping cart is normally at the top right of the screen on online shops,' Verhoef points out. 'That effectiveness has been proven and researched. You may really be the most stubborn little boy in the class in some areas, but if you can develop based on standards, there is nothing wrong with that. Use the way in which the consumer has started to think intuitively: you can use the control or layout of apps like Instagram or Facebook for that. '
For example, the experienced Netflix viewer will also be able to quickly navigate their way through Disney +. It's a different product, but the search, suggestions, or options while streaming haven't all been reinvented. After all, applying technology sometimes also consists of adapting the good. And that does not only apply to activities in front of the screens, but also 'under water' with a good CRM system.

Tip 4: Always stay guest-oriented. Also in your technical innovation

The management book 'If Disney ran your hospital: 9 ½ things you would do differently' is an example of the guest orientation that is of paramount importance at Disney. Fred Lee, the author of this book, was a senior vice president of Florida Hospital , but has also worked at Disney University. How can hospitals think more guest-oriented? Former Disney managers, such as Lee Cockerell , also travel the world to provide training in guest orientation. In addition, Cockerell has books full of tips to his name such as 'The Customer Rules' and ' Creating Magic '.
'Hospitality is part of the Disney corporate culture, 'Verhoef concludes. 'We see that in the technical innovations: the customer experience is sacred.' He refers back to the My Disney Experience app. "Before your Disney trip you, as a guest, records everything you want to visit in your account. That creates excitement, but it also gives Disney a good understanding of the guest's behaviour. Where should we put more entertainment? How many employees are needed exactly that day? Everything to make it run as smoothly as possible. The Magic Band provides a personal experience in the parks. Quickly walk through with a simple tap on the sensor, names of visitors appearing on themed screens in attractions. Literally a touch of magic . '

Tip 5. Make it possible to expand linked innovations

When you use commonly used standards or techniques (see tip 3), you can always build on that. Even if you let others help you think or help build. Hire a specialized party who, just like you, can and wants to think a few steps ahead, without removing the foundation so that you have to start all over again. Compare it with a hypothetical shed in the garden: always keep the option open for more bicycles, an extra door or perhaps a dormer window. 'We also see that long-term thinking at Disney,' laughs Verhoef. 'When new parks or hotels are built, space is reserved for extensions. At Walt Disney World, enough land was already purchased in the 1960s to add parks and resorts for decades to come, and we already saw this in the park resorts in Paris, Hong Kong or Shanghai, for example. Always dare to think ahead. Or, as The Walt Disney Company says: if you can dream it, you can do it! '

Picture of Emiel Kanters
Emiel Kanters

Managing Director & Partner