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Business Lessons From Mickey Mouse!

I learned some things during a few day trip to Disneyland. My wife and I agreed to be chaperones for Grad Nite. On Grad Nite, Disneyland is open until 2:00 AM with just high school graduates and their chaperones. (It sounded like a good idea at the time.) I’m sure this goes on in locations all around the country, but being from Southern California, Disneyland is the place to be.

We were able to get a group rate at the Disneyland Resort Hotel of $165.00, which amazingly is a great deal since the “actual” rate they charge is $300.00 to $400.00 a night. How they can sell this decent, but hardly exceptional hotel room at these prices speaks to the power of the Disney brand…and the location. Disneyland is “The Happiest Place on Earth” isn’t it?

It also surprised me how much Disney can get for toys and their VERY popular mouse ears. I noticed that the Made in China headband with ears went for $22.95. It was amazing how many people were wearing these! When I would see a family with a couple of kids, or parents wearing the mouse ears, I realized that was $50 bucks…in mouse ears! People connect with Mickey Mouse, and they want to do business with him.

Since I’m always looking for business stories in real life, there is much that can be related in our business world to the Disney Experience. Here are a few thoughts on how this relates to our industry.

PEOPLE: Disneyland is crowded! There are all types of people at Disneyland from folks who are friendly to those who are just inconsiderate. They aren’t aware of what’s happening around them and think nothing of the consequences of their actions. You can get mowed over if you are not watching what’s going on.

Our industry filled with businesses of all types from great distributors and suppliers to a few clueless types. It’s a crowded industry. Some build relationships and truly care about meeting their customer’s needs. Other’s don’t look at the big picture and focus only on what they are comfortable within their world. Many in our industry don’t do change well. It’s beneficial to be conscious of our business surroundings and react based on reality.

PRICE: Disney is very profitable because they have positioned their brand and business model to be that way.

Disney can sell a simple pencil eraser for $4.00, and no one bats an eye. Some of us have clients that will pound on us to save a few pennies. The price suppliers and distributors can charge is directly related to the perceived and real value of the products we sell.

PRODUCT SAFETY: Disney holds its vendors to high standards. They must protect their brand! We must also protect our client’s brand, but how many fully understand the importance of this? Product safety compliance comes with a price. There seems to be an increasing number of direct foreign factories that are very willing to sell directly to end users…as well as through our distributor network.

Buyers will risk using a factory that they have no relationship with to get a low price. Of course, any additional profit or savings that could be generated may result in a huge loss should something go wrong. And things do go wrong. Also, the product safety and general liability risk are significant. This has been talked about for years. I sense that most don’t care, or understand their part in the supply chain. It’s just not a sexy topic.

THE HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH: Is Disney really the “Happiest Place on Earth”? One thing I can say is most of the “Cast Members”, which is how they refer to their staff, for the most part, are friendly. That’s a key component of the Disney Experience. Are we upbeat and actively engaged in creating a positive client experience?

Disneyland has the appearance that all is well in a world that includes; Frontierland, Adventureland, Tomorrowland, and of course, Fantasyland. Is all well in our industry’s Frontierland, Adventureland, Tomorrowland, and Fantasyland?

Our Frontierland offers the excitement of the old west and the challenges that go with it. We’ve also got some good old-fashioned gun fighting going on.

Clearly, the promotional marketing industry’s Adventureland is filled with adventure. There are new products and directions we can move in. Every day is different.

While Tomorrowland looks ahead to the future, we look forward to an evolving marketplace that differs from our past...and offers new opportunities as well as new challenges.

Some are quite comfortable in Fantasyland…believing things will stay the way they always have been. Reality is that things will always evolve and change. Nothing stays the same.

Over the last few months, I’ve covered a variety of topics and touched on the discontent of a few over things they cannot change. Wanting an industry where everything is perfect really is Fantasyland.

Industry online forums and a few of our readers have been concerned about our changing marketplace. And we should be concerned. I recently had the opportunity to talk with two key industry leaders who addressed these issues and provided a state of the industry report. We are happy to share these interviews with you.

Wanting everything to perfect, or expect our industry to police how business is being conducted would be like Disneyland…and Disneyland is not the real world.

The Happiest Place on Earth can be wherever you are. How you get there is up to you.

© 2014 Jeff Solomon, MAS

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