Disney’s magic lies within its people

As people crave shared experiences more than ever, Disney is able to bring them to life like no other brand.

This article was first published on BITE, written by Carina Filek, Global Chief Operations Officer of Elevate 

Disney recently announced that all of its new films will now debut in cinemas – a headline that represents huge changes to how the ‘Mouse House’ has operated since the pandemic.

Observers have questioned whether people will risk returning to cinemas after adjusting to watching new films in the comfort of their home, but Disney shows no such concern. Through all the pandemic changes the company has remained resolutely Disney to the minds of its core audience: iconic, magical and aspirational. It’s because of this it knows that people will return to cinemas to enjoy its latest releases.

While the brand is driven by its film franchises and properties (Marvel, Star Wars and more), its defining magic (and a significant chunk of its profits) comes from its theme parks. Most of us remember wishing to wake up to a surprise Disneyland trip. And if that dream ever came true, what made the occasion special – and worth the cost from our parents – was how the field staff on the ground made us feel special.

Field staff at Disneyland do more than keep the park operating: they are its lifeblood. From playing Mickey Mouse in a giant mouse suit to welcoming children through the entrance gate, the staff are truly ambassadors for the brand, and they are how the brand lives and dies in the eyes of its guests.

However, this is not something unique to Disney. Working alongside brands for multiple experiences and events shows us at Elevate the reality: anything can be perfectly planned, but if the front of house staff aren’t in the mood to play then nor are the customers. So much hinges on how the brand is represented by people, but choosing representatives for an event can be an afterthought for many brands.

The most tech-savvy and forward-thinking brand can easily become a letdown if it doesn’t have the right staff to drive the message of the brand in unique ways.  Most people will never forget when they received bad customer service or endured an experience that just didn’t match the brand’s values. This is why a brand needs to get it right every time.

This means choosing the best talent to act as brand ambassadors, but it also means treating the front of house and their opinions with respect. People who feel valued and listened to are almost always better positioned to represent the brand – as they can see its values playing out in their own interactions.

Finding the best talent is not an easy task in any industry, but it is especially important when attempting to create a positive memorable experience. Often, reflecting the  ‘target market’ in the choice of brand ambassadors can help here, enabling customers to ‘see’ themselves as part of the brand. Also key is checking that their skills align with what’s needed to deliver the planned experience – you may not need an acrobat as a waiter for a business conference, for example, although they might get through the crowds quicker!

Local expertise is a key component in selecting event staff, as without a deep understanding of the local market and different cultural mores, it can be very easy for a brand to make missteps. Disney adapts its offering very well. For instance, in Japan, its theme park has taken the concept of ‘omotenashi’—the Japanese philosophy of intuitive hospitality into account and added an extra layer to Disney’s values of service with a smile.

Any other brand that creates face to face experiences can learn from Disney. If technology goes wrong and a ride is out of operation (it happens), for instance, the Disney teams know how to explain, manage disappointment and keep the good humour of their crowds of visitors. The Disney brand is focused on providing best-in-class experiences for its audience and all brands can follow its example and put people at the very heart of an engagement strategy.

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