Walking up to the main concourse and getting in line to have your bag checked before entering the park, you feel your heart flutter with excitement. Around you, upbeat Disney music fills the air and kids and grandparents alike have that certain sparkle in their eyes.
As soon as you pass through the ticketing booths entering into Disneyland, your heart skips a beat and a smile tugs on the corners of your mouth. You want to remember this moment - this feeling - forever.
Throughout the day, you stand in line for hours to ride a 3-minute ride that takes you back to that feeling of being a child. You fight through crowds, withstand the heat, and do everything you can to keep your children at bay. Your excitement begins to dissipate as it’s replaced with exhaustion and frustration.
But then you go through the Buzz Lightyear ride, shooting Zorberg and laughing because you failed so miserably, and you remember why you’re here. You walk out of the ride, laughing and comparing scores with your loved ones, and walk straight into the gift shop. It’s clean, air-conditioned, and everything looks oh-so-tempting to buy.
An over-sized Jessie toy? Three, please!
By the end of the night, you’re exhausted beyond belief, but you’re walking away with good memories, lots of castle selfies, and bags full of stuff you really don’t need.
This, my friends, is the magic of Disneyland.
Everything, from the details of the bathrooms to the music and constant smiles plastered on the cast members’ faces, has been designed to tell a magical story and leave you with positive memories of your experience.
I grew up in Southern California, so Disneyland was a staple vacation for my family. We went every couple of years or so, riding the King Arthur carousel and getting nightmares from Indiana Jones. The Disney experience has always been fully ingrained in my DNA.
Disney has crafted the art of telling a powerful - even magical - story, and they know how to get people to buy, buy, buy.
So, how do they do this? While some things are kept under lock and key, here are a few key elements of their storytelling expertise you can use in your own small business.
1. Create a Detailed and Consistent Brand Experience
As my S.O. and I walked around Cars Land, I couldn’t help but notice every single detail. For example, there’s a painted store poster on the side of a shop where they’ve scrubbed it until it looked naturally weathered.
Even the red mountains in the backdrop are treated with an extreme level of detail so that it feels like you really are there, hanging out in Radiator Springs.
From calling their employees “cast members” to the employees’ individual costumes and the types of trees and flowers planted in each section, Disney has created a brand experience that could fool anyone.
When you’re inside Disneyland, you truly feel like you’re in a different world, one where any dream can come true and you really could fly with a touch of pixie dust.
Key Takeaway: To create such a detailed and consistent experience, you need a in-depth brand strategy that touches every part of your business. From the customers you attract to the brand voice you use on every channel, it’s the small details that will leave a lasting, memorable impression on your customers.
2. Use Stories to Sell (Without The Customer Realizing)
The setting is Adventure Land. The character is you. The story is that you’re going on a journey through the jungle, discovering exotic animals on The Jungle Cruise and exploring dangerous temples on Indiana Jones.
You can buy fresh fruit at the market or pick up a $6 Dole Whip (after standing in line up to 30 minutes under the blaring sun). You can even pick up an Indiana Jones-style hat or a stuffed lion to remember your adventure experience.
Disney utilized thoughtful merchandising strategies, storytelling techniques, and the exclusivity of things like the Dole Whip (you can’t buy anywhere else in park or really even outside of Disneyland) to get you to open your wallet.
They don’t just have a gift shop outside of the rides, they have a market that makes you feel like you’re really in a small, albeit tourist-filled, small village in the jungle. They fill your senses with the story that says you’ve spent the money to get here, so why not take something home that reminds you of this immersive experience?
Key Takeaway: Be strategic about how and where you’re selling your products/services. Immerse your customers in a memorable experience that makes them feel something different and takes them outside of their day-to-day routine. Frame your message to appeal to the exclusivity of what you have to offer.
3. Consider The Bigger Picture
At its core, Disneyland is a theme park with rides, overpriced food and merchandise, and other various attractions. But that’s not how we think of it.
To its guests, Disneyland is a magical place where dreams can come true. It’s an ideal world where the good guy always wins and prince charming is right around the corner.
No matter how exhausted and frustrated you feel by the end of the day, you’re sure to come home with so many good memories that the bad ones are sure to fade away and all your left with is a smile on your face and a desire to go back for more.
Key Takeaway: It’s easy as an entrepreneur to be distracted by each tree that it can be hard to look at the forest. Audit your overall brand experience on a regular basis to make sure your message and big picture is still on point. Try not to get so distracted by the day-to-day tasks and to-dos, and instead think about how those tasks effect your brand as a whole.
4. Have Fun With It
Disneyland wasn’t designed by a bunch of people in a boardroom talking about the ROI of a teacup ride that spins its guests in circles. It was designed by a visionary who wanted a “magical park” and whose ideas were imaginative and elaborate for the time.
Disney and Pixar are both known for their innovative and creative workspaces, encouraging their employees and storytellers to have fun on the job in order to get good ideas flowing. To come up with story ideas, they don’t just sit down at a desk and force their brain to come up with something good. They get out in the world, have fun, and put themselves in front of unique experiences.
Key Takeaway: Running a company is serious business (no pun intended). But it doesn’t have to be all blood, sweat, and tears. Remember to have fun, play games, and live your life. Not only will your life be better for it, but your ideas will be better and your work will show for it!
Disney has created a magical experience unlike any other company in the world. They’ve inspired millions of children and adults alike and have an incredible success story. They create some of the most innovative stories in the world and have captured the hearts of billions.
There’s a lot we can learn from the giant storytelling company, but the first step is creating a cohesive and memorable brand experience for your customers. To do this, you’ll need an understanding of your brand story and the elements that create it.
Get started with my free brand story worksheet. In it, you’ll discover what makes your brand story unique and how you can use that to stand out from your competitors.
What are you waiting for? Start creating your own magic today!