The 3 R’s of D23 “Rants, Raves and Reservations”
On this weeks Travelears “D23″ podcast, I shared my personal feelings regarding the way the online community has reacted to Disney’s D23 fan community announcements. Following the release of show 35, I received a lot of feedback in relation to my comments and many have asked me to discuss this topic further. As it is unlikely that the Travelears Podcast will produce another show on this topic, I thought that I would answer this feedback as a blog article.
I need to preface my comments by stating that I respect everybody’s right to have an opinion in anything that Disney introduces to the market. We are lucky that we live in countries that accept differing opinions and the right to free speech, and I strongly believe that feedback from the online community has created many positive changes for Disney lovers across the globe.
After listening to many podcasts, scanning websites and reading blogs and comments, it appears that the majority of responses can be classified into three major categories, Rants, Raves and Reservations.
As a businessman, the “3 R’s” relating to Disney’s D23 announcement made me ask myself, “If I was running Disney, what would this feedback mean to me and what would I do about it”.
So, if you will indulge me, I will step into Bob Iger’s shoes for a few minutes and take on the responsibility for running one of the largest, most successful companies on earth. My first task as the new boss will be to tackle each of the 3R’s one by one and talk about a few online discussions I witnessed.
As any business person will tell you, you will never satisfy all of your customers all of the time. In my opinion, some of the D23 rants were irrational emotional responses from people that you will never please, despite how much they are given.
Some of these rants were generated from people that had something to lose from Disney’s announcement and some were generated from the “we hate everything that Disney does” segment that will never support a Disney initiative. Some of these rants even began before the official announcements were made, without any factual information being available to make a logical assessment of what Disney was offering.
Other rants however were a lot more constructive in their nature, and were made by people that had an intimate knowledge of the current economic issues affecting Disney fans, the real needs of the online community and first hand experience of the Disney theme parks and the associated travel industry.
An Orlando local which I have considerable respect for, runs a very successful Disney website, a podcast and a Disney travel agency, made a number of very poignant comments during his recent podcast.
This podcaster pointed out to his audience that in his opinion Disney had missed the mark with this promotion and had ignored the real needs of fans visiting the parks. He made mention of the tough economic times that is making it increasingly difficult for Disney fans to convince their partners, families and friends to continue to hand over large amounts of cash to Disney, so we can continue to get our Disney “fix” and enjoy our Disney vacations and visits.
He continued by reminding his audience that if Disney really wanted to reward their fans they should be looking at what they could offer regular park visitors to reward their loyalty and to encourage these fans to continue visiting and spending in the parks. The podcast hosts encouraged their fans to write to Disney expressing their thoughts on what should be offered to loyal fans and provided the contact details for Disney.
In my opinion, these are the type of “rants” that Disney should be listening to, and as I am currently “pretending to run the Disney company”, I would be placing this feedback on my next meeting agenda when I meet with my senior executive team.
The idea of a frequent visitor program makes complete sense by rewarding guests that regularly spend money on my company’s products, services and new initiatives. Most major companies across the globe keep a database of their best customers and ensure that they reward them on a regular basis.
This is definitely not charity on behalf of the company, but a proactive marketing initiative to retain loyal customers and to encourage them to continue / increase their current spending.
I would also ask my executive team to redesign the current annual pass program. Many of Disney’s loyalist customers are annual pass holders, but the benefits have been slowly eroded over the past decade. As the majority of the revenue gained from annual pass holders occurs within the theme parks, I would want as many people as possible to become annual pass holders to allow them to visit the parks more often to give them more opportunity to spend money on merchandise, dining and other income generating activities. Again, this is not charity, but a proactive win-win marketing initiative for the company and our guests.
I would also organise meetings with many of the online community podcaters, webmasters and bloggers, to ask them first hand “what Disney fans really require” and try to align the companies marketing initiatives with these needs.
In regards to D23, I would instruct my marketing team to ensure that D23 initiative is differentiated to any other needs that the Disney fans may have. In my opinion, I believe that it is a shame that the hype created by the viral campaign has resulted in the expectations of the online community growing to such an extent, that Disney had no hope in achieving everything that the community expected and required.
It would have been interesting to see what the response would like from the Disney fans, if they launched D23 as a fan club from day one, without the marketing executives using a full blown viral campaign to create such frenzy within the online community.
In contrast to our D23 “ranters”, D23 also had its regular Disney “ravers”.
We all know these people and in their eyes Disney can do no wrong. Again, I reiterate that their opinions are still valid and people are entitled to their viewpoint, however it is disappointing that some of these people have almost become Disney zealots with no constructive opinion on new initiatives launched by the organisation.
A more constructive “rave” was on a well known podcasters show recently, where the host and his guests gave their opinions of D23 and what inclusions they were hoping for in the future. This podcaster also has a Disney related magazine currently on the market, and it was refreshing to hear that he welcomed the development of the twenty three magazine for Disney fans and was confident that Disney’s content would be of a very high calibre.
In my “pretend position as the head of Disney”, I would be listening to the constructive feedback coming from this segment of the community. These are the people that have competing products and services in the market place and exist to service the needs of the Disney online community.
The online community was developed through passionate Disney fans across the globe, and not a marketing initiative designed by an organisation to create additional revenues or increase market share.
I would be recommending to my Executive team, that Disney partner with the online community to further enhance the content that is available to Disney fans and to leverage off the success of an already well established and passionate online fan community.
Many members of the online community are still sitting on the fence in regards to D23 membership. The Travelears website crashed recently due to the amount of traffic attracted to the site when we posted the first pictures of the Charter Members gift that was part of the membership package. Many loyal Disney fans have waited anxiously to see exactly what they will be getting for their joining fee before signing on the bottom line.
In these tough economic times, many Disney fans are struggling to keep up with their regular “disney spend” and are deferring travel and discretionary spending until there is better economic news on the horizon.
It is fair to say that the cost of a D23 membership is a substantial financial commitment for many Disney fans, and I would be very interested to see how many people have joined D23 since the entire membership package has been revealed.
In my “pretend position as the head of the Disney company”, I would consider introducing a tiered D23 membership that would be more affordable to all Disney fans. A base cost of entry could be established with a menu of add-ons inclusions that members could include as part of their packages.
An example would be:
Individual membership: $10.00 (Basic D23 membership pack and inclusions)
Additional family members: $5.00
Magazine subscription: $60.00
Annual 4 Day Expo Passes: $25.00 per person
The above example would be an affordable way for many more people to participate in the fan club without the substantial up front cost. It would also allow Disney to add additional items to the membership as they become available.
A D23 3 R’s Summary
In conclusion, I believe that the D23 launch created more questions than it answered. If the intent of D23 was to solely launch a fan community, then the viral marketing campaign was a mistake.
The hype created within the community has created an un-winnable scenario for Disney, as whatever they delivered on launch day would never satisfy all the expectations of the online community.
I have personally become a D23 member, but I must admit that my decision was an emotional purchase as a passionate Disney fan, and definitely not the purchase of a frugal shopper. I really hope that D23 is a huge success, but I have doubts that the program will remain in its current form, especially at its current price point.
I believe that D23 will undoubtedly evolve over the coming months due to the feedback of the Disney online community and regular park guests. The Disney fan community is a vocal one and I am sure that Disney is closely monitoring the community’s feedback in regards to this issue.
Buy into the D23 program if YOU value its current inclusions and if YOU do not believe that D23 offers you $75 worth of value, let Disney know by constructively writing to them and expressing what you would like to see included in a fan club offering.
This purchase decision is a personal one and should be based on YOUR interpretation of the value offered by Disney.
In regards to my current “pretend position as the head of the Disney company”, I hope that my Executive Team have come to realise that that this is the perfect time to deliver a number of initiatives to further increase Disney’s market share and future revenues by acknowledging and rewarding our loyal customers.
Increasing park tickets costs, accommodation rates, dining costs, etc can only be sustained for a finite period and it is now time to identify the real needs of Disney’s loyal fans by creating innovative programs to reward regular users of Disney’s products and services, and to encourage ongoing spending over these increasingly tough times.
I would also encourage my marketing team to review its use of viral marketing tools and remind them that it is always better to “under promise and over deliver“, especially when dealing with a passionate and well informed online fan community.
Ok, back to reality and my real job…..
“Not The Head Of The Disney Company”