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How Disney Has Inspired Loyalty and Love

Five strategies the multinational media company has used to win over consumers.

Why do people insist on Starbucks when Second Cup is right next door? Or buy Apple products instead of Dell even though they make the same technologies? Why do people love Disney? To most, the answer is simply, they “just do.” So how do we justify the irrationality of our choices? The answer lies in the brand itself and how they have effectively moved in to the “lovemark” territory, inspiring action and loyalty beyond reason and coming out as the only choice.

Falling in love requires an attentive stream of events and for Disney, love is a well-articulated, maintained and persistent effort woven into its fabric putting us right where the brand wants: as loyal customers who love the brand without quite being able to explain why.

But love alone is not enough. Everlasting love is only possible when coupled with respect. Thus, love and respect together is the recipe to a brand’s lovemark status.

While it’s not a “one size fits all” scenario, there are a series of steps companies can take to achieve this combination of love and respect and help transform its brand to a lovemark. Let’s take Disney for example.

How did the Disney Brand became a lovemark?

Focus on the total experience

From its movies to theme parks and memorabilia, Disney works its magic to create experiences that anyone can relate to or fantasize about. It’s the type of experience that makes you want to watch the movie again as soon as it ends. Or, that makes a child pack their suitcase in case maybe, just maybe, someone will take them to a Disney theme park. Disney pays attention to even the tiniest of details which creates emotional attachment between the people and the characters. This profound sense of connection is what makes people fall in love with the brand. People think Disney and they automatically think happiness.

Create a relatable and projectable sense of identity

Let’s face it: Disney is the cool kid in the schoolyard. And our need to belong encourages us to identify with those that are cool. Kids capitalize on Disney’s cool factor, whether it’s through Disney-branded snacks in their lunch boxes, their Disney Halloween costumes or their latest Disney toys. No one outgrows Disney. The Disney brand becomes part of our identity in that, regardless of age, we’re not ashamed to tell the world that we love Disney and we love reminiscing about our Disney-filled childhoods.

Spark a sense of imagination while maintaining a certain mystery

Walt Disney famously said, “Disneyland will never be completed as long as there’s imagination left in the world.” Imagination lives at the heart of the Disney brand. Under the guise of “Imagineers,” Disney’s development team brings dreams and imaginations to life within its theme parks. This imagination leaves us for wanting the brand more and also leaves us with a sense of mystery as we do not know what to expect next. The allure of Disney is not easily explainable, yet it is strong enough to attract both children and every adult’s inner child, leaving us with something magical to discover.

Leverage your brand heritage

Disney hinges its brand on what is good and true in life. It captures nostalgia for the older generation and the hopes and aspirations of the younger generation. Building on the success of Steamboat Willie, Disney has successfully remained consistent to its heritage. This has given Disney a profound sense of meaning for its brand purpose: to preserve the magic of childhood. In this day and age, we often lose sight of authentic childhood despite the fact that childhood is so precious and fleeting. Disney’s reason for being resonates with us as it is rooted and grounded in a social need. Embracing Disney preserves this age of innocence, if not for ourselves, then for our children.

Establish a sense of trust

Each of Disney’s movies is built on gaining trust. Parents allow children to watch Disney because they know they will be “kid appropriate” and conclude in a happy ending. In the same fashion, adults enjoy watching Disney movies as they trust the movies will provide a lighthearted trip down memory lane. We’re all children at heart; Disney’s unwavering commitment to its promise has helped develop a deep sense of trust amongst people of all ages.

More than ever, consumers are bombarded with brands, all of which are fighting for their attention. It is getting increasingly difficult for marketers to build a brand that cuts through the clutter. Good brands are no longer enough, they have to be great brands. Great brands are the lovemark brands. As marketers, we have to master the management of emotions because the brand that manages emotions most effectively will always come out as the most rational choice.

Arjun PisharodyCharlene Tcheong, and Lauren McDonald are MBA Students in the new Customer Experience Design course at the Schulich School of Business at York University.