Five things your business can learn from Disney

“How do kids find new music?” is the question that I set out to answer in my article for The Industry Standard this week – “Tweens, teens increasingly turn to MySpace, iTunes, and illegal P2P services for music.” Go have a read if you’re interested in what I found.

In the course of researching and writing that article, I couldn’t get Disney out of my mind. Even though I don’t mention Disney in the article, the entertainment and media giant was there, framing every thought. Disney is the champion of the tween market, not only with its TV programming but also with its music efforts.

Hannah MontanaAt a time when the music industry is faltering, Disney’s success in the music industry is only growing. According to an article on CNET, Walt Disney Records’ music sales grew 60% from 2006 to 2007 due to the “tween and young-teen music craze led by Disney star Miley Cyrus.” This was at a time when music sales were down 17% overall.

And Cyrus (aka Hannah Montana) is joined by other Disney hits in appealing to the tween crowd. Along with 2006’s High School Musical, the boy band group The Jonas Brothers is set to be another huge sensation for Disney.

Disney may have millions of dollars in marketing to back up their successes, but there are a few things that everyone can take away from the company’s success and apply to their own businesses. Here are five things that you can do to be just like Disney:

1. Fake it ’til you make it. When Disney introduces a new potential star to its audience, it makes sure that the nobody looks like a somebody from the first moment they are introduced. The singer is usually introduced in a short-clip music video or concert during a commercial break on the Disney Channel. That video shows a huge crowd of adoring, hip, teenage fans screaming and swooning for the “star.” This crowd is made up of paid and wannabe actors, and the music video is usually shot in a studio. But it looks like the singer is a star, and more importantly people believe the singer is a star, even before it is true.

Jonas Brothers2. Be yourself. Part of the appeal of the Disney stars is that they seem so real. Because of this, they appeal to both tweens and their parents. And to maintain that image in front of so much media scrutiny, it’s likely that the stars are mostly just being themselves. Sincerity is appealing, and operating a business that you believe in and behaving with integrity while operating it will help attract – and keep – customers.

3. Remember that you’re building a brand. While Disney stars may be “being themselves,” they are never outside of the watchful eye of the media, and as such have to behave in a way that will build their brand – always. One little slip up (such as Cyrus’ photo incident with Vanity Fair), might be able to be overcome with an apology. But constant deviations from your brand will leave your customers confused and angry.

High School Musical4. Piggyback on previous success. The Jonas Brothers, Disney’s up-and-coming prospects who you often hear compared to The Beatles (at least by Disney), first toured as the opening act for – Hannah Montana. By piggybacking on the success of one musician, Disney was able to launch the careers of another group that appeals to the same demographic. In the same way, piggyback one business success off of another whenever possible.

5. Let your customers in on the action. One of the biggest reasons that High School Musical was so popular was that it invited everyone in to learn the songs and the dances. Both fans and customers want to be included, so figure out ways to draw your audience in and let them participate every chance you get.

 

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