Reflections on a Disney Bender

by | Feb 6, 2023 | good business

Small businesses can use storytelling in their marketing too

A few weeks ago, I went to Disney World on a family vacation.

Shortly after our arrival, I lost myself. 

Mentally, I noticed my sense of time, place, and self melting away like a Mickey Mouse ice cream bar. 

In short, I was entirely engrossed in the moment. I was in now now. All future consequences vanished. As we ate and spent our way through all four parks, I became increasingly disconnected from the guardrails of a disciplined life. The number of calories I can reasonably burn in one day became a fuzzy idea. The fiscal boundaries of my vacation budget vanished. The most important thing was to not stop. Don’t think – just move on to the next fun thing! It was glorious.

I think this is what they call “Disney Magic.”

It was followed by a Disney hangover. But I learned a few things:

1. Disney World is all about “Design”

Every aspect of your stay is crafted by unseen human hands. Like any good Design, you don’t really notice it because it doesn’t distract you from the experience. The parks are spotless. The bathrooms sparkle. Happy music energizes your step. Anticipation permeates every moment. Anticipation is the fuel that keeps your adrenaline going. Anticipation is the real fun at Disney World. And it’s all been intentionally designed.

2. A themed environment can cast a spell

Sculpted landscapes and decor sprout from everything that can withstand the weight of plaster, concrete, and spray paint. But nothing feels cheap or fake. There is something entirely enchanting about being in an “Imagineered” landscape like the Beast’s castle or inside an Imperial Star Destroyer. With some imagination and a little bit of pixie dust, you really feel like you’re there.

3. Stories make everything better

A mediocre theme park ride plus a compelling story equals a great theme park ride. Let’s be honest, the rides at Disney aren’t anything special. From a pure “thrill” perspective, Disney World is a letdown. But that’s OK, they have something better than thrill, they have Story. Story is their secret sauce and they use it masterfully. There’s always some new theme-related detail to catch your attention, reinforce the story, and delight.

So What, Barton?

What does this have to do with you and your marketing challenges? Disney hasn’t trademarked all storytelling (yet). You have the power of storytelling at your fingertips too!

After all, storytelling is simply a way of communicating information, ideas, or emotions through a sequence of events or characters. And because you’re a person – and your company is made up of people – you have plenty of fascinating stuff to share. Maybe you can’t make a full-length animated feature. Neither can I. But here are three things we can do:

  1. Create a brand story: Develop a narrative that tells the story of your business, its origins, and its mission. The story can be used across all marketing efforts to help customers connect emotionally with your brand. It can be as simple or complicated as you want it to be. My go-to person for business storytelling is Holly Fisher (StoryBrand Guide). 
  2. Tell customer stories: Share real-life stories of how your products or services have positively impacted your customers’ lives. This can be done through written testimonials, videos, or social media posts.
  3. Go “behind the scenes”: Give customers a glimpse into the day-to-day operations of your business, such as the process of creating a new product, a “people moment” from your company’s break room, or a slice of the daily routine. It may be boring to you, but it won’t be to an outsider.
  4. BONUS IDEA: Develop a mascot or character for your company like the Geico Lizard or those dumb Charmin Bears. Here I’ll go first:

Outha Boximus and Morty S. work in the Brainstorm Department and come up with all the great ideas. Splotch is there too, but he’s more of a stain on the department.

Remember, stories are always personal and, at their best, create emotional connections with your customers. We do this by describing the benefits and features of your products in a way that appeals to their emotions. Ideally, we do it in an organic and authentic way. 

Okay back to the hangover. I need to go make some money to refill my vacation fund. 

Have a great week,