Walt Disney Knew How To Get The Word Out
You need to get the word out about your products but your economic
resources are limited. That was often the dilemma that faced Walt
Disney. Often burdened with heavy debt, he found many creative ways
to let the public in on what he was doing. His innovative marketing
ideas could be used by businesses seeking publicity today.
1) Capitalize on current events: In 1930 Walt felt that Mickey
Mouse who was constantly surrounded by barnyard animals should get a
dog. He vividly described to his artists a funny mutt that his
family kept on their farm when he grew up in Marceline Missouri, to
the point of getting down on all fours, sniffing around and making
barking noises. Animator Norman Ferguson transformed Walt’s great
acting performance into a cartoon canine named Rover . . . for five
months. Then Disney read that an amateur astronomer named Clyde
Tombaugh had discovered a ninth planet in our solar system called
Pluto and Walt cashed in on the resulting publicity by giving
Mickey’s pet a new name.
2) Get your employees behind your product: Snow White And The
Seven Dwarfs (1937) took three long years to complete and Walt
suffered through many doubts about the film’s marketing direction.
He worried when the press called it “Disney’s Folly” , then realized
it was good to have people talk about it. He rejected a salesman’s
idea that he should eliminate the dwarfs from the advertising,
pushing the love story between Snow White and the Prince instead.
But throughout the stressful production his cartoonists stayed loyal
and enthusiastic, often using their free time to run around Los
Angeles to tack up advertising posters. Snow White was a world wide
success but perhaps the artists got a little too excited. After the
money rolled in Walt threw his animators a party in gratitude. He
later regretted it when his some of the more bohemian members of his
staff chose the occasion to let their hair down, and the family
event turned into a wild orgy. Any rift that the outrageous behavior
caused with the boss was forgotten by 1953 when many of his employees
came to Walt’s aid to financially back Disneyland.
3) Embrace new technology: In 1927 Walt made two Mickey Mouse
cartoons that were rejected by distributors. Then sound was ushered
into the movie business with Warner Bros. The Jazz Singer. Fearful
silent film stars began consulting astrologists to predict the
future, but most movie moguls shrugged off actors talking as a fad.
Movies without dialogue sold throughout the world, who wanted to rock
the boat? The unknown Walt Disney seized the opportunity, and with
great difficulty added synchronized sound to the third Mickey Mouse
cartoon, Steamboat Willie (1928) which resulted in the rodent
becoming a national craze. Later history repeated itself in the
early 50’s when most of the moguls rejected the idea of television.
Walt embraced the new medium as a way to keep the public informed
about what his studio was doing.
4) Publicity is better than advertising: Today the Walt Disney
Company is an aggressive marketing behemoth that spends up to fifty
million advertising individual movies. Recent campaigns have
included displaying the title of films on grocery divider sticks at
supermarket checkout stands. But their founder had a different
philosophy. As a young man Walt had left his job working for an
advertising firm to start his own entertainment company and never
wavered from his preference. When he entered television he always
frowned on commercials, preferring instead to get publicity with fun,
behind the scenes looks at new projects. He eventually left his
first network ABC, accusing them of ruining the very popular Mickey
Mouse Club (1955-1959) with too many interruptions.
5) What’s In A Name?: Originally the studio started in 1923 was
called the Disney Brothers. The younger, temperamental and risk-
taking Walt was in charge of the creative direction, while the older
and more cautious Roy, a former bank teller, kept the books. For
forty-three years their partnership was a combination of love,
ferocious arguments and give and take. In 1926 Walt convinced Roy
that they should change the name of their enterprise to Walt Disney,
it would make their products more identifiable. A bemused Roy went
along with it, sensing his sibling’s greater need for fame. The
name Walt Disney remained associated with family entertainment even
after both brothers passed on.
In 1994 Warner Bros. had high hopes for a feature cartoon called
Thumbelina. But preview audiences found it boring, a reaction that
bewildered disappointed studio executives. A week later they showed
it again with a small change: The exact same film said Walt Disney
Presents in the opening credits. The test scores went way up and
several people in the audience inquired where they could buy
Want to hear more stories? Stephen Schochet is the author and
narrator of the audiobooks Fascinating Walt Disney and Tales Of
Hollywood. The Saint Louis Post Dispatch says,” These two elaborate
productions are exceptionally entertaining.” Hear RealAudio samples
of these great, unique gifts at http://www.hollywoodstories.com.