You Wanna Talk Brands? Let’s Talk Disney!

With the world headed seemingly to hell in the ole proverbial hand basket, I was able to escape for a bit by hopping out of that basket and onto “The Disney Dream.” With 4,000 of my closest friends in tow along with 1500 in crew to take care of odds and ends, we set sail pretty much for no place and spent 4 days and 3 nights doing it. One of the two no places was an island owned by Disney. Were not being encased in characters for that length of time enough, on our return we decided to take the grandchildren to see, “Frozen: Disney on Ice.” There at $80 a ticket for nose-bleed seats, the characters come shooting out onto the ice from every angle. You can’t be frozen enough not to “feel the bern….” of Walt’s minions and their over sized imaginations.

Can you have had any measure of Americanization and not have a favorite Disney character? Me thinks not. My daughter was always partial to Dopey. I favored Goofy and Pluto. Now every year seems to bring another wave of “newbies” to join the fleet of enduring tried and true original collection. I will have more reflections on the whole experience, but for now the genius of branding is what’s got me so riveted.

There are a multitude of brands that have become so ubiquitous that all other categories of the product are known by their name. Does anyone go out to by Scott tissues? Of course not, even if they are what you come home with. What you put on your list was Kleenex. All manner of clear tape is Scotch Tape. Jeans are Levis, no matter what the label in the closet says. Some brand are Zeus like in their power. Coke clearly is one of those. But these are items. Disney encompasses a world, two actually–real and imaginary.

Everything is Mickey centered. Like the aging Godfather he benignly oversees all. He is everywhere–all the time. Sometimes he’s with Minnie. Pluto might tag along. He goes on an adventure with Donald and Goofy. As Walt’s first and favorite child, his place is as secure as is the corporation. But rarely is he alone. Far more so than at the parks, the ship is total immersion Disney. “No place to run; no place to hide.” But then again one doesn’t take a Disney cruise to do either.

Out on deck, when the deck isn’t being used by the characters to sing, dance, put on a play or all of the above, there is a movie screen that dwarfs those at a drive-in movie theater that is playing the latest and greatest Disney movies. At announced hours there are character interactions. On the stateroom TV are Mickey cartoon loops. And let us not forget the gift shops. The gift shops are like the shops of idols that Abraham grew up in until he discovered the one true God, or at least that condensing them all into one was a far easier way to go.

What amazes are both the costs involved and the willingness of people to pay those costs. The cruise was five grand plus. I over heard a father placating a son who couldn’t find what he wanted in one of the shops saying, “Don’t worry, we have all next week at Disney World to find it.” At 11 dollars a refillable coke, the parks are like Las Vegas–many different places to spend your money and they’re all in the same place. I estimate, exclusive of travel costs, a week at the park is $1,000 for a family of four. And that’s without the $11 coke and anything else one needs or would like to have, like food and lodging.

And but for the occasional over tired parent or child who has a melt-down, this money is happily spent. Rain or shine folks are walkin’ around like they’ve reached the pinnacle of the American family experience, like they had been transported to Brigadoon.

Given the terrorist attacks in Europe and the Middle East, given the personal attacks this political season I have to wonder if maybe that expensive respite isn’t the pinnacle of the American family experience–at least from my perspective.



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