Disney – template for a successful viral campaign

by Lee Hayhurst
by Lee Hayhurst
May 4, 2012 04:04 PM GMT

At the recent Travel Distribution Summit in London, Disney set out the template for how to make a virally viable online marketing campaign.

Ginger Taggart, UK executive director of marketing at Disney Destinations International, focused on its Magical Moments campaign for Disneyland Resort Paris as a case study.

This featured the real life reactions of customers’ children at the point they were told they were going to visit a Disney theme park.

The concept was that the excitement of going to Disney starts then and underlined how the operator’s pledge to deliver magical moments.

Taggart said the campaign, that featured on television and the web, was built from understanding the customer intimately and from content that was already online on sites like Youtube.

“It’s important not to try to change customer behaviour but to leverage that. We built our campaign by going online,” she said.

“We are in the business of creating lifetime memories. We compete with a wide variety of demands on discretionary spend, not just travel.

“Things move so quickly in travel – if you realise that something is not meeting customer needs it’s often too late.

“With new forms of communication it’s changing very quickly and it’s all about how brand keep pace.”

The original Youtube footage gave Disney a key customer insight which it was able to use to develop the official campaign, which was to eventually generate 1.5 million YouTube hits.

Another insight Disney gained from its research was that consumers did not have an urgent reason to visit the Paris theme park, so it created the concept of a unique annual celebration.

It also wanted the campaign to have a celebrity endorsement so that the campaign was picked up by the media and distributed through third party partners.

But the operator did not just want to latch on to a celebrity so customer research in the UK among holidaymakers found photography was a key part of any trip.

However it discovered that one of the frustrations was that families rarely had good photographs with everyone in them because, inevitably, one of the group was taking the shot.

The survey, which found 82% of British families never get the perfect picture of themselves on holiday, was carried out regionally helping the campaign get local press coverage as well as national.

So Disney engaged the services of royal photographer Hugo Burnand who took the official photographs at the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding last year.

He became the park's first official photographer in residence and Disney estimated it earned over 188 individual pieces of coverage reaching 71 million people.

Taggart said there were five important elements of a virally viable campaign:

  • Begin with your customer
  • Ensure it fits with your brand ethic
  • Make sure it is authentic
  • Bring in third parties to extend reach
  • Be respectful - do not try to sell all the time

“We want to be authentic, relevant and guest-centric in all of our marketing. Meet your customers’ needs, that’s the most powerful aspect you can have for the impact of your campaigns,” Taggart said.

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