Monday, November 9, 2009

How Disney's Marketing Made A Mark On Me

As I've made my career in advertising, I often ignore advertising altogether. When I do view or listen to an ad, I often do so as a critic rather than consumer and, as such, I often miss the intended marketing message altogether. However, as jaded and as hardened as I may be, every now and again I do get caught up in an ad campaign that does make me want to act.

The most prominent example has come recently with the release of Disney's A Christmas Carol. Let me add that I'm not one who enjoys going to the theater to see movies and enjoy them more on DVD or cable, in the comfort of my own home. But A Christmas Carol is different for me.

This version of A Christmas Carol is a 3D, animated feature with Jim Carrey, Colin Firth and others. Their voices were used for the characters and their made-up features were used for the animation. And, if you didn't see it in Oklahoma City or wherever you live, through the spring, summer, and fall, Disney outfitted a special train which traveled across the country, featuring engines and five or six cars, all vinyl wrapped to highlight and promote the movie. Inside, one could see models created of Victorian era London that were made for the animation, actual costumes, Charles Dickens' mementos such as his desk and ink pen, and maquettes (a hand crafted wax model) of each character. In another car, you could digitally morph your face onto a character from the movie and, in the last car (which was decorated for Christmas including fireplace and yuletide scent), visitors were serenaded by Christmas carolers in Victorian period costumes. After you exited the train, you were invited to view a 10 minute, 3D, making-of preview in the portable, air conditioned theater near the train.

About a month ago, when TV spots for the movie first started running, I found myself stopping what I was doing and watching them (which I rarely do). I watched for the scenes I saw in the preview and for the effects I'd seen made behind the curtain. And I actually thought I might want to go to the theater to see the movie.

So how did that happen? Because, by allowing me that behind the scenes look that not everyone got, Disney and it's Christmas Carol train made a personal connection with me. And via that connection, I took "ownership" of the movie and became an ambassador for it. I told everyone I knew about the train, its' contents, and the preview. And, like someone who discovers a new restaurant or "first adopter" discovering a new product, I'm excited to see the movie and to tell more people about it. I'm not naive enough to think I'm the only one who felt this way, but consider that if everyone who visited the train did what I did and told all their friends about it, then the word of mouth advertising alone likely paid for the expense of the train ten-fold.

Now think about your marketing, advertising, product, and service. What do you do, say, or sell that makes a connection with your customer? If you can't answer that question, then maybe it's time to look behind the scenes at your marketing and advertising strategy. And remember, you can't go wrong with a train that tours the country!