What I Learned at Disney

Have you seen that commercial where a couple of kids in their pajamas start jumping up and down on the couch when their parents tell them they’re going to Disney? These aren't my kids, but Disney liked their excitement so much that they used part of their home video in a Disney commercial. The 30-second spot below will make you smile.

Well, I sort of felt like that kid when my family visited Walt Disney World the week before Christmas.

Now back from that magical trip, I realized that along with a lot of fun, I learned a few things from “The Mouse.” In fact, Disney itself provides a great look at how to do marketing and customer service really well.

The Mouse knows marketing

Much has been written about the Mouse marketing machine — for good and for evil. The November 2010 Newsweek article “The Business of Magic” provides an interesting overview of how Disney makes millions each year.

If you watched the Christmas Day parade at the Disney Parks you got a taste of this. Every float included some reference to a new movie, new video game, new cruise ship, new park attraction or new hotel run by Disney. While my kids loved it, it was really one long commercial for all the ways you can spend your money with Disney.

And believe me, there are many ways to spend your money with Disney!

Yet, after spending a day with $4 ice cream sandwiches in the shape of a mouse, you still come away feeling that it was all worth it. How do they do it?

The Mouse knows customer service  

Those upbeat cast members (employees) have a lot to do with your experience. It seems everywhere you go someone is wishing you, “Have a Magical Day!” But it’s more than that.

When our room wasn’t a good fit, the cast member at our resort went above and beyond to get us a new room — and a refund! When we needed transportation at 4 a.m. to make our flight on time, the cast member who picked us up in a golf cart to catch our bus was almost too cheery and gave our kids special buttons for doing such a good job so early in the morning.

The attention to detail in such an immense place is a bit overwhelming.

I remember sitting in “France” at Epcot and noticing the tiny Eiffel towers among the blue ribbons and garlands that decorated the gift shop. And don’t think you’ll see a piece of trash lying about — at least not for more than the two minutes it takes for a cast member to come along and snap it up. Quite a feat for a place filled with small children. I wish I had someone at my house who would do that!

When the magic is gone

Of course, Disney World is not a perfect place. Our late nights ended with long lines for a shuttle that was usually crowded with weary parents and crying children.  

But now back home, I barely remember the crowds or the lines. Instead, I think of my daughter asking princesses for autographs at Cinderella’s castle and my son dueling with Darth Vader at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. I reminisce with the hundreds of photos now downloaded from my camera.

The truth is we all really need a place to escape from the “real world” every now and then.

We all need a place to dream about what could be. And if some great marketing and fantastic customer service helped get me there, so be it. I’ll take magical memories with my kids wherever I can find it.

With that I say, “May your 2011 be magical and filled with big dreams!”

Donna Dunn thinks the flying elephants ride is way overrated, but insists you try Soarin’ at Epcot!