Effective storytelling touches hearts, fascinates and moves audiences. In the context of marketing, storytelling plays a critical role in the art of branding. A compelling brand story holds the power to emotionally engage consumers; creating a meaningful connection and resulting in unwavering brand loyalty.
In my opinion, no discussion of storytelling and branding is complete without mention of the Walt Disney Company.
The Walt Disney Company is the master of storytelling. The company was founded upon a story so powerful that it continues to drive what they do and underlies why they do it.
As a child, Walt Disney loved sketching cartoons. When he returned from serving as a Red Cross volunteer in World War I, he decided to dedicate his life to making cartoon motion pictures. With his heart set on pursuing his dream, in 1920 at the age of 19, he started his own company drawing cartoons of the creatures from his childhood. However, his journey to pursue his dreams was fraught with challenges. Upon starting his own company, Disney never had quite enough to eat, struggled to pay rent and was subsequently forced to live with friends. He enjoyed short-lived success when he created the short animation ‘Oswald the Rabbit’ however, in 1928, some of his cartoonists left taking Oswald with them. Disney was shattered. He returned to having nowhere to live and little money for food. Despite the obstacles and challenges Disney faced, he continued to persist and persevere. Nine decades later, Disney is one of the world’s leading producers and providers of entertainment and information. With a portfolio of brands, Disney continues to be the leader of creative, innovative and profitable entertainment experiences and products globally.
The Disney brand story engages and emotionally connects with consumers worldwide because Walt Disney’s life itself was a living testament to the brand’s values and essence. His story of hardship, struggle and his eventual success in fulfiling his childhood dream adds to the brand story’s authenticity and magic. Walt Disney was able to live his ‘magic kingdom’ throughout his entire life. His legacy and life story continues to inspire consumers with the audacity to pursue their dreams.
Moreover, the Disney Brand story engages and connects with consumers because the company communicates a consistent set of core values across all of its operations. Disney’s theme parks, hotels, restaurants, TV entertainment and retail stores are all unified under the vision and mission to deliver happiness and magical experiences.
However, no brand is perfect and Disney is no exception. As children are their primary target audience, the brand is constantly under surveillance. The recent provocative and reckless behavior of former Disney star Miley Cyrus has undermined the credibility, trustworthiness and “innocence” of the brand, causing many parents to question whether Disney stars are good role models for their children. Indeed, as the Disney brand name is synonymous with innocence and childhood, it is under constant scrutiny and it is compelled to uphold a flawless reputation; any slip-up or controversy can be particularly detrimental to the brand.
For more than nine decades, the Walt Disney Company has been at the forefront of family entertainment. From humble beginnings as a cartoon studio in the 1920s to a leading global corporation, the story behind the Walt Disney Company is engaging, compelling and above all – inspiring.
Walt Disney once said: “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” Indeed, the success of the Walt Disney brand proves that all your dreams can come true, if only you have the courage to pursue them.