Customers don’t just pay for products. The modern customer pays for the full experience. Join Jesse Cole as he sits down with marketing wizard Andrew Lock in a discussion about Walt Disney, the magic of Disneyland, and the customer experience. Andrew and Jesse trade insights on what makes customers tick and how to leverage that to improve your customers’ experience. They talk about building pathways, and not fences, for customers to enjoy their experience.
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Creating A Magical Experience: Walt Disney And The Customer Experience With Andrew Lock
I’m pumped to welcome the author of Walt Disney’s Way and the epic marketing guru himself, Andrew Lock, to the show. Andrew, welcome.
Thank you very much, Jesse. It’s good to be here.
I’m fired up. I connected with you through your book, Walt Disney’s Way, but you have a very interesting story of how you got into marketing. Give a context of your story because you fell in love with Walt and Walt Disney World, but you started with marketing. Share your story a little bit for readers.Any business that's not focused on creating an experience is in real danger of going the way of the Dodo. Click To Tweet
It all started one day as a young British school kid. I was around fourteen years old and I was in the doctor’s waiting room waiting for an appointment. I picked up a Reader’s Digest, which the younger members of the readers may not know what that is. It’s a widely monthly circulated magazine. In that Reader’s Digest, there was an article all about Walt and it fascinated me. I was so taken by this. I was called into the doctor, so I asked if I could take it. I stayed up late that night reading the rest of the article and I resonated so much with Walt. I was bullied at school. I resonated with the things that he described about his childhood.
From that point onwards, as a young fourteen-year-old, I wanted to learn about Walt. I never thought that I would even visit one of the theme parks being in England. That time did come in 1989 when I left school and it led to a lifelong quest of understanding him. He was a lot of the reason why I got interested in marketing because once you understand deeply what he did and how he did it, he was such a genius. The success of the business is no accident. It all traces back to Walt. He had a lot of help, and his brother was supportive, but it was his vision and his genius. He was such a smart marketer.
It’s funny because over the decades, I’ve studied him and the company. When they make a misstep as they do from time to time, it’s easy for me to see why it went wrong and why they shouldn’t have done that in the first place because Walt set the model for them to follow. It’s fascinating to me that decades on where they do veer away from his original the things that he’d laid out, that’s when things get messed up. I love Walt and I’m fascinated by him. I’ve read every book, watched every documentary, and visited the parks hundreds of times. I’m a Disney geek for sure.
That’s why we’re kindred spirits. When I’ve read it, I’m so inspired by trying to bring it to the Bananas. What I picked up from that was one of Walt’s famous quotes, “Curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” People don’t talk about that as much. When we find something, we keep digging. You started doing tons of research, learning and going to the parks, fascinated with it, and you end up writing a book. One thing that we talked about was you said everything is marketing and I couldn’t agree more. Share what that perspective for you and that you’ve learned from Walt because that’s important for the readers to know.
Marketing is something that’s misunderstood. Some people equate it with advertising and certainly, advertising is part of it. Some people think of sales, but it is often confused. In the book, I mentioned the official definition of marketing, which is quite snooze-inducing. Here’s the official definition of marketing from the American Marketing Association. It says, “Marketing is the process of planning and executing the conception pricing promotion and distribution of ideas, goods and services to create exchanges that satisfy individual and organizational objectives.”
I have a very low tolerance for corporate speak, which is what that is. I thought, “We need a better definition of marketing so that everyone can understand.” This is what I came up with. I say that marketing is anything that you or your employees do that affects other people’s view of your business. That’s it. To give you an example, if you walk into let’s say a flower shop and you’re ignored, you say, “Hello,” and the girl is on the phone or whatever. What’s your impression of that business?
They don’t care.
No one said anything. You immediately have that impression. To give another example, I received a box of cookies that I ordered online. I opened the box and there was this foul smell of smoke. The person packing the box would have been smoking at the time they packed the box. My immediate reaction and my view of that company are negative. That is marketing. I could go on and on with examples, but the point is it is everything that you and your employees do. That’s how important it is.There's always around 20% of your customers, clients, or guests that want the best no matter what the price is. Click To Tweet
Tell me about going to your history with Walt Disney. What was the one thing that happened when you were younger or maybe at any point where you’re like, “This touched me,” that you want to tell people about? It was marketing but it wasn’t marketing. Is there any little story or some touchpoints in it?
One of my favorites is after Disneyland opened, which was the park that he directly designed every nut and bolt essentially of. He loved walking around the park in the morning and he had a little apartment there above the fire station. One of the mornings not long after the park opened, Walt was up near the castle. One of the gardeners came rushing up to him and he said, “Mr. Disney, we have a problem. Can I show you? Come over here.” He said, “The guests are walking over this grassy area and even on these flower beds to take pictures of the castle. We need to put a fence up to stop them doing that.” This is such an insight into Walt’s response. Without a moment’s hesitation, he said, “The guests are absolutely right. What we need is a pathway here, not a fence.”
That perfectly illustrates the difference between the average employee and there was nothing wrong with the gardener’s attitude. He wanted to protect the hard work that he has done. There’s nothing wrong with that, but what he failed to see was the bigger picture was why are we even doing that in the first place? It’s for everything. It’s for the guest. We’re not making a nice garden so that we can protect it. That was the brilliance of him. That was the genius. He didn’t even need to think about it. He said, “We need the pathway there. The guests are right.”
It’s the simple genius. I’m going to put those two together because when you look on the outside, it’s easy. You gave me some of the most brilliant inspiration. You didn’t even realize. I don’t know if you thought about this. Are you creating pathways or you’re putting out fences? Are you creating pathways for your customers or your fans or you’re adding fences? If you look at most businesses, one person walks into your store without a shirt or something and you put up a sign that says, “No shoes, no shirt, no service.” If you pay with this, “Sorry, you can only pay with this.” They’re putting more fences because one person went something differently or going off-script.
To your point about the store, Disney themselves adopted the practice of many of these stores with fragile things. They say, “If you break this, you bought it.” Disney’s attitude is, “If you break something, we’ll be happy to replace it for you.” I know someone that that happened to. They bought an expensive $80 figurine that the young child accidentally dropped. A cast member saw it and without a moment’s hesitation, they replaced it for them. It was a wow moment and a wow experience. They said, “Our whole philosophy is we want guests to be happy. You would be sad if you had to walk out here and you’d broken that $80. It’s more important that you’re happy because you’re going to come back again.”
I could jam on this because it’s easy to think, are you creating pathways or creating fences? You talk about this indirectly in the way they connect all their stores in Disneyland and Disney World. We have pathways going all the way through. Let’s talk about the experience of a Disney Store. I’ve had a few and I know you’ve probably had 100. Let’s talk about the lessons we can take from the way their stores are created.
You mentioned one there, which is that there are no walls between the stores, and that was one of Walt’s ideas that people should be able to walk from one to the other. He felt that it would be a bad thing if someone had to exit a store and then go back in if they’re already in a store and they see other things down the line that can entice them. The other reason is it serves a practical value because when there’s inclement weather, people can filter into the stores and walk all the way down Main Street undercover, which gives even more opportunities to shop as well. One other thing that they do, which defies belief that not more retailers do this and I’ve never come across anyone that does it, is they make it super-duper easy to buy.
What I mean by that is, for example, if you want a large character toy or doll or a big R2-D2 or something, you don’t want to carry that around the park all day. Disney realized that would be a reason to prevent someone from buying one of those items. What they do is if you stay at a Disney Resort, all you have to do is say, “Here’s my room number.” At the end of the day, when you go back to your room, that item is in your room for you or whatever it is. It doesn’t have to be big. It can be anything you buy anywhere on Disney property. If you’re not staying at a Disney Resort, they will keep the item for you so that you can pick it up at a convenient location at the end of the day. They realize what the pain points are. One of them being people don’t want to carry things around all day in the park, so they’ve overcome that with a simple thing that wows the customer because no one else does that.
It wows a customer making things easier. Devon, our group’s Experience Coordinator said, “I’m trying to solve how to make it as easy as possible for a group to work with us and keep up with us.” She mapped out a year-round program of coordination, talking to them, connecting to them to make it easier. It’s a simple little thing. It’s creating a pathway for your customers.
This can be applied to every aspect of business as well. One of the things that people often say to me is, “Andrew, I’m not in the theme park business.” The point is that, as you rightly saw from the book, in all of these things, what you can do is adapt the lesson from Disney. We’re not saying you should directly adopt it because you’re not in the same business, but taking that example of making it easy for people to buy. If you have a website and you sell, why are you making people register as a customer before you accept their order? That’s a barrier. It’s a fence. People do not like having to register in order to buy. If you make the process as easy as possible and as simple and straightforward, the mind boggles as to how difficult it is for even big companies to make it to buy something from them. It’s astonishing how difficult they make it.
I know we’re going from Disney to Amazon, which is completely different, but there’s the 1-Click by Amazon. They’ve trademarked that. What’s your one-click experience for your business? That’s key. We could jam on so many of these things. I want to go on a few things that are a little bit in premium pricing. You had a whole chapter on creating a magical experience. Disney talks so much about magic and they talk about the experience. I want to know what wowed you, a particular example from Disney that also is applicable?
The experience aspect is not coincidental. Harvard Business Review did a milestone report a few years back where they traced the history of retailing and what they found was that we went from originally what they called the Agricultural Economy to the Service Economy in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s. We then went to the Experience Economy, which is now. What that essentially means is that although the last process of the way that people like to buy was the overriding factor that people looked at was customer service, but we’ve now reached a point where good customer service is expected. We’ve gone beyond that into what’s called the experience economy. Walt was decades ahead of his time because he was focused on the experience economy way back then.
The point is that any business that’s not focused on creating an experience is in real danger of going the way of the dodo because even if you have a commodity-type product or service, people still want experiences and long gone are the days of transactional selling. It is not good enough now to say, “I have this product or service. Would you like it or not? If you would, here’s the amount of money you need to pay me.” People don’t tolerate that anymore.
To give you a quick example from another industry, if you take flying for example, in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s, all the airlines focused on customer service. We have the nicest staff and all the rest of it. The Middle Eastern airlines leapfrogged them because most of the American airlines and the British airlines thought, “That’s what people want,” and they failed to move past that. When you look at airlines like Qatar, Emirates, and so on, it is absolutely mind-blowing how much better the experience is.In order to stand out from the crowd, gain traction, and grow in business, we have to do things differently. Click To Tweet
What are they doing? I haven’t flown with it.
First of all, in Qatar for example, they give you a menu that’s a Cheesecake Factory menu. It’s a humongous menu. Think about that. It’s obvious and yet, no one does it. What they say to you is, “Here’s the menu. Whenever you’re hungry, let us know and we’ll bring you what you want.” All the US airlines, British airlines and every airline say, “This is the mealtime,” and you have these 2 or 3 choices. The Middle Eastern Airlines threw that out the window because people don’t want to always eat when they’re told to eat, do they?
No. They want freedom. Do they have a full kitchen in these planes?
They don’t have a full kitchen, but they have more choice. In Qatar, they have a dozen different juice selections, for example, and all these different teas and so on. It’s amazing. In addition to that, in the center section, the two seats that are together can be converted into a double bed if you’re traveling with a partner or a mate. Other airlines didn’t even think of that. The TV screen in front of you is like the one that you have at home. It’s absolutely enormous and immersive. It’s a wow experience. There are many things that they do that solve irritations that people have on these other airlines that I mentioned. I travel a lot, so I see these things firsthand. Any airline could do it, but they don’t.
It’s hard to do this. What Walt Disney did in the 1950s was hard.
It definitely takes more effort.
It would be a lot harder when you’re out of business. As I’m working on our book, I wrote, “Normal is the new friction.” I say one of the first steps to creating fans is eliminating the friction. Our expectations are high. We get attention and everything is so fast. We get what we want. Not only it’s often magical or wow experiences, but you also talk about the level of a premium experience. You have a whole chapter on this. I got to be honest with you, Andrew, and I know the readers know this. I don’t talk about dollars. I don’t talk about money. When I saw that Walt had his quote, “Money doesn’t excite me. My ideas excite me,” I was like, “Walt is speaking the same language.”
I get more fired up about doing crazy things at the ballpark and changing the game than I do money. However, you do need money to work and luckily, Walt had Roy who could find the money. Me and our President, Jared Orton and our team, need to look at these premium experiences because there are opportunities not to get more money or not to extract money, but to offer more, which is worthy of more money from the fans. Talk to me about the premium experiences at Disney. Explain that to me and let’s go on there.
One of my mentors shared with me many years ago something that always stuck with me, and that is that in any business, there’s always around 20% of your customers, clients, guests or whatever you want to call them that want the best. It doesn’t matter what it is or what the price is. For within reason, they want the best that you have. If you don’t have that, there’s no way that they can buy it. They still want it, but if you don’t offer it, then you’re not going to get the sale. In line with that, a great quote, which I don’t know who first said this but I love this, “In business, business owners tend to sell as they would buy.” What that essentially means is that we tend to sell according to our own preferences. If we tend to be ourselves somewhat of a price shopper, we’ll tend to sell in that way based on, “We have the best prices.”
If we, ourselves, tend to be someone who’s focused on the importance of customer service when we buy something, that’s how we’ll tend to sell. What we need to realize is that not everyone is like us and that’s why we need to have this feedback. People have many different preferences. Price, incidentally, is generally at the lowest on the rung of importance. Few people get that. Most people do not shop by price. Even if they say they do, they don’t because there are many other things that are more important if you get into it with them and they go, “That is more important.”
Coming back to the key lesson here about premium pricing, Disney has run with this in the last few years. One of the things that they realized they hit a barrier with was soft drinks. They’ve had arrangements with Coke products for decades, but the challenge is that everybody knows the price of a Coke. Everybody knows that if you go into a local store, you pay about $1 for a Coke. Disney pushed the boundary because they can but they can only push it so far. They found about $4 was the limit of what they could charge for a Coke.
What they realized was they needed to do something creative and step outside of those limits, so they did two things. The first thing that they did with the new Star Wars land at Disneyland and Disney Studios in Florida was they went to Coke and they said, “Can you make us some special themed Coke bottles for all the Coke products, Coke, Sprite, Dasani water, and so on?” Coke came back to them and they said, “Sure.” They created these bottles that have Star Wars designs from the movies with unique character writing and the only place in the world that you can buy them is at those parks. They’re filled with the exact same Coke, Sprite and water, but they charge $8 or $9 for each one of those little bottles.
They have special milk and then also, at Universal Studios, with Harry Potter, they have the butterbeer.
That was the other thing they did. They created unique drinks that you can’t get anywhere else and they can charge $12 to $15 for those. They first did it at Cars Land Disney California Adventure. They have five different drinks that are unique and it was successful, so they rolled it out in the New Fantasyland. They have a drink called LeFou’s Brew, and they did it with two different colors for $12 to $15. It speaks to the fact that there’s always a market for the most premium thing that you can offer. That also ties in with the principle of, “Don’t allow guests to create apples-to-apples comparisons in their mind.” I don’t know the details of how you run the stadium there, but one thing that you may want to consider is approaching a vendor that sells drinks that you can’t get in other places.
We have a cream soda and our special banana beer.
I would totally have that cream soda. That sounds amazing. It’s a great example. If you’re doing popcorn, for example, Disney doesn’t sell just popcorn. It always has some theming and unique flavor around it. If you were doing popcorn, you could have it banana flavored, for example, with maybe little banana chips or whatever. The point is people cannot get that anywhere else and because of that, they can’t make the apples-to-apples comparison so you can charge a premium price.
I’m excited to share this with our team because you’re right. The first point you made was if we’re not willing to buy it, we feel like there’s not a customer base that buys it. I don’t think about leaving money on the table. I think about leaving fans on the table, but theoretically, we are if fans want these types of things, so I need to realize that it’s not just about the money.
It ties in with the experience, which is another plus because when someone experiences the banana cream soda or the banana popcorn or whatever it is, it is an experience because they’ve never had that before. The only place they can get it in the world is at that stadium. It makes it special and it makes it another part of all of these little different things that you’ve done to create an experience that is unique.
You also mentioned Club 33, which we’re thinking about coming up with a Club 26. We got some concepts at our stadium. What do they charge for that? Is that a $25,000 initiation fee or something?
Club 33 was an original club that Walt created to host visiting dignitaries because if they were to walk through the park, they would get mobbed. He needed a private place within the park that he could take them that had a restaurant and a bar and so on. After Walt passed away, they thought they could keep it going, but just make it an exclusive private club for members only and it’s become so popular. There’s a ten-plus year waiting list, so at times, it’s been even up to fifteen years. It’s a $25,000 initiation fee plus annual dues and there’s always a waiting list for it because it’s that exclusive.
Not only just the regular items that you can plus as Walt would do but what are those exclusive limited access opportunities? You’d be afraid like, “I’m a flower shop,” or, “I’m a plumber.” I’m like, “There are levels of cream.” How does that fit in with the pricing model? You have a whole chapter on the pricing model as well and you have the pricing principle that you talked about.With contracts, the only ones that win are the lawyers. Click To Tweet
What they’ve tried to do over the years is have something to serve everyone. If you look at their hotels and resorts as a good example because right on the lowest end, if someone’s on a limited budget, they have to camp ground, which is still experiential. They’ve put great effort into making that nice but affordable. They have what they’ve called the Value Resorts and Moderate Resorts. Then they have the premium resorts and they’ve added ultra-premium. As an example of that, probably most readers have seen these water bungalows in Bora Bora on stilts. It’s absolutely fantastic luxury.
Disney looked at that and they said, “We could do something like that on our lagoon.” Think about a dozen of these bungalows like the ones in Bora Bora on stilts directly facing the Magic Kingdom so that they have an uninterrupted view of the castle and the fireworks at night. Each one has its own private hot tub as well. They’re amazing. They’re $2,500 a night. Disney realizes that there’s a whole spectrum of people that want to visit the parks, so they have something for everybody in the pricing.
The thing that they’ve embraced is pushing the upper limit. They’ve done it with ticket prices, the things that you can buy in the parks, and the resorts. That’s a big lesson and it speaks to the fact that at that upper end, the price largely becomes irrelevant. As long as people can roughly equate the fact that for a lot of people, those price points are bragging rights. “We stayed at the Bora Bora bungalows and we had our own view of the fireworks.” That’s what people want. When they buy those types of things, they want the bragging rights to tell a story to their friends. Disney realizes that and so they say, “We’re happy to provide that to you.”
Inspire me. I’m thinking, how can we put bungalows on wheels? We will wheel them out to the home plate in a mound, sleep under the stars at the stadium with a side hot tub in it. In the concept, we’re looking at building epic treehouses at our stadium to look like you can stay in the woods. It’s all that kind of thing. I want to read one of your quotes, which is powerful. “In your own business, set the ground rules for what’s important to you and most importantly, stick to them. Become known for details that separate you from your competition and be sure to maintain those details to a high standard.” Andrew, that is spot on. I’d love for you to elaborate a little bit about that. We’ve already talked about Disney, everything it speaks, and the details. We talked about the difference between Universal and Disney experience which was hilarious, but tell me why that matters to you so much.
Through no fault of their own, the average business owner is so involved in getting the business going, and there are many things that need to be done on a day-to-day basis. It is easy, natural and understandable that they don’t consciously think about the things that they want and don’t want in their business. What tends to happen is they get pushed along by whatever forces are out there and before they realize it, they’re in a situation where they’re like, “How did we get here?” It’s because they didn’t set the ground rules.
That’s why I love your comments in this interview because you clearly are strategically giving thought to all of these different aspects. That’s what needs to happen. Once you realize, “In order to stand out from the crowd, gain traction and grow this business, we have to do things differently. We have to essentially do the opposite of what most businesses are doing,” which is what Walt did, by the way. He went completely against what the entertainment business was doing. He did it in the movies and theme parks. That’s a whole topic for another time, but that’s what it takes to grow a business.
As part of that, there has to be that strategic thinking of, “What exactly do we want? What exactly do we not want?” Once you’ve set those ground rules, those then guide you in making every decision. It makes running the business easier because you’ve already set the parameters and goalposts. Let’s say an offer comes along that doesn’t fit that, it’s easy to say no. Whereas if you don’t have those ground rules, you’ll be like, “Should we? Shouldn’t we?” You don’t know what you should do.
As the readers know, the name of our company is Fans First Entertainment. Our mission is Fans First. Entertainment Always. In every decision, is it fans first? We are fanatic about the fan experience. When they buy a ticket, they should get a video that’s hilarious, then they should get a Thank You call. We then should send them a playlist of music to listen to on the way to the game because we’re fanatic about it. What are you fanatical about? The word obsessed and fanatic are looked at in a negative way. If you want to have a great business and make a real difference, you have to be obsessed.
Walt was obsessed to the extreme, and his focus was always on the guest. Because he loved to spend so much time in the park, one of his favorite places was the ice cream store at the end of Main Street. He would often don an apron and serve guests in there, and his scoops would always be the largest. He would say to guests, “What have been your favorite thing about your visit? What did you like and not like?” He would constantly be taking that feedback.
Richard Branson did the same thing when he started Virgin Atlantic and that’s what led him to great innovations. They were the first airline to offer a choice of three meals in economy because guests kept saying that’s what they wanted. He was the first airline to offer ice cream snacks in economy because guests said that’s what they wanted. He was the first one to have the seatback TVs because guests said that’s what they wanted. They were bored. It’s not difficult if you listen to what guests want. The problem with most businesses is they think they know best and they think they know what the customer wants, but they’re not the customer.
This has been inspired by Walt. Every season, myself and everyone on our staff goes undercover as a fan. We go out to the fans and we walk in with them. Most people just sit and experience the game. Over the last few years, I sit and I’m going to fool these guys. I’m not in my yellow tuxedo. I talk to the fans and I ask them, “I’ve never been to a game. Tell me what you like best.” “You’ve got to watch this.” I’m hearing it over and over again. What’s interesting though, one time, people heard my voice because I’m on the microphone. People said, “It’s Jesse.” My cover was blown way too easy, so I got to change my voice. I want to go to a couple of games, Andrew. I want to have a little fun. We’re still going to have fun with this game. This is truth and dare. Which one would you like first?
The question I despise the most is, what are your greatest failures? What are your biggest failures? I want to change the conversation. I don’t want to talk about failures. What are some of the best discoveries or lessons that you’ve learned personally in business or marketing that stand out for you?
One of the biggest ones is to always do diligence when you’re getting involved with any long-term partner or vendor. The way that I do that is to ask them for referrals from three people that they have done business with. If they can’t provide that, then that’s a big red flag there because anybody should be able to say, “Speak to these three people.” I’ve done that on occasions and all three have said, “Don’t do business with that guy.” It’s quite a helpful filter.
It’s not just referrals. It’s referrals of people they’ve done business with, so that’s a different relationship.
That’s been helpful. I’m not big on contracts because I found that over the years, the only ones that win are the lawyers because if you get into a difficult situation, it’s the lawyers that get all the fees. It drags on for years and so on. What I do if I have a need for an agreement is between us, I’ll ask that we both write up a simple agreement that both people can understand that’s written in plain English and we both sign it. The provision if something goes wrong is we will both designate one lawyer with who neither of us has a connection with and that one lawyer will look at the facts of the situation based on what we both say. That one lawyer will make a decision. I found that helpful because I’ve come unstuck a couple of times where I’ve done everything that I should have done in some relationships. I got sued and it’s dragged on and costs a lot of money. Unfortunately, the States particularly is litigious. The only ones that win are the lawyers.The customer is the lifeblood of the business. Click To Tweet
As the readers know, we do at the stadium a game called sing-off. We have 2,000 fans in one grandstand versus 2,000 fans in another grandstand. We play three songs and whenever the song stops, they have to finish that song lyric. As soon as the song stops, you have to finish that song lyric. I’m going with a Disney song. I got to agree, Andrew, this is going to be a tough one. For someone who has a couple of kids at home, it’s easy for me. It’s a Disney movie. If you don’t know it, it’s okay. When it stops, finish that song lyric.
“Let’s begin. Yes, it’s really me. It’s Maui. Breathe it in. I know it’s a lot. The hair, the bod. When you’re staring at a demi-god. What can I say except…”
I’ve heard the song but I don’t know the lyric.
“What can I say except you’re welcome.” It’s The Rock, Dwayne Johnson, playing Maui in Moana.
I haven’t seen it. I have heard the song.
That was a hard one. I had Jeff Barnes from The Wisdom of Walt, and I let him do Let it Go from Frozen, so I did a hard one for you.
I could have done that. This is the problem with not having kids. Otherwise, I can probably know them.
I knew it as I was going there. There is a theme there, attention to detail. I was listening to Steve Robertson, and I know David Salyers was on the show from Chick-fil-A. Their brain signature is ‘my pleasure’ at Chick-fil-A. It’s those little details. They’re known for my pleasure. Those details are important. The simple ‘You’re welcome,’ what you say when people thank you, that matters to you.
We could do a whole talk just about language that came to Walt. One of my pet peeves and I may have written this in the book is when I go into a restaurant, I ask for something and the typical response is no problem. It’s the classic. I can’t help but think, “Why should it have been a problem?” It’s a terrible phrase to use. People are not thinking about why they say it but any company that I’m involved with, I train everyone to say, “My pleasure or you’re welcome,” because it’s such a nice, positive friendly term. It sounds more elevated and it has a nice connotation. There are many phrases like that that become cliché, but they have a negative connotation and it’s not a good thing. Even in some places, they should know better where they are selling premium price products and services. As an example, I flew first class on British Airways back from LA and they have highly-trained cabin crew, especially in first class. They said no problem and it makes me cringe.
We teach it. Walt was from customers to cast members to guests and you auditioning for a role. He put you in a show and the same thing for us. We think about that constantly. We don’t use the title ‘managers.’ We don’t have any managers. I don’t believe anyone wants to be managed. People want to be led. We don’t use training. We believe dogs are trained. Humans aren’t trained. They’re coached, taught and educated. Language matters.
This is not just being pedantic. To give a quick example of that, when he came up with calling them guests, it was highly strategic because when the cast members and workers were helped to understand and use that terminology, it does change the way that you interact. How do you treat a guest? Let’s say you have someone, a dignitary, or something coming to your home and they’re a guest. How would you treat a guest?
You entertain them.
You would certainly welcome them. You would do everything that you can to make sure they had a good experience. If you then translate that to how you treat a customer, it doesn’t have the same depth of meaning. It’s a transaction or a client. It’s the same thing. Walt was so ahead of his time and realized the importance of these types of terms. Every business should treat their customers as guests.
I’m taking that a step further. I know from sports teams, I’m on a mission to change the language from customers to fans.
Fan is next level.
When you think of, “What are you a fan of?” Immediately, you light up, get energy and spark. If I say, “Andrew, I’m a huge fan of you,” you want to give me more time and you want to be there. We could go on many things, but I want to keep rolling. I want a Walt Disney marketing showdown. I’m going to name a type of business or industry and based on some of the secrets that you’ve learned for entrepreneurs and the lessons, give an example of if you were running that business as well, maybe something you would do with. Let’s go with a fast-food restaurant. If you’re a fast-food restaurant, what would you do similar to Walt’s lessons?
First of all, I would have tasting available which few people do, especially with new products. That’s why it works at Costco sales. Sales go up whenever they do a tasting. It also adds to the experience. I would hand out menu cards when there’s a long line so that people can be browsing the menu while they’re waiting. It stops people from leaving and it makes the ordering go faster too. I would train the staff and help them to understand that if someone spills a drink, they should immediately replace it and they should never charge a customer for a replacement.
You can even throw it at me after this, but I’ll throw another one at you. You’re a lifestyle t-shirt company.
I would put a lot of effort into trying to get celebrities to wear those t-shirts because it’s aspirational if someone sees a celebrity wear something like that. I would also make them unique. I would try to add in elements you wouldn’t normally see in a t-shirt design, whether it’s something that makes it more 3D-like. I would look for other technologies that are new.
Disney has done this too. Disney talks about their shirts and how they’re a different level.
I would also invite the guests to submit designs because people support what they help to create. A great way to increase sales is to get them involved.
Give your fans a say. That’s a whole section I’m talking about in the book. I love it. Do you want to throw one at me?
What do you got?
What would you do for a bakery?
Immediately, what Walt was so good at was the opening shots, the first impressions, how you walk into Disneyland. You had everything wow in the beginning. I would think about the whole opening of the bakery on the outside. How can you make the front a larger-than-life entrance? This is after COVID. It’s experiential. I would have a baker character. I would have a baker mascot. I would have a character that is larger than life that I would overemphasize. I would show them everywhere and you want to get pictures with out in front of the special baker. You were spot on the free samples. There would be special drops at 3:00 or a 3:00 potpourri and all of a sudden, it’s all this special food comes out at 3:00. There’s a line that you get to have it. That’s a fun one. I could go on for a while and that one.
One other thing that they do in their parks in the bakeries is they invented their patented technology called the Smellitzer. What it does is it pumps out the beautiful smell of freshly baked bread out into the street. That’s one of the things that helps to draw people in. It’s brilliant.
Let’s go some rapid-fire here. You say innovation over invention. Hit me, Andrew. Why?
The inventors are the ones with their arrows in their back. They’re the ones that are the trailblazers and the world needs them, but generally, they don’t make the money. The innovators are the ones that take an invention and make it better. That’s exactly what Walt did. He didn’t invent theme parks. He didn’t invent movies. He just found a way to make them better.
The best thing you’ve done to market yourself that you’ve learned for Walt or maybe you’ve learned through your lessons.
The best thing I’ve done myself is I started an online TV show back in 2009 called Help! My Business Sucks! Just by hearing that title, people knew what the show was about and they knew that it was going to be entertaining.
Walt Disney did the same thing. He had eight months of promoting Disneyland before it opened and he got too many people. What’s the future of marketing?
There’s definitely more in the experience side of things where there are a few companies that do that well, but more than ever, that’s what people crave. “Give me an experience that wows me. I don’t want transactional selling anymore.”
I don’t like the word failures, but Disney had a lot of failures in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s. They had turnover at 83%. They had new people coming in. What were some of the best lessons that you’ve learned from those failures that people can take away from?
There are so many lessons.
The turnover was interesting. They had such a huge turnover.We can have all the craziest ideas under the sun, but if they don't fundamentally serve the fans, what's the point? Click To Tweet
After Walt died, they lost their way and they were well on their way to creating the Magic Kingdom, but the morale certainly dropped. There was so much emphasis on creating the Magic Kingdom that when it was finally done, everybody got quite depressed and down. They had to go back to the roots. They created a training program that was based on a lot of the principles that Walt had put in place. Where they got back on track again was by asking, “What would Walt do?” When they kept asking that question in relation to business decisions that they needed to make, they did the right thing.
Walt said, “Of all the things I’ve done, the most vital is coordinating those who work with me and aiming their efforts at a certain goal.” They lost their way, but it gave the purpose of why they were doing the traditions. Last three outs here. You talk a lot about standing out, and I appreciate you’re wearing yellow, which is awesome. I’m always rocking the tuxedo. What would be your advice to someone to stand out?
In the simplest terms, it’s doing the opposite of what you see most people are doing, and it takes great courage to do that. In the simplest term, let’s say you’re a plumber. Most plumbers still advertise in the Yellow Pages, and there’s nothing wrong with that. If you look through the ads there, they all essentially look the same. What you’ve got to do is do something radically different. If you see them, most of them are charging a call-out charge which is what they do, then make it free for the call-out and figure out the pricing and incorporate that fee in some other aspect of the business. In the simplest terms, it’s doing the opposite of what you see every other business in your space do and that’s what you did too.
Whatever is normal, do the exact opposite all the time, and that’s what stands out. What does fans first mean to you?
Fans first is the philosophy of keeping in mind that the customer is the lifeblood of the business. We can have all the craziest ideas under the sun, but if they don’t fundamentally serve the fans, what’s the point? It’s a filter. When you have that mentality, that philosophy and you run the business by that, fans are always first, you will always make the right decisions because you’ll have them in mind like the gardener story with Walt. He had the blinders on and that’s why he couldn’t see the wood for the trees. He couldn’t see the bigger picture, which is what mattered. It was all for the guests. Likewise, with you, it’s all for the fans.
I always finish with the question, what makes someone unforgettable, but I’m going to go a different direction here because this story is unforgettable. Share the priority story, the Letter From Art to Walt.
I end the book with this. Is that right?
Yes, you do. It hit home with me and I never knew it. It was the first time I heard this story.
Art Linkletter was a famous reporter around Walt. On one occasion, Walt sent a letter to his good friend, Art, who helped him open Disneyland back in the day. He was involved in it. Walt included a photo of a young boy staring off into the distance and underneath the photo, it had a single word that Walt had written in as a caption and the one word was priorities. That immediately captured Art’s attention. As he read the letter, Walt said to Art, “A hundred years from now, it won’t matter what’s in your bank account or the kind of car you drive. It will only matter that you made a difference in the life of a child.”
That speaks again to what was in Walt’s heart about why he started the park. If you trace it back, he was sitting on a park bench opposite the carousel, the merry-go-round at Griffith Park. I was able to visit it for the first time and I could picture Walt sitting there. Around him was dirty and it wasn’t a safe area. He thought to himself, “Wouldn’t it be amazing if there was a place where my daughters could enjoy this experience but on a bigger scale where it was safe and families could go and enjoy it?” It was not money at all that motivated Walt. It was that he wanted to create that. That’s what led him to create Disneyland.
In the process of doing something that served other people in a beautiful way, the company made a lot of money, but that wasn’t the reason why he started it. Too many people these days are too quick to jump on a bandwagon of something that they think, “Here’s some money to be made.” They jump on the bandwagon, but their heart is not in it. The first obstacles that come up are going to trip them up and they’re going to move on to something else. When your heart is in it, you’re passionate about it, and you get up in the morning and you’re excited to fulfill this vision, that’s what’s going to make you money. It’s what you’re passionate about. The money will come naturally if you persist at it.
I’ve read hundreds of books, and the way you finished the book was so inspiring to me. I’ll share a quick story with that and it touches home with you. This was amazing that you talked about the life of a child because we had a game back in March. It was on my birthday. The Bananas never have games on my birthday because we usually play during the summer. We’re doing a pro team and we’re playing around. That’s part of our goal. It’s my birthday and my son, Maverick, and our foster daughter were in town, but they couldn’t come to the game because my wife is working the games. We have a babysitter. I wanted them to see me doing my thing putting on a show and unfortunately, they couldn’t be there.
We’re getting ready to do the march. March is how we open the gates, leave that first impression. The band is leading the way. The Man-Nanas, Banana Nanas, the team, and all the fans are lined up 1.5 or 2 hours before the game. We’re coming out and we’re dancing. The fans are all cheering, putting their cameras up and taking video. As I come around the corner, standing there is my son and my foster daughter waiting there for me. They surprised me. Emily planned it.
I immediately picked them both up, took them in my arms, and started dancing with the hundreds of fans. Tears were coming down and the fans were saying, “What is wrong with Jesse? He’s crying in the middle of this opening march.” It was seeing the kids and seeing the joy in their faces. We always have to come back to why we do what we do and the impact we make on people, especially kids. The wonder, the child’s happiness. That’s why it touched me and I know it’s touched thousands of others. Andrew, I want to thank you. This has been such an enjoyable time.
It’s been fun. Kudos to you, Jesse, because you’re doing everything right. I love seeing what you’re doing. It’s such an inspiration. It’s exciting for me to see a company that’s doing it in the right way. It’s absolutely no surprise that you’re having the success that you are because few businesses are doing it. It’s not difficult. Effort is involved and certainly, courage is involved to go against the grain as you’ve learned I’m sure. It is what’s necessary to stand out from the crowd. When you sent me that first video when we connected, and I watched the documentary, I absolutely fell in love with what you’re doing. It’s fantastic. I can’t wait to come and experience it myself. It’s great to see.
Thank you. You’re an inspiration. You’ve made an impact. You referenced WaltDisneyBook.com. Is that correct?
Yeah. The book was a four-year undertaking. Money was not the motivation. I wanted it to be the best book about learning from Walt Disney that has ever been written, and that was my motivation to help people. I poured my heart and soul into it. If you’d like to benefit from the book, of course you can get it from Amazon too, but if you order it via WaltDisneyBook.com and follow the instructions, then that will also give you the entire Audible version of the book, which is me reading it too. That’s fun to hear it in the author’s original voice.
It’s another way of plussing. Disney added something else that’s great. Andrew, thanks for being on the show. I appreciate you.
It’s my pleasure.
- Walt Disney’s Way
- Andrew Lock
- Report – Welcome to the Experience Economy by Harvard Business Review
- Jeff Barnes – previous episode
- Audible – Walt Disney’s Way
About Andrew Lock
Andrew is often referred to as the “Yoda of Marketing”. Not because he’s green with pointy ears, but because of the enormous scope of his marketing knowledge.
As a young lad growing up in the South of England, Andrew was called into the headmaster (principals) office one day. Dreading what he had “done wrong”, he was relieved to instead be awarded the top-of-the-year award for “Best Business Studies Student”!
That was the genesis of his marketing career. Going on to work in the entertainment industry, Andrew became the personal manager of the “Johnny Carson” of England – Paul Daniels – who had a career on prime-time BBC spanning more than 17 years.
Following that, Andrew moved to the USA, where he developed the popular WebTV show, “Help My Business!” which became the most-watched marketing show for entrepreneurs. As a result of being mentored by marketing legends such as Dan Kennedy and Jay Abraham, Andrew exposes traditional marketing techniques as outdated and ineffective.
Andrew coined the phrase: ‘marketing is everything and everything is marketing’ to describe the importance of marketing in every business.
Andrew’s expertise in business building covers the areas of advertising, marketing, outsourcing, e-commerce, and customer service.
Andrew’s savvy marketing expertise has added literally millions of dollars to the bottom line of countless businesses globally. He’s considered one of the finest speakers in the world on the topic of marketing, and he has shared the stage with Donald Trump, Richard Branson, Seth Godin, The Dali Lama, Brian Tracy, Tony Robbins, T Harv Eker, Tony Hsieh from Zappos, and many other thought leaders.
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