I've heard rumors lately that D23 is struggling internally and that there are a lot of people who think that if D23 membership doesn't increase soon, they may have to move the program to the Parks group or shut it down all together. It costs money and it's being managed as a "club" not an affinity program. Moving it to the Parks would be a disaster, because the Parks would focus ONLY on the Parks, not on all of Disney, which is the real beauty of D23.
No, I DON'T think D23 is worth the money even though I am perversely renewing. Glutton for punishment? No, I like the magazine -- but that won't be enough for some people.
So, here are five ideas that could be easily implemented and that could help increase membership:
1) Hold weekly D23 special events at Disney Stores around the country. More than the D23 mixers, these small-scale events will invite people in to learn about Disney history, art, etc. Special speakers not required. These events will be fan based, but Disney will help organize them, maybe give the members there the opportunity to see a rarely screened video or two. Each member will be encouraged to invite two NON-members. If one or both non-members sign up, they will get a free gift.
2) Deluxe Concierge guests to the WDW resort hotels get a special item. I've gotten a couple of nice fruit baskets, and have also received chocolate bars with the resort screened onto them. You pay a lot more ($100 or more a night) for this perk. Offer similar perks to D23 members who check in to standard rooms deluxe resorts. Give them a SPECIAL character wake-up call. Put a tin of Disney tea in their rooms in the evening. These are $10-$15 items that can make the experience SO special, they'll tell their friends about what has happened. Even better, make it an "upgrade" option at check-in: "D23 is offering our guests special perks throughout their stay for an additional $75. You'll get a souvenir of the resort to take home with you, a special character greeting each morning, a tin of Disney tea each evening, AND you will receive all of the benefits of being a D23 member, including Disney Twenty-three magazine" when you get home, for a full year.
3) Have "street teams" roaming throughout Downtown Disney in Anaheim in Orlando to offer on-the-spot prizes to people who guess Disney trivia correctly. The prize: Membership in D23 (or an additional year for those who are already members). On the spot. Get 10 non-members a week to sign up like this, seven nights a week for six weeks, and you'll have 420 new members, plus additional people who hear about D23 and ask for the information.
4) Send real marketing materials to Disney's best guests. I am a Disney "best guest," visiting three to four times a year, and while I receive many pieces of mail from Disney, I've never received a single D23 soliciation in the mail. Why isn't there a deluxe brochure that tells people about the benefits of being a D23 member and spells out for them why it is so important that Disney lovers join the club? If you mailed to 2 million people, you'd probably be able to generate a couple of thousand memberships.
5) Start an affinity club of some sort only for D23 members. Maybe it's a stamp every time you shop at the Disney Store. Or if you want to keep it to being the parks, for every 10th stamp you get, you get a free FastPass and for every 20th stamp you get a D23 watch. Something like that. It's more logistically challenging to set up, but Disney is almost alone among major companies that doesn't have some sort of affinity program. Why not? D23 is the PERFECT vehicle for this.
And then there's the sixth suggestion, even though I said I'd only do five. Allow D23 Members special viewing areas, or special arrangements to get experiences most guests don't see. What about a 23% discount on renting the yacht to see the fireworks? Or 23% off room service one time during their stay?
And the last thing, what about doing more ACTUAL MARKETING? I've seen one, exactly one, piece of "marketing material" at Disneyland in recent weeks, the sign in the hallway at California Adventure. That's it. You can't build a membership without talking about it! And you can't grow a business if you SOLELY please your existing clients and don't try to get new ones. Sure, you can maintain it, but that's not the same. D23 needs to grow. And grow. And GROW!
There is SO MUCH they could be doing, but all of the marketing seems so lackluster. Though there is that, ahem, Disney Geek.
Your thoughts? Ideas?