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  1. #1

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    It's only for kids: The wrong way to market Disney's Theme Parks

    You're dead if you aim only for kids.
    Adults are only kids grown up, anyway.

    — WALT DISNEY


    Walt had it right. And for decades, Disney theme parks were the place to go for people of all ages. Attractions were built to intelligently entertain and enchant guests of all ages. Age and gender-specific attractions weren't easy to find.


    So why is it, with the Year of a Million Dreams are the kids being the main target? Do Disney's theme parks and resort no longer interest the young adult and adult segments? Is Disney forsaking Walt's family park, for a place where parents sit on benches and watch their kids have fun while they worry about the next mortgage payment?


    Or can adults only have fun at Disney's theme parks by seeing the magic through their child's eyes? Are child-less adults unable to enjoy the parks? Are the parks in general not intended for adult enjoyment?


    Disneyland was created for people of all types and ages to have fun. It was designed as an intelligent outpost of creativity, entertainment, and discovery. Yet, with Disney's Year of a Million Dreams, it seems like Disneyland is no longer the Happiest Place on Earth for everybody anymore, but only the place Where Dreams Come True for kids under 14.

    Forget the rest of the family - the parks aren't for them anymore. Afterall, what grown man or woman really wants to go into outer space? What grandmother wants to relive her youth on a turn-of-the-century Main Street similar to the one she experienced growing up? What train buff wants to ride a real steam locomotive through 5 magical realms?


    A major issue with the Year of a Million Dreams is the campaign's direct marketing toward children. Despite attempting to stir adult interest with the celebrity portrait series, the adult demographic is wholly untapped via TV spots, and most other advertising. The campaign's commercials, the slick publicity images focusing on children, and the line of new entertainment and attractions in the park are all focused directly on the child demographic, leaving little incentive for anybody without a 6-year-old to visit the parks.

    Attractions like the Princess Fantasy Faire, Jedi Training Academy, High School Musical Pep Rally, the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage all push for a child audience. Adults are left to revisit old favorites like The Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Space Mountain instead of being offered new and exciting attractions that they can enjoy on their own or with their entire family.


    Commercials and glossy print materials beckon readers to come live their dreams at Disneyland. But what dreams are left for people who haven't been in primary school for decades?

    How can we live our dreams when every publicity photo, every commerical, and every ad for the Year of a Million Dreams shows only children living out their Disney dreams?


    Has Walt's dream of a place where kids and adults can have fun together died? Is it time to trade in my Mickey Ears for a business suit and tie?

    Or is Disney digging its own grave?



    It came about when my daughters were very young and Saturday was always daddy’s day with the two daughters. So we’d start out and try to go someplace, you know, different things, and I’d take them to the merry-go-round and did all these things – sit on a bench, you know, eating peanuts –
    I felt that there should be something built
    where parents and the children could have fun together.

    So that’s how Disneyland started.

    — WALT DISNEY

    Photos, news, and commentary every week from Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom!

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  2. #2

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    Re: It's only for kids: The wrong way to market Disney's Theme Parks

    True, it works that way with the marketing, but I'd argue that the in-park service still caters to both.

    Why?

    Cast Members.
    CMs are, for the most part, in their twenties and thirties, and thus are at an age where they can easily cater to either age. A good CM will be able to instill a sense of wonder in a small child and weasel the kid out of a rebellious teen while bringing the parents into the whole picture.

    And the in-park service ("Legendary Guest Service" as it's sometimes termed) advertises itself. Guests leave the park after being pulled into the Cast Members' show and find that their experience was above that of another park because Disneyland is flexible in its target audience.

  3. #3

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    Re: It's only for kids: The wrong way to market Disney's Theme Parks

    Quote Originally Posted by mrfantasmic View Post
    True, it works that way with the marketing, but I'd argue that the in-park service still caters to both.

    Why?

    Cast Members.
    CMs are, for the most part, in their twenties and thirties, and thus are at an age where they can easily cater to either age. A good CM will be able to instill a sense of wonder in a small child and weasel the kid out of a rebellious teen while bringing the parents into the whole picture.

    And the in-park service ("Legendary Guest Service" as it's sometimes termed) advertises itself. Guests leave the park after being pulled into the Cast Members' show and find that their experience was above that of another park because Disneyland is flexible in its target audience.
    That's a good point. A good CM can make the Disney theme park experience a great one for guests of all ages - however, it is arguable that good CMs are harder to come by these days.

    Also, the guest service, as depicted in the YOAMD TV spot shows CMs giving wishes exclusively to children with their parents merely tagging along in the background.

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  4. #4

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    Re: It's only for kids: The wrong way to market Disney's Theme Parks

    People want a park for kids. In this case Walt had it wrong.

    When it comes down to it, parks with more adult themes (Studios, Epcot, DCA) have not performed as well as the parks that are rooted in fantasy and themes for kids.

    Disney is just reacting to what the public wants.

  5. #5

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    Re: It's only for kids: The wrong way to market Disney's Theme Parks

    Quote Originally Posted by MrLiver View Post
    People want a park for kids. In this case Walt had it wrong.

    When it comes down to it, parks with more adult themes (Studios, Epcot, DCA) have not performed as well as the parks that are rooted in fantasy and themes for kids.

    Disney is just reacting to what the public wants.
    Naturally, parks focusing heavily on one demographic is a bad move. Disneyland was designed as a park for all ages, therefore it garnered huge success because everybody could enjoy it.

    Parks like DCA or Studios parks that aim for one demographic underperform, because not everybody is interested, so more people spend less time there.

    People don't want a children's park. If that were the case, Legoland would be performing incredibly well. People want a park where they feel they get their money's worth - and people are going to feel they get their money's worth when everybody in their party is equally entertained.

    Also, why is fantasy being perceived as an exclusively child-oriented theme?

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  6. #6

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    Re: It's only for kids: The wrong way to market Disney's Theme Parks

    Quote Originally Posted by MasterGracey View Post
    That's a good point. A good CM can make the Disney theme park experience a great one for guests of all ages - however, it is arguable that good CMs are harder to come by these days.

    Also, the guest service, as depicted in the YOAMD TV spot shows CMs giving wishes exclusively to children with their parents merely tagging along in the background.
    Yes indeed. But I'm talking about expanding the term "advertising" from the commercials to the products themselves. Remember word of mouth is the widest form of advertising for Disneyland, which is a part of why the Guests have had a hard time grasping the Year of a Million Dreams, as many of the winners don't quite know what's happened.

    So as a product, the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts (still the official title of the division, by the way) are heavily reliant on selling themselves. That's when the Cast Members come in.

    I don't personally subscribe to the notion that good Cast Members are a thing of the past. My experience is that we still have an enthusiasm for working at the Park, and work as best we can to pass it onto the Guests.

  7. #7

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    Re: It's only for kids: The wrong way to market Disney's Theme Parks

    Quote Originally Posted by mrfantasmic View Post
    Yes indeed. But I'm talking about expanding the term "advertising" from the commercials to the products themselves. Remember word of mouth is the widest form of advertising for Disneyland, which is a part of why the Guests have had a hard time grasping the Year of a Million Dreams, as many of the winners don't quite know what's happened.

    So as a product, the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts (still the official title of the division, by the way) are heavily reliant on selling themselves.
    This is true, and I agree. But what happens when the parks begin to so heavily aim for the child demographic that new attractions and experiences can only be deemed as "cute" by adults? Nothing at Disneyland should simply be "cute." But that's just what I've heard time and again in regards to the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, Jedi Academy, Princess Fantasy Faire, etc.

    During the 50th, new offerings (save for Monsters Inc.) were often met with resounding "WOW"s from guests (Remember... Dreams Come True, Parade of Dreams, Space Mountain, and even the Pirates enhancements). That doesn't seem so with everything introduced during the Year of a Million Dreams.

    So what happens when Joe Schmoe family returns from their vacation and Joe Schmoe's neighbors says "How was Disneyland?" and Mr and Mrs Joe Schmoe can only say "It was cute, the kids loved it." ?

    Is that good word-of-mouth? Is that a good product?


    Quote Originally Posted by mrfantasmic View Post
    That's when the Cast Members come in.

    I don't personally subscribe to the notion that good Cast Members are a thing of the past. My experience is that we still have an enthusiasm for working at the Park, and work as best we can to pass it onto the Guests.
    I don't subscribe to the notion that good cast members are all gone, either. But I do believe that they're harder to find, and I don't blame the Cast Members for it either. I blame Disney for its negligence in employee relations and its poor pay rates. But that is a different discussion altogether

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  8. #8

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    Re: It's only for kids: The wrong way to market Disney's Theme Parks

    Quote Originally Posted by MrLiver View Post
    People want a park for kids. In this case Walt had it wrong.

    When it comes down to it, parks with more adult themes (Studios, Epcot, DCA) have not performed as well as the parks that are rooted in fantasy and themes for kids.

    Disney is just reacting to what the public wants.
    Do you ever listen to yourself?

    Walt Disney created Disneyland. He didn't create EPCOT, D.C.A., or the Disney MGM Studios.

    As usual, you are the one who has it wrong.

  9. #9

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    Re: It's only for kids: The wrong way to market Disney's Theme Parks

    i understand where you're coming from. i've always wondered why they never pick any adults in the jedi training academy.. pick maybe 3 kids and 2 adults. maybe get the parents more involved. hell, get adults in general involved. my husband and i are nowhere near ready for kids (and since i'm not allowed to bring my cat into the park), we're just seen as 2 adults.

    plus, walt himself said "adults are just kids grown up". i act just like a child when i'm at the park. i also get mildly irritated when i can't participate in something because it's for "kids only", like the cookie making area. and the jedi academy. i even get the kids meals... lol (but that's for a different reason).

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    Re: It's only for kids: The wrong way to market Disney's Theme Parks

    Disney is targeting women, aged 18-40, and this marketing is alienating everyone else.

    Walt Disney largely targeted these women, too, but he knew how to do so without alienating other market segments.

  11. #11

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    Re: It's only for kids: The wrong way to market Disney's Theme Parks

    Quote Originally Posted by PragmaticIdealist View Post
    Disney is targeting women, aged 18-40, and this marketing is alienating everyone else.

    Walt Disney largely targeted these women, too, but he knew how to do so without alienating other market segments.
    I think it might be more accurate to say Disney's marketing is targeting mothers aged 18-40, and this marketing is alienating everyone else.

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    Re: It's only for kids: The wrong way to market Disney's Theme Parks

    Quote Originally Posted by MasterGracey View Post
    I think it might be more accurate to say Disney's marketing is targeting mothers aged 18-40, and this marketing is alienating everyone else.
    i agree on this one... i've seen no advertising targeting me. i fall into the "women aged 18-40" category, but not the mothers part.

    maybe they should have a few advertisements toward each demographic. costly, i know. but then they'd get more people in.

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    Re: It's only for kids: The wrong way to market Disney's Theme Parks

    ok so the big question being.....
    how do "WE, THE FANS" get thos point across to a big corporation such as Disney?
    there may not be anything new being developed in the parks for adults, so does this mean the old elements are now endangered of dissapearing as well???? if this DOES begin to happen then we are lost, and thats up to us to stand up and stop, but how??????
    suggestions people............we have a voice in this, lets use it.

  14. #14

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    Re: It's only for kids: The wrong way to market Disney's Theme Parks

    Historically, traditionally, half of Disneyland's guests have been adults who have no children in their parties, so Disney has to be extremely careful not to alienate these people.

    Disneyland also has high fixed costs, so it needs to find as many people as possible, from every persuasion, to keep the turnstiles clicking.

    Target marketing and a marketing orientation really don't fit the entertainment industry in the same way they suit other businesses. Disneyland's marketing people aren't selling toothpaste, bras, or car tires. The utility of Disneyland is purely psychological. So, the standard rules do not apply. And, the realization Walt Disney surely had is that great works of art and entertainment have the potential to be appealing to everyone: man, woman, or child.

    It is precisely that realization that allowed Disney to market his productions to a broad variety of social groups. He understood the social nature of his business. And, he created works to have the broadest appeal as possible in order to exploit all of those social relationships.

    One need only look at the success of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" films. Jerry Bruckheimer injected enough testosterone into the equation to counteract the excessive femininity and childishness that has perverted the Disney trademark in, most notably, the last decade.

  15. #15

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    Re: It's only for kids: The wrong way to market Disney's Theme Parks

    This might be oversimplifying, but to me it's kind of like the good Pixar films and the Shrek movies...they're aimed at families with kids, but there are layers of jokes and parodies that appeal to different age levels for different reasons...and when it's done well, no one feels left out. For the most part, Disneyland has done it well for 52 years plus now.

    I've noticed that the YOAMD has been a mentioned sponsor for various ESPN programs of late. Makes sense, of course, since Disney is the parent company. The target audience here is obviously young adults, fathers mainly.

    I do choke a bit when they say...brought to you by...Disney Parks...never have liked that, said on the air, on t-shirts, bags, whatever.
    God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

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