I think it also bears mentioning the fact that although the Disney Company designs most of its hotels, it’s not done by Imagineering, there’s a separate hotels division that dreams them up. I can certainly imagine hotels div trying to accomplish the same goals as the Imagineers, but then we don't really know that for sure.
Sorry, but that's not true. The hotels are designed by Imagineers. It used to be a separate division known as the Disney Development Co. but that got merged into WDI by the early 90's. So, yes the hotels are designed by Imagineers. Try telling Wing Chow that he's not an Imagineer.
Your general idea about “Disney Brand” is well put. Roy E. himself criticized this mentality during the SaveDisney days in an essay similar to your posts (although even golden boy Bob Iger commonly makes references to the Disney Brand, so unfortunately it lives on).
I think the notion of the Disney Brand as a planning concept is just fine. Disney is most definitely a brand, in all the different ways people interact with the company (movies, theme parks, etc.).
The thing is, I think it's a mistake to try to market the Disney Brand as a brand to the public explicitly. For example, more than one company has used the slogan "<company> - a brand you can trust" in its advertising. I think this sort of thing would be a big mistake for Disney. Even though people might behave as if Disney is a brand, and the company can take advantage of that, people don't think of it as a brand, so explicit references to it are bound to fail.
SuperDry requests to enter into evidence Exhibit A: the failed attempt at selling "Disney Parks" merchandise. Yes, people act like Disney theme parks are a brand (that is, they kind of know what they're about, how they're different than the competition, and about what to expect even for a particular park they've not been do). But they don't think of it as a brand in the direct sense. Whoever thought that "Disney Parks" logo merchandise would sell in the parks is too immersed in corporate branding strategies and has no idea what a Disney park really means to the guests. I hope that whoever was responsible for that was fired or sent back to whatever consultancy they came from. That's just the kind of thinking that will lead to ruin within TWDC company if left unchecked. Fortunately in that case, the results were undoubedtly immediate and dramatic. I fear that other attempts at going too far with the "brand" concept will not manifest themselves immediately as A Bad Idea and will be allowed to continue, causing problems down the road that are too hard to fix.
The thing is, I think it's a mistake to try to market the Disney Brand as a brand to the public explicitly.
There’s a horrible business concept that’s been at the heart of Disney’s behavior in recent years.
The idea of a traditional brand was to tell the consumers they could trust the products they were buying. If you bought Nabisco crackers or ate at McDonalds you knew what kind of product you would receive.
But Disney is following the concept of a “lifestyle brand”. The concept is that by using the brand, the consumer is able to “brand” themselves. If you buy Apple computers, you become hip, tech savvy and a better person. If you wear Nike shoes you become a serious competitor and a better person. If you wear Prada, you become…you get the idea.
Disney now sells itself this way. If you want to have a magical life, buy Disney products. Buy a trip to Disney world and magically escape your troubles. Make your home magical by buying Mickey Mouse wall paper and furniture. Kids make fun of you at school, wear a 'High School Muscial' t-shirt to show how cool you are. Make your wedding magical buy wearing a Princess Wedding gown.
Happiness can be achieved by maxing out your credit cards on Main Street, USA.
What’s tragic is that Disney’s animated classic were focused on the belief that happiness is achieved by being a good person; that happiness comes the deserving people who've earned it. Cinderella was kind and loving – and because of that – she found happiness despite what everyone did to her.
Today’s Disney says that you don’t have to behave well to be a princess. All you need is Daddy’s American Card and an hour at the Princess Boutique.