There have been a lot of threads raging (justifiably) about NextGen, maintenance, and the general state of affairs in WDW recently. But I thought I would start a thread on a somewhat different topic, which I actually started on another forum a while back, but am eager to see what MiceChatters thought of it. Although maintenance and the actual park experience is very important, of equal importance (IMO) is WDW's public image and its way of presenting itself to the American culture - its marketing.
Now people have commented multiple times about how WDW marketing has changed over the years – how they’ve adjusted from promoting the more natural and quiet “Vacation Kingdom of the World” aspect, along with the many non-park offerings that the early resort provided, to the more “Four parks, one world”, theme park-heavy focus we’re familiar with today. And that’s all fine and good. People go to WDW mainly for theme parks, I get that.
But it seems to me that in recent years, the focus has been narrowing even more, to just one theme park in particular. I'm referring, of course, to the Magic Kingdom. I realized this while constantly driving under/past the main entry signage, which is affixed with the vague, bluish, could-be-Cinderella Castle (although some would note that Disneyland marketing uses the exact same castle).
Nowhere to be found on those same signs are Spaceship Earth, the Tree of Life, or any form of representation for DHS. Or a certain shipwreck and snowcapped ski-slope...
Or take some of the hotel rates that exist around property. Views of Cindy’s humble abode are top-sellers at the various resorts around the lagoon. Heck, one could argue that the entire existence of Bay Lake Tower, the upcoming Grand Floridian villas, or the Californian Grill has to do with taking advantage of this very view. Rooms on the castle-facing side of Bay Lake Tower are priced considerably higher than views on the lake-facing side.
Meanwhile, last year, we booked a one-bedroom at the Boardwalk over Christmas, and because we couldn’t afford a view over the Boardwalk itself, we instead booked a standard view, the cheapest view offered. We were surprised, then, to get to our room and find we had a fantastic view of Disney’s Hollywood Studios – including the fireworks from Fantasmic and the Tower of Terror in all its dramatic glory. I would even say the Tower seemed much larger and closer than the castle did from our Bay Lake Tower room. Why the discrepancy? Why couldn’t these be billed as “Hollywood Studios views” or “Tower of Terror views” in the same way Bay Lake offers its castle views?
Or take the modern WDW TV commercials:
Not a non-Magic Kingdom theme park in sight.
Is it any wonder, then, that guests on property refer to the Magic Kingdom and “Disney World” almost interchangeably? Or why the Magic Kingdom is consistently more packed than the other three parks even on the same day? How many people that haven’t been to WDW are even aware that WDW consists of more than the one theme park? Couldn’t Disney's marketing, y’know, show the first sign that there was something to do at WDW that wasn’t in the Magic Kingdom?
To me, marketing like this seems counterintuitive to a good business strategy. One would think Disney would showcase its many other offerings to be found at WDW, some of which are quite unique and spectacular in themselves – Illuminations, the Fantasmic dragon, the architectural marvel that is Spaceship Earth, the best safari to be found in the western hemisphere, the grandeur of Wilderness Lodge, World Showcase, the tallest waterslide in the United States. Or maybe even smaller and more personal experiences like the spas, the Fort Wilderness bike trails, the parasailing, the Polynesian luau, four on-property golf courses. But instead Disney always just shows the one thing just about everybody knows you can find at WDW… a castle. And sometimes some Dumbo and teacups for good measure.
Showing stuff like what I listed might be more inviting to people not necessarily interested in meeting their favorite Disney princess and seeing where she lives. It might just entice the golfers, the bikers, the animal fans, people wishing they could more easily sample some global culture, or the couple looking for a relaxing getaway in a beautiful resort. It might even make more money for all of those activities not found in the Magic Kingdom – people would actually know they exist!
Don’t get me wrong- I love Cinderella Castle, and all of its ornate, monumental, Herb Ryman-y goodness. But I guess I have an issue of personal pride in this, as well. I also dearly love Epcot, DHS, the water parks, the resorts, and the magnificence and grandeur of the property of a whole. It saddens me to see those parts of WDW sold short, or for my friends to have such a misunderstanding of how great and how diverse that place is that I go to every year.