I had the chance to go to Disneyland this weekend with a six year old girl in the group. In doing in so, I got the opportunity to see one of the most brilliant and successful branding efforts of the last few years first hand: The Disney Princesses. The Princesses are omnipresent at the theme park, with their own special area (the Disney Princess Fantasy Faire) and merchandise spread throughout the park.
For the unitiated, the Disney Princesses are eight of the female leads from the Disney animated stable: Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Belle, Ariel, Jasmine, Pocahantas, and Mulan. The entire brand is based around the concept that these are real Princesses and that little girls can strive to be just like them.
To show how expansive the brand is, consider all of the things our six year old got to experience during our two day trip. She got a dress based on Sleeping Beauty, along with special “Princess” make-up and hair styling. The staff of the park were trained enough to address her as “princess” when she walked by and many made references to Sleeping Beauty. She got an autograph book with the Princess logo and a picture of the Princesses. She got to be part of a Royal Coronation show (which we had to watch 4 times!) where she got to learn how to be a Princess. She stood in line to meet the Princesses and got to take a picture with each at the Princess Fun Faire. We then paid another premium so she could “eat lunch with the Princesses” which basically consisted of paying about a hundred dollars for three people to eat at a restaurant while four of the Princesses came to your table for a two minute visit and photo op.
The genesis of this phenomenon is what is valuable for marketing purposes. According to Wikipedia, the Princess line was born when a Disney executive went to an Disney show and saw young girls in generic princess costumes. He realized that there was a market for Disney branded princess products and the line was born. The brand has been a huge success increasing Disney’s sales of branded items from 300 million dollars in 2001 to a figure of 4 billion in 2007 quoted in the Wall Street Journal.
This is another example of a marketer acting as a problem solver and thinking outside the box to help fill the needs of potential customers. Disney has taken a stable of characters who were in their library, but not especially active as brands and refocused them into a marketing juggernaut. Three of the primary princesses are over 49 years old (with Snow White being over 70!). Even the newer princesses like Ariel and Belle are over 15 years old. These are old resources that Disney has refocused to being major assets well beyond their original uses.
The lesson that can be learned is that you should never be afraid to look at new ways to exploit your existing assets. With a bit of originality, you can expand into new markets with your older products. The most important thing is to always be aware of the needs of your customer base and always be on the lookout for new ways to satisfy those needs.