by Christina Warren
The Social CMO Series is supported by the Discover Digital Group, a unique consultancy that focuses on identifying new e-revenue opportunities for both Fortune 1000 and startup clients alike. Follow DDG on Facebook to get a taste of the insights that are offered.
The Disney Consumer Products (DCP) division of the Walt Disney Company is responsible for various merchandise and licensing for different Disney properties — including leading franchises like Cars, Toy Story and Disney Princesses. DCP operates its social media presence under the name “Disney Living” and has managed to gain more than 300,000 Likes on Facebook, 29,000 followers on Twitter and 8.8 million views on YouTube in just under two years.
Disney Baby, an initiative designed to engage with parents of infants, launched its social media presence in January 2011. In less than eight months, Disney Baby has gained more 363,000 likes on Facebook, making it one of the biggest brands in its segment.
We wanted to know a bit more about the social media strategy for the world’s largest licensor — how does DCP engage with fans and with consumers, and what impact has that engagement had on the consumer products business as a whole?
To find out, we talked to Andy Mooney, the chairman of Disney Consumer Products. Under Mooney’s leadership, the fortunes of DCP have grown tremendously, thanks to decisions to create new verticals and new franchises. Mooney was the visionary behind the Disney Princesses brand, which is now a multi-billion dollar franchise.
Building a Community, Not Just Shilling Product
With a division like DCP, which operates on a 365-day release cycle, it’s important that the social media tactics and interactions are well crafted and well thought out.
As a “brand,” Disney Living has to make sure that its actions are not impeding on the work done by a licensee or that it isn’t going into more traditional Disney franchise territory.
As Mooney explains, “the studio builds a campaign around the theatrical release for Cars 2 and also has a campaign for the DVD, but then they go quiet. We have a 365-day cycle to sustain.”
If DCP, under its Disney Living moniker, was just to use its social media channels to promote licensed content or brands, it would get old. Fast. Instead, the goal for the social media strategy across DCP is to be informational, rather than super commercial.
You can see this in the type of content that is shared on the Disney Living Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages. It’s not always product-driven — many of the communications are casual and centered on interacting with fans.
For instance, a recent YouTube video posted to the Disney Living channel goes behind the scenes with a LEGO Master Model Builder, showing off what goes into designing and creating life-size LEGO models of Toy Story characters.
The context with this type of video is not to promote the fact that LEGO is a licensee and has a Toy Story line of toys, but to give something back to fans.
An area where DCP is really starting to make a name for itself is in digital publishing.
Disney tells us that in just 18 months, more than a dozen children’s book apps have launched for iOS. The company recently started publishing in the Android Market. Disney Publishing has seven out of the top 10 apps in the Paid Books category — that’s overall titles, not just children’s books.
One of the first movers in the transition of digital publishing for kids, this is an area that Mooney really sees poised for growth. “The very nature of our publishing product going forward will be different than the product in the past. The new product is a multimedia experience and will be upgradable, relative to other forms,” Mooney says.
Still, he doesn’t believe that traditional publishing will completely disappear.
On the eBook front, Disney Publishing has over 300 titles available and has sold more than a million eBooks through July 2011. That’s more than double what was sold in all of 2010.
Disney is also getting into Digital Comics. Now that Disney owns Marvel, the opportunities to connect with comic book readers of all ages is really enhanced.
Having more digital properties, as a division, means that DCP has more avenues to leverage in its greater social media strategy.
Power of Social Media
Before joining Disney, Mooney spent 20 years at Nike, where he held a number of positions, including CMO.
“We didn’t have social media when I was with Nike,” Mooney says. “I wish we had, because what social media allows you to do is different from traditional consumer-facing advertising … Social media lets you uniquely connect with fans.”
Describing social media as something that is “adjunct to everything we do for deepening the emotional ties and the franchise,” Mooney stresses the importance of recognizing and connecting with a fan base.
“Some of these bigger franchise have massive fan bases.” The Toy Story brand alone has more than 27.5 million Likes on Facebook.
“Social media is fundamental to the nature of how we communicate with the fans,” says Mooney. “The tone and the content is more causal and insight-based and insider-based, especially for the most ardent fans of the franchises.”
A licensee can do a traditional campaign, and Disney Living can give an inside look at how stuff is done.
With Disney Baby, one of the newer social brands, the community itself is the focus, not the product.
As we mentioned earlier, Disney Baby is already in the top five baby brands on Facebook. Because the audience here is parents (mostly moms), the tone of the discussion is driven by the community members.
Parents share photos of their babies in Disney onesies. When a new product is released, if it’s posted to the Facebook Page, the community will talk about where to find it, who has the best price and what they think of the product.
Parents and moms also use the Facebook Page as a way to share stories with one another and ask questions. What’s bringing people together might be shared love for a brand — in this case, Disney — but the community goes beyond that.
That’s likely why Disney Baby has already had so much success.
Social Campaign Highlights
DCP provided us with some information about some of their most successful social campaigns in the last 18 months.
John Lasseter Talks Toys YouTube Video Series
Debuting in 2009, this series of YouTube videos features Toy Story and Toy Story 2 director Jon Lasseter discussing the origins of each Toy Story character.
The Disney Living team found footage of John Lasseter talking about a new line of toys and uploaded it to YouTube. The videos were viewed by more than 1.8 million people, and two years later, the videos still get views.
Alfred Angelo Fairy Tale Weddings Launch
When Disney Living decided to change the designer of its line of Disney Fairy Tale wedding gowns, it was unsure of how the fans would react. The new line was more accessible — less expensive and less exclusive — and the team worried that existing fans would be upset with the change.
So, the Disney Living team put together a special YouTube video showing off the new gowns. The video gives viewers a behind-the-scenes look a the new line of gowns ad introduces them to the designer. The video has been viewed more than 1.7 million times, making it the most successful single YouTube video from Disney Living.
Series Supported by Discover Digital Group