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Five Marketing Lessons from a Day in Disneyland – #2: The Disney Bubble

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Disney is more like a destination ski resort than I thought.

As such, a day in the park a few weeks ago taught me some very interesting lessons about why they are so successful as a business.

Here’s one of those lessons.

Resort Owned
As I walked through the park, the shops, the lines, you know what I couldn’t buy? Something that wasn’t made by Disney.

All the hats, all the shirts, all the watches, purses, sunglasses, hoodies, jackets, and umbrellas you could ever desire (or need during the day), all made and branded by Disney. No Polo, no Patagonia, no Nike, just the manufacturing cost and retail price with a splash of branding with every sale.

If you spend money on an accessory, they’ve made sure as much of that as possible will go toward their bottom line, brand, and experience. They’ve created a Disney bubble.

Resort Owned?
Wandering the SIA floor last year reminded me a lot of the shops I saw around Disneyland. Resorts provide this high cost, high risk business and activity onto which thousands of retailers have built tangential models.

If these models work, it makes me wonder what would happen if a resorts tried to take a bigger, more direct slice of the retail pie. For example, why can’t I buy a Squaw-brand jacket and pants combo? Why can’t I buy a Killington brand snowboard or set of poles, built specifically for the conditions by a local upstart name, that can be featured in shops and packaged with season passes?

Is there a way to turn a resort brand into a gear brand as well? Is there value in creating more of a Big Sky or Sun Valley or Sunday River bubble?

Resorts & Friends
For most of my ski-life I’ve just accepted that resorts sell and build dozens of brands besides their own in their shops.

Until two weeks ago, I had never considered the idea of resorts building a bubble that puts more of each ski-shop sale in their pockets and more branding on their skiers along the way.

I don’t know if it’s good or bad, right or wrong, but the idea of a Texan returning home with Vail on his lips and his new skis is an interesting one to chew on.

  • Kevin Forrest

    Would be interesting to know where the break even point would be for clothing lines and if you could find a quality generic or well known brand that would let you brand/re-brand their gear? Disney certainly has the ability to move enough volume to commission product lines. Does a big resort come close to the kind of numbers that would allow them to at least break even on the cost? Would the “good will” and brand awareness be worth it?

    • I guess I’d counter by asking if the goodwill and brand awareness of any ski apparel brand be worth making the move into that business? Resorts are lucky that they start with a brand, a brand that needs certain gear to participate in. Though I think my question is a good one to ask, to me it’s more about a tradeoff: would it be better to sell gear with your logo on it or someone else’s logo on it in your shops? Or both? Like I said, not sure of the answer on this one…but the wheels are definitely turning.

      • Kevin Forrest

        I think it is always better to sell gear with your logo if possible. I think you would work it as a special edition with an already popular brand like Ford does with Eddie Bauer. The question is will your brand generate enough affinity with patrons to cause them to pay the same more for a resort branded black ski jacket vs. a non-resort branded black jacket? Mickey Mouse is cute and kids and parents have grown up with him. Does this question boil down on how you create that type of affinity for your resort brand?

  • Jon Slaughter

    Gregg this is a great thought, however I feel clothing is such an important part of the culture of skiing/snowboarding that you would end up losing sales because skier-X can’t purchase XX brand. The identity of skiers/riders is partly defined by their clothing. I see this now more than ever at PCMR. Not only do you see youth displaying their culture thru Neff, Nike and Aramada, but you also have the other spectrum defining their style thru Bogner. (I always wondered who purchased those $1200 coats)

    That said, I do think their is room for both. And I think many resorts could expand their brand reach thru retail, however many will need to move away from the “t-shirt factory” designs which usually include a silhouetted snowboarder doing a method or a tagline saying “No slope too steep…” If the brand is crafted properly, it can become one of the name brands used to define a skier’s/snowboarder’s culture down the road.

    • Really good points, Jon. Especially on the point of resorts that already do some retail but do so halfheartedly and with designs and fittings that people don’t want to wear.

  • Casey Reed

    When I was at Breckenridge a few years back, I went into the Billabong store and bought a Billabong/Breckenridge collabo hoodie. I guess that still takes away from your point of putting more money in the shops pocket but it does an excellent job of what Jon Slaughter said about the identity of the riders being defined by their clothing, and resorts still get the branding.

    • Casey Reed

      I just realized you guys were already talking about this is the comments.

  • WisSkier

    I see this as much easier to pull of with softlines, consumables, and possibly with gear at the lower end of the price spectrum. Gear from the middle of the price spectrum and on up is going to have a hard time with all but the locals and regulars.

    Softlines is already done, the question is pushing the boundary out from the shirts, hoodies, caps, and hats into the higher end items (parkas, pants, etc). I assume there would be zero interest in branding base layers! Consumables would work, I’m in need of suntan lotion at a destination resort and I’m not going to quibble about paying extra branded or otherwise. However, the gear is a way different thing, unless something happens that destroys my gear I’m not buying and even then rental is the way I would leap. When I get home my eyes will focus on the gear I know and pops up in the top of Google and the usual ski sites. In my mind I would add about zero extra $ to resort branded gear.

    We all know prices at destinations are higher and so when we hit those places up we plan to only purchase the souvenir items and any of the smallish items we forget about. Disney-goers only piece of required pricey gear are cameras and absent that camera getting broken and some other compelling need (and don’t forget everyone has a camera on their phone) I am not buying a camera at Disney, maybe another memory card, maybe batteries for that camera but no dice on the camera.

    I am not saying this problem is unsolvable. When I am at a ski resort skiing, I am not much more free to leave and hit town for buying some unforeseen need than I am at Disney so that helps. The problem is convincing me that some piece of gear is as or more capable than what I can buy elsewhere with a brand I know and trust. Resort ski and board competition teams would be invaluable in that effort.

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