skip to main content

Five Marketing Lessons from a Day in Disneyland – #1: Apples and Oranges

divider image for this post

A while back I started a conversation about pricing by comparing the ski industry to Disneyland.

Among a long list of responses to the analysis, many people felt that comparing Disneyland to a ski resort wasn’t either fair, accurate or useful. My reply was often along the lines of, “they may not be apples to apples, but they’re not apples to oranges either.”

After a day in the park, I feel that is more true than ever. So before I share the marketing lessons I learned, let me reiterate my stance that we have something to learn from this resort by sharing a few more similarities.

Disneyland relies heavily on locals. Just like resorts, thousands of locals buy season passes that come with holiday blackout dates to help decrease crowds on busy weekends. And, like resorts, some locals visit the resort almost every day.

Disney pushes multi-day passes for their destination guests just as strongly as ski resorts. The hope of perfect weather or short lines on one of those days and the goal of seeing more of the resort helps both groups successfully sell them.

Off-Resort to Save
With both Disney and skiing many people go off-resort to save money on lodging and food. This gives the resort some of the value through day passes but not all of it.

Early Ups
To counter this, resorts have begun to use early access as a perk to add value to resort lodging. Disney does the exact same thing with an hour of access before and after the park’s normal hours for people staying in Disney hotels.

Disney is Destination
Like many major ski resorts, Disney is the destination first, not the town. The town around it benefits greatly from being in the same vicinity as the resort. Like the closing of June Mountain, Anaheim would suffer mightily without the resort.

Lines Impact Value
In both skiing and Disney, the longer you wait in line, the less value you get from your ticket. Likewise, on busy days lines are a common complaint between both while on slow days the lack of lines becomes a highlight of the day.

Age Impacts Value
While we saw many parents with an under-one-year-old like ours, the direct value (all rides, quick movement between rides) you get from your pass drops quickly with young children in both skiing and Disney.

Family & School Breaks
Just like skiing, Disneyland relies heavily on school breaks. This applies to much of travel, but because Disney and skiing are both tied closely to families, the effect is magnified.

Bucket List & Regulars
Like ski destinations, Disney gets a combination of bucket-list types who will only come once and regulars who take Disney vacations every year or two or three.

One Among Many
Disneyland is not a one-wolf pack. Disneyland is a theme park – one of many. They compete with other theme parks in California and local amusement parks as a ski resorts competes with other destination resorts and smaller, local ski areas.

Closer Than We Give Credit For
No Disney doesn’t require skill to enjoy the rides, no Disney doesn’t depend quite as much on the weather, no Disney doesn’t have the huge fluctuations in revenue between seasons.

But Disneyland is more like a destination ski resort than we think. And, being the insanely successful resort that it is, has a lot of lessons we can learn.

For the rest of the week I’ll be discussing some of those lessons.

About Gregg & SlopeFillers
I've had more first-time visitors lately, so adding a quick "about" section. I started SlopeFillers in 2010 with the simple goal of sharing great resort marketing strategies. Today I run marketing for resort ecommerce and CRM provider Inntopia, my home mountain is the lovely Nordic Valley, and my favorite marketing campaign remains the Ski Utah TV show that sold me on skiing as a kid in the 90s.

Get the weekly digest.

New stories, ideas, and jobs delivered to your inbox every Friday morning.