I recently had the opportunity to reflect on what we B2B marketers can learn from Disney to improve our global demand creation activities. Having wished our Summit 2014 guests farewell, the SiriusDecisions analyst team was allowed an afternoon to ourselves, and I visited Epcot at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, which, for those of you who do not know, features a “World Showcase” attraction, where guests can take a circular route to visit shops and restaurants in the traditional style of 11 different countries. I was intrigued by everything I saw, but being European, I was especially interested in the areas representing Norway, Germany, Italy, France and the UK. Here is what I learned:

  • Use a consistent theme. Although perhaps Disney had hoped I would be magically “transported” to Norway, I was always aware of being in a theme park. Your prospects and customers will also always know that you are trying to promote your company. However, what Disney gave us to make this acceptable was a consistent level of Disney value and delivery for each and every “country,” which made the overall experience worthwhile. Lesson: Success at a local level always requires delivery of relevant and valuable content, but it does not require breaking away from corporate standards.
  • Take advantage of local knowledge. When a global or even a regional team considers executing a non-localized demand creation program across multiple countries, it should first take a trip around Epcot’s lake. Let’s take “Germany” and “Italy” as an example. Because the distance between the two was only a matter of steps, a false sense of familiarity was present. Yet, after taking a step back and looking at both “countries” side by side, the differences between the two were apparent for everyone to see. The style of buildings, the flavor of the cuisine and the personnel were vastly different. Though they spoke English, the staff was made up entirely of people from the local country, and it was this local knowledge that gave authenticity to the experience. While I enjoyed being able to place my order, “Bitte ein Bier” (“A beer, please”) in the German pavilion, the same words would not have been so well understood next door in “Italy.” Lesson: Though distance may be short, cultural differences are often wider than is convenient for global marketers. Engage and, more importantly, utilize the knowledge of field operations at every stage when building global campaigns.
  • Always take the buyer’s perspective. How do you decide which buildings or cuisine should represent each country? Well, I have not actually spoken to Disney executives on this subject, but it seems to me that they took great pains to understand their prospective buyers’ needs. Chefs du France is stereotypically French, and that is precisely what visitors want and expect to see when in “France.” The customer is placed in the center of all activity and thus is not disappointed by jarring messages or the placement of other inappropriate products that Disney would potentially like to sell. Mickey Mouse in this environment would simply kill the message! Lesson: Make the customer’s perspective your primary consideration in all campaigns, and then determine which solution best solves the pain or need of the prospect.

As I made my way around the park, I finally crossed the water into the UK, which was just like crossing the channel for real. Being a Brit, I was keen to try the fish and chips at the local pub. I was blown away. It tasted great, and the attention to detail in the pub was excellent. The server was even born in my home town. If only the Disney executives had brought in wind and rain machines, the illusion would have been complete. My experience in the park made me determined to emulate this level of quality in my marketing efforts. With today’s instant communication capability, it’s a small world we live in – but let’s not forget the value of understanding and incorporating local nuances into our marketing activities, however inconvenient.