By Gideon Spanier, 12 Sept. 2011
"Adults are changing their behaviour but kids are born into this," says Tricia Wilber, the Walt Disney Company's chief marketing officer for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, as she explains how so many young consumers are not just embracing the internet, smartphones and video on demand. They have never known anything different.
"Transmedia" is the buzzword that Disney likes to use.
This takes in everything from physical to digital and all points in between - from cinema and cable TV to new fast-growing areas such as online streaming and social media and traditional live experiences such as theme parks and theatre shows.
"Consumers now have access to that brand in any way they want. That creates opportunities for us," says Wilber.
Yet this also makes it more complex for Disney, which owns top children's brands such as Mickey Mouse, Toy Story and Pirates of the Caribbean as well as TV networks ABC and ESPN.
In the transmedia age, no single communications channel is dominant. So Wilber says Disney tries to avoid being wedded to any particular platform. "Our content and story-telling and emotional connections are what make Disney Disney," she says.
Every platform can potentially play a leading role, depending on the particular brand and target audience.
For example, Disney used both traditional media and Facebook to promote the recent Pirates of the Caribbean movie to teenagers. In contrast, Disney Channel on cable TV was crucial for Cars2 to reach younger fans. Clearly digital and social media offer great opportunities to increase engagement - both in terms of depth and over a longer timescale. Disney UK's official Facebook page for Toy Story 3 won half a million followers. But in a sign of the times, a fan from Luton created his own unofficial page, called "Move out of the way, children, I've been waiting 11 years to see Toy Story 3", that got 1.7 million in the space of a week.
Disney had to think fast and decided to collaborate, giving this fan special content and access - an interesting example of how even the world's biggest media company needs to be nimble and willing to cede a degree of control...."