May 13, 2016

dsc_0402Can you imagine what 4 billion US$ is like?  It’s the amount of money Disney paid to buy Lucasfilm.  Yes, the same Lucasfilm behind the Star Wars epics.  But it isn’t all about money.  Mention the word Disney, and one can’t help but smile.

Last April, Sesha Kanthamraju, Executive Director for Disney’s Communications & Citizenship, spoke on the intricacies, challenges, and winning moments of advertising to children at the general membership meeting of the Philippine Association of National Advertisers (PANA).  The executive from The Walt Disney Company, Southeast Asia, shared how staying relevant spouts from Disney’s fountain of youth.

The stuff of childhood memories

For children all over the world, Disney, and the magical space on earth that is Disneyland, is worth more than a million dollar’s worth of smiles.  And, it isn’t by accident that it is so.

“Anything you need to move through the day, Disney has a product for that.”   Surely, anyone who has been to Disneyland knows this to be true.  Once they’ve trod on the same ground that Mickey Mouse does, all kids want is to remember the moment.  What better way than to buy them a Mickey toothbrush plus a bunch of Donald Duck stuff like jammies and flip-flops?

Disney is all about creating magical moments, and allowing children to relive it.  It feeds our childhood memories with good things.   “Creating a lasting emotional attachment,” is difficult, and Disney seems to have mastered it.

Advertising to children has its tricky parts, so to speak.  It is extremely interesting—who can beat a job that requires you to think like children?  But, it has its challenges.  Society, and the immediate community have a say with what media or brands can or cannot do when communicating—and selling—to kids.   Where other entities are perhaps scrutinized for their advertising communications to children, there is less focus applied to Disney.  Most parents sit their kids in front of their TV sets for Disney shows.

Shares Kanthamraju, “Parents entrust their kids with us.  And, that’s one thing we hold the dearest.”

It’s all about fun, and products

“We can’t do anything in our marketing space except (have) fun,” says Kanthamraju.  “To make sure we remain fun, we start with storytelling.  Without this, we wouldn’t be Disney,” he adds.   Kanthamraju knows his stuff, so to speak.  This Disney executive started his media-marketing career as a BBDO creative.   In 2008, he headed Disney India’s movie line, and learned all things Hollywood and Bollywood.

“The fun never ends because Disney knows how to extend the experience beyond the story.  Yes, Disney has a product for everything you need to go through the day.  Remember that. “But, every product we put out there has to be the highest quality,” stresses Kanthamraju.

Let’s focus on quality.  Disney goes beyond durability, the best materials, and favorite color availability.  Quality for Disney is never about the individual.  Disney is always about the community, and being responsible for it.

“Disney, and its products have to be decent.  If there’s a moment where you have to cover your child’s eyes—then it’s not Disney,” says Kanthamraju.

Quality is also about emotion.  Explains Kanthamraju, “Life is full of sadness, why would you pay to feel this way again?  Experiences are special because Disney has a heart at the center of it.”  Yes, they take fun seriously in Disney.

The Millennium Family

When it’s advertising to children, there’s always the family.  And, today’s families are a far cry from 1923 when Disney was founded.   Families have never before been this democratic as it is today.  A thorough understanding of the dynamics of the family members is essential to how Disney, 7 years shy of a centennial, is creating marketing strategies.

“Men want money, women want more time.   As a brand, create solutions around this point of view.  “Talk about convenience and time for women, and for men, find solutions for money,” says Kanthamraju.

Actual differences in how family members communicate in these millennial days provide a crux.  Elucidating on this, Kanthamraju says, “Educate versus talk? You inform or teach Dad, but Mom knows it all.  When Disney—and brands (in general)—talk to parents, it would pay to converse in this way.”

From a marketing standpoint, strictly adhering to tradition is part of the barrier that has to be broken.  Explains Kanthamraju, “If you don’t break designs, you can’t be innovative.  The presumption is that there are rules—but why can you not break them?”

Relevance, remembrance

Listening to Kanthamraju talk about kids, and the insights that hit right at the hearts of kids is fascinating.  The advertising strategies for children may be as generic as ‘listen to your consumers.  But specifically, when advertising to children, you never presume they’re the kids you once were.  “Don’t dumb down.  Keep it simple, stupid (kiss).   A Disney purchase is emotional.  It is never a rational one.  Always entertain and inspire, and keep telling relevant stories,” he advises.

When kids, their families, and communities are dynamic, and relationships responsive and interactive, children will not wait to be fed information. Children now know more about things that are happening.  “It is excessively important today to keep talking to kids.  They will remember a brand that entertains.  Kids will not remember a brand that ‘tells’ them what their parents are already telling them.  In the Philippines, if you assume that all kids love music, you’ll end up with just an ad spot. Disney creates magical moments that make the kids remember that moment,” says Kanthamraju.

By Aye P Ubaldo

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