Thursday, December 17, 2009
Roy Disney's brand strategy legacy
Sometimes it's the quiet guy who makes the biggest waves. Roy Disney, nephew of Walt Disney, longtime Disney board member and avid sailboat racer, died yesterday at the age of 79. He left a legacy that anyone in the children's entertainment or marketing business should pay close attention to.
1. Stay true to your core. In the 1980s Roy grew frustrated with Disney company management and likened the company to "a real-estate company that happened to be in the movie business." (Los Angeles Times, 12/17/09). It was time to get back to the company's core roots, i.e. the feature animation film business.
2. Clear out the dead wood, bad apples and in-laws, if necessary. If there people within your organization that are not upholding or enhancing your brand's mission and values, particularly at the highest levels of the company, get them out of the way as quickly as possible. Ousting of company executives, first with Ron Miller (Walt Disney's son-in-law) and later with a shareholder revolt against Michael Eisner (whom Roy had helped bring into the company) certainly was not a pleasant process, but a necessary one.
3. Evangelize. "It was Roy who was the protector. It was Roy who was the godfather, the champion and believer in it," said Peter Schneider, former President of Walt Disney Feature Animation, "Animation doesn't work without someone who believed, and Roy believed." (LA Times)
4. Protect the brand. "People always underestimated Roy," said Schneider. "You underestimate Roy at your peril, as many have learned." It does appear as though company management is finally on track, as anyone can attest with Disney's string of recent animation, film, TV and other on-brand success stories.
5. Continue the legacy. "Roy's commitment to the art of animation was unparalleled and will always remain his personal legacy and one of his greatest contributions to Disney's past, present and future," said Bob Iger, current Disney company president, who early on made peace with Roy Disney. Smart move.