Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Week 4: Disney

American Mass Culture
Week 5

Disney, Consumer Culture, Brand Meaning, Consumption, Identity





This week we learn…..



       1930s – Walt Disney begins thinking about building a city

       Realizes every Mickey Mouse toy is an advertisement for his cartoons – realized the concept of “Synergy”



       Now everyone in marketing realizes that those childhood toys and experiences, in adulthood, become the desire to enter into the world of that identity, to become the meaning of the brand

       Disney began understanding this before any other big brand



       This strong consumer desire to become one with favorite pop-culture products is exploited by every one of the superbrands — from Nike to Viacom to the Gap to Martha Stewart – as they use synergy-based lifestyle marketing


       Disney is the best: Michael J. Wolf, a famous management consultant to big companies like Viacom, Time Warner, MTV, writes:

“I can't begin to count the number of times that people who run consumer businesses have confided to me that their goal is to create the broadbased success that Disney seems to bring to every project and every business it touches.”



       Or as Shaq put it in his own marketing efforts:

Everyone wants to be…..


“… Mickey Mouse."


       Disney invented modern branding


       Walt Disney Company created the model for the branded superstore, opening the first Disney Store in 1984.

       Such branded stores, in expensive locations, often lose money. But they create brand image and help spread the idea of the brand


       Disney also created the branded holiday – not merely resorts, but also a Disney cruise ship line, which goes to Disney’s privately owned island in the Caribbean.

       Even Nike has a sports-themed cruise ship line….


       Branded towns, too: Disney owns Celebration, Florida, a Disney branded town.

       The irony of Celebration: (from No Logo)

Oddly enough, Celebration is not even sales vehicle for Mickey Mouse licensed products; it is, in contemporary terms an almost Disney-free town - no doubt the only one left in America. In other words, when Disney finally reached its fully enclosed, synergized, self-sufficient space, it chose to create a pre-Disneyfied world- its calm, understated aesthetics are the antithesis of the cartoon world for sale down the freeway at Disney World.”


There are no other brands allowed either.  But as one critic says, “it is private space that pretends to be public” since everything is under Disney’s control, from the size of the roads to the shape and color of the buildings.s


       "Animation can explain whatever the mind of man can conceive. This facility makes it the most versatile and explicit means of communication yet devised for quick mass appreciation."

-            Walt Disney, Founder, Walt Disney Group of Companies.


       "Disney boldly diversified into television, commercials, music, comic strips and amusement parks at a time when other studios could think of little but celluloid"



       As noted before, Walt Disney invented the ideas of brand management, merchandising campaigns, and brand extension into other product fields


       In 1927, Disney created the highly successful Oswald the Lucky Rabbit for Universal Pictures.

       He left Universal over a copyright dispute and in 1928 invented Mickey Mouse

       With third Mickey cartoon, Steamboat Willie, Disney introduced synchronized sound. Very Popular


       In early 1930s Disney experimented with animation that created emotions, and experiences


       In 1938, with the film Snow White, the first-full length animated picture, he became the first producer to have a complete merchandising campaign for a film.

       It became the highest-grossing film of all time.



       He started Mickey Mouse Clubs for children which offered them games and prizes, to cement their loyalty to the company.


       In early 1940s he began to imagine the first theme park, Disneyworld, with rides and Disney-themed products

       But Disney spent the 1940s doing war-related propaganda for the government


       In the 1950s Disney became a major name in television


       Note role of TV in creating brand synergy between TV, movies, and toy and other products


       In 1950 Disney released Cinderella, a huge hit, which led to opening of Disneyworld in California in 1955

       Walt Disney became confident in TV as a medium to promote his movies, when other companies were afraid of the new technology


       1960s Disney moved into live-action films with Swiss Family Robinson, The Absent-Minded Professor, and one of the greatest movies ever made, Mary Poppins.




       Walt died in 1960s

       In 1971 Disney World Florida opened

       Walt’s son Roy dies in 1970s. Company begins to lose its direction and intelligence – it turned down Raiders of the Lost Ark and ET


       Early 1980s Disney was more concerned with real estate and recreation than entertainment

       The company was dying. In 1983 the Bass brothers bought 25% of Disney and installed new management team headed by Michael Eisener


       From 1983 to 1987, annual revenues more than doubled, profits nearly quintupled, and the value of Disney stock went from $2 billion to $23 billion.

       Expansion depended largely on a wide array of business activities in which the new management team aggressively exploited the Disney brand name, such as the stores


       1990s = Disney Decade

       Disney bought many other companies, including ABC and ESPN

       Released  The Little Mermaid (1989),  Beauty and the Beast (1991) and The Lion King (1994), most successful animated feature ever produced, resurrected its movie power


       Late 1990s saw Disney begin to sink again, but after Eisner was forced out (in Shrek Lord Farquaad is thought to be Michael Eisener) Disney grew with Pirates of the Caribbean (2003) and Finding Nemo (2003),

       TV:  Disney experiences continued success with TV hits such as Desperate HousewivesLostGreys’ Anatomy,High School Musical, and Hannah Montana

Consumption and Identity.

modern identities are structured around the experience of consumption.

Central Insight

     modern identities are structured around the experience of consumption.



        Consumption and construction of identity.


        material and symbolic elements of consumption


        Consumption as manipulation by producers.


        Consumption as cultural expression.


        The role of desire plays in our consumption choices



Consumption and construction of identity.

       When we consume things, we construct an identity

       When we want to construct an identity, we consume things

material and symbolic elements of consumption

       You buy a smartphone because you think you need one

       You buy an Apple iPhone because it means something different than a Samsung

       You need transportation, so you buy a vehicle

       You buy a Mercedes because you want the status it gives you


Consumption as manipulation by producers.

       Producers manipulate you

       To manipulate you, they manipulate the material and symbolic elements of the product.

Consumption as cultural expression. 

       What do you consume because you are Taiwanese? Han? Chinese? Hakka? Muslim? Christian? Chinese Folk Religionist? Middle-class? Upper-class? Working class?

The role of desire plays in our consumption choices

       The real production is the production of desire

      What is it that we are Consuming?

        A material element and a symbolic element.

        About more than the satisfaction of 'needs'

        images, feelings, fantasies, archetypes

        individual identity  and group identity?

        Consumption to create outgroups or others.

Defining Consumption

       different from the economic definition of consumption

       the buying, using and interpretation of goods:

       central notion: modern identities are structured around the experience of consumption.  

Consumption and Status

         The symbolic marking out of status groups



         Thorstein Veblen 1889 - conspicuous consumption  -- engaged in by all groups, depends on relative level of spending on consumption and leisure (big homes that can store more stuff!)


         Mary Douglas: objects mark out symbolic status


Consumption as ‘lack’

       Post-consumption ‘emptiness’

       Consumption, then, is founded on a LACK or DESIRE for something that is absent

        an unfinished self.


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