Walter Elias Disney and the Plus Factor

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Walt understood the power of the unexpected extra

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure on meeting up with Rick Cerrone at a function for the Big Apple Career Week. I had the pleasure of knowing Rick during my time at adidas when I managed the NY Yankees partnership. Rick was the PR Director for the Pinstripes for 11 seasons.

We talked about the concept of marketing lagniappe and the Purple Goldfish Project. He shared a story about Walt Disney that comes in at #537 in the Project. Rick mentioned that the story came from a book by Pat Williams called, How to Be Like Walt: Capturing the Disney Magic Every Day of Your Life. Here is a superb summary of the “plus” concept by John Torre:

“Normally, the word “plus” is a conjunction, but not in Walt’s vocabulary. To Walt, “plus” was a verb—an action word—signifying the delivery of more than what his customers paid for or expected to receive.

There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of examples of Walt “plussing” his products. He constantly challenged his artists and Imagineers to see what was possible, and then take it a step further…and then a step beyond that. Why did he go to the trouble of making everything better when “good enough” would have sufficed? Because for Walt, nothing less than the best was acceptable when it bore his name and reputation, and he did whatever it took to give his guests more value than they expected to receive for their dollar.

Perhaps one of the best examples of Walt’s obsession for “plussing” comes from Disney historian Les Perkins’ account of an incident that took place at Disneyland during the early years of the park. Walt had decided to hold a Christmas parade at the new park at a cost of $350,000. Walt’s accountants approached him and besieged him to not spend money on an extravagant Christmas parade because the people would already be there. Nobody would complain, they reasoned, if they dispensed with the parade because nobody would be expecting it.

Walt’s reply to his accountants is classic: “That’s just the point,” he said. “We should do the parade precisely because no one’s expecting it. Our goal at Disneyland is to always give the people more than they expect. As long as we keep surprising them, they’ll keep coming back. But if they ever stop coming, it’ll cost us ten times that much to get them to come back.”

Marketing Takeaway: It’s vital to continually be thinking about your own product or service. How can you “plus” it up via G.L.U.E – ‘giving little unexpected extras’ that will deliver above and beyond what your customers expect.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra) – Pat Williams talks about EPCOT in the video below. 99.9% of folks have no clue what EPCOT stands for. Since I’m an acronym hound I’ll let you in on some trivia. If you’ve visited the park this will make perfect sense . . . Every Person Comes Out Tired*. Enjoy the video.

*Here is the real translation of EPCOT:

Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow

Lagniappe defined: A marketing lagniappe, i.e. purple goldfish, is any time a business goes above and beyond to provide a ‘little something extra’. It’s that unexpected surprise that’s thrown in for good measure.

Where is the lagniappe in your marketing? What’s Your Purple Goldfish?

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