Disney's Animal Kingdom Digital Marketing Proposal


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This is a digital marketing plan I designed for Walt Disney's Animal Kingdom. It was for the New Media Drivers License course at Michigan State, and is part of my Masters in Public Relations program.

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  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom is one theme park of a total of four main parks at Walt Disney World (WDW) Resort in Orlando, Florida. The park is home to a total of 1,700 animals from 250 species. It covers 500 acres and is the largest theme park with an animal theme in the world. The park itself is divided into seven areas: Oasis, Discovery Island, Camp Minnie-Mickey, Africa, Rafiki’s Planet Watch, Asia and Dinoland U.S.A.. Guests can see Disney characters, attend Broadway-style shows, see animals, take a safari, learn about conservation and ride themed attractions. Disney has faced a few challenges in the past years, with an impact on their theme park marketing. Disney battled some internal strife a few years ago leading to the eventual departure of Michael Eisner from his position of CEO. Marketing seemed to grow stagnant as the company looked for a new direction. New marketing schemes have been attempted. For example, you may have noticed a sharp increase in the presence of Disney characters in public service announcements, such as seat belt and booster seat law advocacy and water preservation efforts. The recent recession has had an impact on park attendance, with growth rates falling from previous years. Disney has been forced to drastically cut prices and promote package deals for hotel reservations and tickets. Families are opting to stay close to home when they vacation in order to save money. The high national unemployment rate means fewer individuals can afford elaborate vacations. Additionally, Disney’s marketing seems to market WDW as a whole. Past visitors who came as children, prior to the opening of the Animal Kingdom, may not be familiar with the newest theme park. Disney needs to emphasize the Animal Kingdom in marketing particular to the park. Disney alsoneeds to return to its original platform of the Animal Kingdom as an alternative, unique theme park. There are many things Disney could do to broaden their marketing audience from the current target: moms. The goal of this presentation is to demonstrate to Disney ways that they might use social media and digital marketing to rebound from the recent recession and to increase the audience reached by their marketing campaigns.Photo courtesy of: www.flickr.com/photos/daryl_mitchell/
  • Before designing this digital media campaign, I first looked at what the Walt Disney Company already has in place. There are some issues that need to be addressed as part of the greater digital marketing campaign. The Walt Disney Company has one main website: www.disney.go.com. This is split into web pages centered around games, videos, characters, movies, television, music, events, theme parks and shopping. With so many sub-pages targeted at different audiences, Disney seems to be having difficulty communicating their aims. For example, the homepage is styled using cartoon elements. There are menus that seem to target different age groups, but the menus all appear on one main screen near each other. The screen is very busy to the eye, and most likely would drive away some site visitors, particularly those with slower processors and web connections. By going further into the web pages, users encounter varying web page designs. The overall website lacks a cohesive look and mood. At the theme park page level, there is a page devoted to each resort (i.e. Walt Disney World, Disneyland Resort, Tokyo Disney). Within each of these are more pages devoted to theme parks, hotels, dining, etc. At a basic level, navigating this site is a nightmare. To find the Animal Kingdom web pages, users must navigate through four separate web pages before landing on a generic overview page that offers very little information. It’s no wonder so many visitors rely on outside source tour guides when planning their trip. Aside from the web site structure, there are some issues with current digital marketing that need to be addressed. Disney does have a blog featuring information on Disney parks. One blog meets the needs of Disneyland, Walt Disney World and the Disney Cruise Line, along with all their associated lands and attractions. While their posts are interesting, the blog is not designed in a way that appropriately targets audiences. The Disney attempt at micro-blogging through a forum-style blog is also too restrictive with target audience.Finally, there are some problems at the very basic level of search engine marketing. While the website does seem to be appropriately optimized, with the top five Google search results for “Disney’s Animal Kingdom” being internal links to the Disney homepage, they do lack clout in search engine marketing. None of the sponsored links are owned by Disney. They are all owned by travel planning sites, such as Orbitz, and Orlando-area hotel chains. Disney could be losing out on booking fees and hotel revenue by not utilizing targeted search engine marketing techniques. Photo courtesy of: www.flickr.com/photos/jasonhudson
  • But Disney should not fret- these things are fixable. The key is to develop a new frame of mind. Rather than defining their target audience as families with little children that want to do it all on the website (see the movies, play the games, print out the coloring sheets, plan a trip to all the parks and listen to music), Disney should think carefully about who will really be interested in each web element. They should also consider who they might have left out.In the case of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, that may be a lot of people. According to the book “The Making of Disney’s Animal Kingdom” by Melody Malmberg, an insider’s guide that is sold in the park and therefore endorsed by Disney, the company originally envisioned the Animal Kingdom park as the world’s best zoo. The focus was the animals and the audience included animal lovers in addition to the typically Disney family tourists. Disney has gotten away from that original intent. Disney should reposition their marketing of Disney’s Animal Kingdom to reach those who really care about the animals, including school science teachers, zoologists around the country, animal rights activists and families. Each digital marketing venture should keep these various audiences in mind.Photo courtesy of: Dell Sample Photos
  • Disney currently has a parks blog featuring news updates, tips and tricks, photos and feature stories regarding their theme parks. The blog covers Disney Cruise Line, Walt Disney World and Disneyland. The problem with this approach is that Disney is not segmenting their audience with enough clarity to give readers what they really want. A couple looking at Disney as a wedding location are not interested in the same things as a family of five. Those interested in the Animal Kingdom theme park are likely to have varying interests from those interested in the general theme parks.I recommend that Disney develop a separate series of blogs for the Animal Kingdom. Disney should maintain their current parks blog as an information source for travel agents and parties interested in booking trips. An additional blog should be established for the scientific audience interested in the operations of the Animal Kingdom. The target audience would include zoo keepers, veterinarians and animal rights activists. This blog would have a natural, organic look and a scientific tone. Posts would be contributed by Disney’s animal handlers, veterinarians and researchers. A third blog would be established for the lay audience. This target audience would include members of the general public interested in the Animal Kingdom park and in animals in general, as well as children, families and educators. Posts by animal handlers and cast members would be written at an appropriate educational and maturity level. Where appropriate, blog posts from both the Animal Kingdom blogs can be incorporated into the parks blog, and vice versa.A critical aspect of the Disney blogging platform should be blogger outreach. Disney must connect with renowned bloggers in both zoological and tourist arenas. These should include prominent external bloggers who feature the Disney parks. By connecting with these writers Disney will be able to increase its brand equity in regard to personal touch, and Disney will be better able to disseminate its messages. Disney might consider asking these individuals to serve as “guest bloggers” and providing unbiased opinions on the Animal Kingdom park.Blogger outreach is just one aspect of digital public relations. Disney can use the appropriate blogs, in addition to their web sites, to publish news releases. These interactive documents will be used to notify interested parties of births and animal acquisitions, park events and news. The documents will rely on imagery, video and sound, with the text-heavy materials being linked to in the blogs.Photo modified from www.flickr.com/photos/panavatar/
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom provides ideal material for use on YouTube. In the past, Disney may have avoided providing material concerning park events, such as filmed parades, to avoid cutting down the necessity of visiting the park to obtain these experiences. This is the wrong approach. Disney should use YouTube as a broadcast channel to share information on the park and its animals. A Disney’s Animal Kingdom YouTube channel would provide Disney with a means of serving the public with educational material. Episodic shows featuring animals and their new tricks and enrichment activities, a day in the life of an animal handler or researcher, feedings, behind-the-scenes web cams and other materials could actually encourage more individuals to visit the park. The YouTube channel would focus primarily on the animals, but occasional features could be added regarding park attractions and new events. Additionally, educators could draw the material into use in their classes. A bonus for Disney: all the children in the class will go home talking about what they saw and begging to visit the park in person. Photo courtesy of: www.flickr.com/photos/tgrt/
  • The Walt Disney World website currently incorporates a “Mom feed” with tips for families planning a trip to the resort. These tips are written by moms who have visited the park. This is a great entry in the micro-blogging world, but it is far too limited. By targeting only moms planning trips, Disney has truncated its potential audience unnecessarily. I recommend that Disney create multiple Twitter platform accounts to reach varying target audiences. At a broad level one of these accounts could encompass Walt Disney World as a whole. Similar to the “Mom feed,” the Twitter account would target those interested in planning a trip, but it would also target those interested in receiving updates on park happenings. Select tweets could offer discount codes for booking reservations. This technique could be used to push off-season times and boost slow periods. It is important that the account feature more than just discounts. It should be considered a news feed with quick bites of information on park events and attractions, with bonus reservation tips thrown in. This will ensure audiences are retained after trips are booked, and could draw audiences who have not yet decided to book a trip and encourage them to do so.A Disney presence on Twitter could incorporate itself into Disney park events, such as a Disney Twitter Day. This would essentially be a mass tweet-up, where Disney Twitter followers would receive recognition badges or additional perks.At the park level, Twitter lends itself to dissemination of information to guests. An Animal Kingdom Twitter account could feature information on daily events in the park, trivia and tips. A central theme to the account would be tips on finding the location of the notorious Hidden Mickeys. Policy would be established to govern the Twitter accounts and the appropriate messages. For example, no tips regarding character locations or line length would be sent via Twitter in order to avoid the risk of a flash-mob effect on Cast Members.Photo courtesy of: www.flickr.com/photos/furryscalyman/
  • Mobile technology enables the Animal Kingdom to take the park visit experience to new heights. It can be assumed that the majority of visitors to the theme park now carry cellular phones, many with texting and/or internet connectivity options. Utilizing the cell phones that guests have already carried into the park, Disney can create a greater connection between their audience and the park.Text messaging allows for mobile phone technology to enhance the park experience at a basic level. In this plan, codes would be placed in guidebooks or on specially designated park maps. Each code, when texted to a designated phone number, would provide a response containing interesting factoids, useful information or special discount redemption codes for use throughout Walt Disney World. Information will cover a broad range, from specifics to particular animal species to information about the construction and history of the park. A bonus feature of this plan is the consumer information that Disney will be able to collect. Park guests will be asked to register their map or guidebook, available for a minimum cost in Walt Disney World resort hotel lobbies at check-in, in hotel gift shops and at park entrances. Upon registration, Disney will collect cell phone numbers and biographical information on users, including those visiting the park that are not resort hotel guests. Computers will create automatic responses to the code texts, and the information provided by users will allow for personalized pre-programmed messages thanking guests for their visit. These messages may be signed “Love, Mickey” or some other sentiment and a special Disneyesque touch.The relatively new social platform, FourSquare, will be incorporated into the existing collectible pin campaign at Walt Disney World. Users will “check-in” at designated attractions throughout all the lands of the Animal Kingdom. Users who check-in to all designated sites throughout the Animal Kingdom will “check-out” by visiting the main gift shop at the park exit. Using their FourSquare records to prove they have visited all designated sites within the same day, they be rewarded with a special FourSquare Animal Kingdom collectible pin. This pin will be in similar fashion to those traded throughout the Walt Disney World properties between guests and with Cast Members. An added benefit of this program for Disney is the traffic that will be driven to the gift shop at the Animal Kingdom. Additionally it will create increased interest in the trading pin program that has long been in existence at Walt Disney World.Photo courtesy of: Dell Sample Photos
  • A digital marketing plan is useless if it does not yield results. It is important to consider how results will be measured prior to implementing any marketing plan, and digital marketing plans are no different.For the proposed digital marketing plan for Disney’s Animal Kingdom, many different metrics will be studied. At a basic level Disney will measure the number of followers and readers of our social media platforms. This will determine the initial reach of the marketing efforts. A further measurement is an analysis of the response to Disney’s social media presence. This comes in the form of following chatter surrounding the company (such as through Google Reader feeds), the number and type of re-tweets and mentions from company Twitter postings, and the number of inbound links to the Disney websites and new Animal Kingdom blog. All of these activities extend the reach of the Animal Kingdom brand through the extended networks of the individuals associated with the web activity.At a deeper level I would recommend that Disney look at levels of return on engagement- what is Disney getting in exchange for the marketing efforts? This is measured through qualitative analysis, survey research of readers and by examining the quality of the responses and how useful they are to the Disney Company. For example, particular blog posts will yield comments and inbound links. Knowing the quantity of these is important, but the feedback they can supply is far more valuable. At a financial level, I would like to enable the Disney company to track the source of a consumer’s information back to its roots. Using click-through rates and web activity measurements, in addition to surveying consumers when making reservations over the phone or when purchasing tickets at a Disney retail location, the marketing staff will determine which portals of information used by Disney are most effective.Finally, to get to the bottom line. Disney will measure sales in terms of the timeline associated with the digital media campaign. Careful attention to the correlation between marketing efforts and sales results can identify successful practices. Additionally, traceable links will be used to drive traffic directly to sales portals. Web-based “shopping carts” also will prompt randomly selected consumers to identify the marketing messages and means that have impacted their purchase.
  • It is important the Disney get the basic elements of this marketing plan built before launching and pushing it towards the public.Disney must begin by designing a general brand appearance for the Animal Kingdom that can be applied to digital marketing. This requires identifying the font families, color schemes and iconography that will be implemented. These elements should be somewhat uniform throughout the various platforms. Metrics should be clearly established at this point as well. Next Disney must establish an Animal Kingdom web hub, located on the Disney website. This will be a central location that all future digital marketing materials can direct users to for more information. It is important that the design be universal enough to not deter any audience members, and friendly enough for varying computer capacities. Accessibility is key.Next Disney should construct its varying blogs and its YouTube channel. A part of this process will involve getting internal audiences to sign on to the ideas, ensuring cooperation and their help in providing material. This is the time that Disney should begin investing in search engine marketing and blogger outreach as well. The goal is to spur on higher reservation and attendance rates for the time period when Disney is ready to roll-out the full campaign in the parks.Next Disney must make its in-park adjustments necessary for the Twitter and mobile technology campaigns. These adjustments will include altering signs and producing maps and guidebooks. Finally the Twitter and mobile technologies should be launched. All systems should now be up and running, with all platforms creating interconnecting inbound links to keep web traffic centered on Animal Kingdom marketing.The overall duration of this timeline should last approximately six-nine months, with perpetual maintenance of the systems thereafter. Disney should aim for complete implementation of the system before November to take advantage of peak traffic over the winter months and the spring break time period. Summer is an ideal time to implement these changes. Search engine marketing investment should be timed to take advantage of the peak season (winter and spring break) and strategically to boost slow periods.Photo courtesy of: www.flickr.com/photos/shaireproductions/
  • The estimated overall first-yearbudget for the proposed Animal Kingdom digital marketing plan is $10 million. This figure is based on Disney’s 2009 10-K report and market research on Orlando area salaries and cost of living expenses. Disney will utilize staff on hand in different units (such as staff photographers and copy editors) when possible. The budget for the Animal Kingdom digital marketing campaign only reflects the share of costs to be handled by the Animal Kingdom project. The budget covers the categories of staff/operations, web hosting, design and production, promotion, and technological asset investment.________________A handout would be provided with the following information:Staff/Administrative and Operations Expenses: $1 millionThe average salary of a marketing executive in Orlando is $49,000. I estimate Disney will require a staff of five managers, plus additional production and lower-level staff, allocated from other departments when necessary.Web Hosting and Production Expenses: $1 millionDesign and Art Elements: $2 million This includes photography and video components.Technological Asset Investment: $1 million This includes web cameras and computer software to manage mobile platforms.Promotion Expenses: $5 million This includes coupon code redemption costs and tradable pin expense.Photo courtesy of: www.flickr.com/photos/sh0dan
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Digital Marketing Proposal

    1. 1. Disney’s Animal Kingdom<br />© Katherine Kelly, Spring 2010<br />
    2. 2. ROUGH SPOTS<br />
    3. 3.
    4. 4. TALKING HEADS<br />
    5. 5. NOW<br />STARRING<br />
    6. 6. TWEET<br />
    7. 7. ON THE FLY<br />
    8. 8. # ! ? * $<br />
    9. 9.
    10. 10. SHELLS?<br />