A 1957 infographic of Walt Disney’s corporate theory reveals a complex web of strategic channels. The illustration might be nearly 60 years old, but it’s still the basis of the brand’s success.
When Disney makes a movie today, the company thinks beyond the motion picture to how the story can be leveraged into merchandise, experiences, and spin-offs. It’s not just a film: it’s a theme park ride, a chapter in a larger saga, an action figure, a musical on ice—you get the picture.
A Wall Street Journal story quoted Jay Rasulo, the former CFO of Disney who stepped down in June 2015, saying: “almost every aspect of the company is oriented around brands and franchises.”
Walt himself laid out a similar strategy in the ’50s. Examine the flow of information in the graphic. The film studio is at Disney’s core with different platforms in orbit. Films provide material for comic strips that, in turn, promote films. The comics become reprintable material for books. The film studio feeds article content for Walt Disney Magazine, which advertises Disneyland—a sales outlet for merchandise based off films.
Today, the network is larger, there are more platforms, and the path to success can get awfully messy, but the basic strategy is the same. Instead of following the model of other studios–releasing many films and hoping for a blockbuster–Disney is select. It releases about 10 films annually and builds out the franchising and revenue-generating opportunities that come with the territory.
This strategy is proof that brands ought to study their history and mine their archives. It also explains why there’s no escaping Frozen.