Disney sure does know how to make us want to spend money, right?
They are one mean marketing machine and over the years we’ve seen some marketing campaigns that made us pull out the box of tissues and run to the computer to book our next trip. But, what about the ones that are just…bizarre? Well, they’ve had plenty of those too!
Lets take a weird walk down memory lane and look at some of the more head-scratching marketing campaigns Disney World has given us!
OK, TBH this is what inspired this post. This was just…WEIRD. One of the most recent marketing campaigns involved a livestream on Twitter that was promoted from a new Disney account called “The Streamer.” The event was said to be announcing something exciting about Disney+ and, of course, we had to tune in to see what the big news would be! So, we pulled up Twitter and when the clock struck the hour for the event, we were greeted with a video of a LITERAL STREAM with the caption “Soon you will meet The Streamer. Until then, enjoy this livestream of a stream.”
— The Streamer (@TheStreamer) July 27, 2021
And, that was it.
For 3 HOURS…the same shot and all.
After the 3 hours passed, Disney tweeted another video of “The Streamer” and we got to meet the man behind it all. Dave Bautista (aka Drax from Guardians of the Galaxy) starred in the video — which is actually now a commercial — and was watching different shows on Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ from his canoe and his campsite in the woods all to reveal the Disney Bundle, which lets you stream from all three for one price. Cool. But, the only thing is, the Disney Bundle is NOT new!
Some people fish on a stream, I stream. #DisneyBundle
What do you think I'm streaming? pic.twitter.com/vej7MOUDXw
— The Streamer (@TheStreamer) August 4, 2021
So, yes, Disney did create a three-hour marketing scheme all to reveal something that has already existed for a while. 😂
Disney Holiday Specials
Now, it can be pretty obvious that Disney is marketing to us through events and commercials, but oftentimes Disney is promoting a vacation to the “most magical place on earth” and we don’t even realize it.
For example, since 1983, Disney has been bringing us the Disney Christmas Day Parade where families from all over can watch the Disneyland Christmas parade from home featuring musical performances, celebrities, and LOTS of ads for Disney vacations. This special has become so ingrained in many family’s traditions that they couldn’t imagine not watching it every year.
Plus, over the past few years, Disney has also started hosting “The Wonderful World of Disney Magical Holiday Celebration” on the night of Thanksgiving Day and this one has even MORE ads for Disney vacation destinations sprinkled in with some musical performances. Sure, you’re getting a festive TV special but you’re also getting a hefty dose of advertising at the same time.
And, as you might imagine, being with your entire family for the holidays and watching all of the fun and new things going on in Disney World and Disneyland sure can pull on your heartstrings (and your wallet strings) and get you planning your next trip. What’s better than the gift of a Disney trip on Christmas morning, RIGHT? (At least that’s what they’re hoping!)
Sending Every TV Family From ABC Shows to Disney World
Speaking of watching all the fun you can be having at Disney on your TV, remember when basically every family from ABC shows went to Disney World in an episode (or TWO if you watched Full House, Rosanne, or Family Matters!) in the 90s? These are basically an episode-long promo for the parks and we don’t even realize that we’re being marketed to when we watch. In fact, we often hoped to catch it rerunning again soon!
And, like the Disney Christmas Day Parade, watching your favorite TV family take a vacation to Disney World can make you think about the good times that you could have in the parks. It strikes a nostalgic chord and makes you feel even more connected to the show (and Disney World). Cory and Topanga went to EPCOT JUST LIKE YOU, right?? 😂 Every so many years this concept pops back around. We more recently saw shows like The Middle, Black-ish, and Modern Family all take trips to the Disney Parks. You just might find yourself planning your next trip without even realizing that the show you love secretly influenced you.
Now, watching holiday performances in the parks and going to Disney with a TV family is mostly wild because of how subtle the marketing really is, but what about the promos that are just…odd? Well, those certainly exist too!
Splash Mountain opened in Disneyland back in 1989 and Disney was really hoping to draw a teenage audience to the park to check it out. So, they created an ad with a “Splash Mountain Rap” featuring a group of teens who dream that they were the first to ride Splash Mountain. Sounds pretty normal, right? Maybe it was the talking Br’er Bear, or maybe it was all the dancing or even the rap, but this was a promo that really makes you go “what was Disney thinking?” This song IS those late 80s/early 90s vibes. We’re talking about a lot of bright colors and big hair. There are even guys in hard hats inexplicably busting a move in the grass. It’s weird in the most fantastic way possible.
This goes one layer deeper into the Disney Inception machine if you had any of those wonderful Disney Sing-a-long Songs VHS tapes back in the day (our FAVORITE!). Disney rides would often be featured and “Splash Mountain Rap” even got its own encore on the Disneyland Fun tape!
And, the ride promos don’t stop there! Disney also sent Darth Vader into Disneyland in a commercial to promote the re-opening of Star Tours as Star Tours: The Adventure Continues. In it, Darth Vader heads to the park to ride Star Tours but comes to find that it had not opened yet. So, he instead ends up riding Dumbo and Mad Tea Party, grabs some popcorn with Stormtroopers, and then uses the force to get on the ride anyway. A year later it was REedited and REused by Disney to promote how Disney had purchased Lucasfilm. Talk about stretching those marketing dollars, Disney.
As obnoxious as some of these commercials may seem, they sure did the trick of reminding you about the brand new ride coming to the parks that you’ll want to check out!
Little Man of Disneyland
We’re going back to 1955 for this next one to talk about the Little Man of Disneyland! The fictional character named Patrick Begorra is a leprechaun that was part of a Little Golden Book that Disney published right around the time that they were building Disneyland.
The story went that Patrick lived in the orange groves that were on the exact spot where Disneyland was built. And, one day Mickey, Donald, and Goofy showed up on the land to start tearing down the orange groves to build the park. Of course, Patrick wanted to know why they were destroying his home, so they took him back to Disney Studios to show him all of the plans for the park. In the end, he agrees to let them build Disneyland in exchange for a new home in the park, which guests could literally visit when it opened.
So, Disney made up a cute little story to convince people that it was okay that they ripped up a ton of orange groves in California to build a theme park. You can totally still check out Patrick Begorra’s home — it’s on a tree in Adventureland in Disneyland to this day!
Another rather interesting character was around when Disneyland first opened named Frito Kid. You could find him at the Quick Service restaurant, Casa de Frito (which is now Rancho del Zocalo) where each meal was served with Fritos.
There was even a Frito vending machine here that featured the Frito Kid inside who would send a bag of Fritos up from the mines on a little conveyor belt when you pressed a button. Disney no longer has the partnership with Frito, but if you’re looking you’ll notice quite a few other brands that have clearly formed an alliance with Disney like Cuties and GoGo Squeez.
The Cranberry Bog in EPCOT
Speaking of partnerships, Disney used to have a deal with Ocean Spray that mainly involved the use of Craisins around the parks, but also resulted in a real-life cranberry bog being brought into EPCOT during the Food & Wine Festival for many years. If you’re not familiar, cranberries are harvested by flooding where they’re grown and the berries that are ready float to the top of the water. In EPCOT it was basically a giant rectangular kiddie pool filled with real cranberries and water. You could find it right near the Fountain of Nations (which has since been demolished as part of the EPCOT Transformation) on your way to World Showcase. There would be Ocean Spray reps in the bog wearing waders to chat with guests about cranberries and cranberry farming. Pretty crazy!
And, one year, we even got invited to a media event that involved a cocktail party INSIDE the cranberry bog! We’d tell you this wasn’t checking some big boxes off a bucket list we didn’t even know we had, but it was AWESOME.
You’ll no longer find the cranberry bog in Disney World during the EPCOT Food & Wine Festival, but it sure was a pretty impressive (and massive) marketing tactic!
Winnie the Pooh Running for President
Here’s one that not too many Disney fans will remember — Winnie the Pooh actually ran for president in 1972 and 1976 to promote Disneyland!
The event went on for three days and featured live entertainment including a live stage show with Winnie the Pooh and friends and a ticker-tape parade down Main Street, U.S.A. as Pooh ran against Nixon in his “campaign” for president.
And, he even recruited some of his friends (with Tigger being tapped to serve as Press Secretary and Eeyore serving as Campaign Manager) to help him push his campaign platform — which was to “lick the high price of ice-cream cones,” and, “put honey in every pot.”
Of course, Pooh did not end up becoming president, but it certainly was one of Disney’s weirder tactics for drawing fans to the parks.
Year of a Million Dreams
One of the most wildly popular campaigns was the “Year of a Million Dreams” that came to Disney World and Disneyland in 2007 and was carried on into 2008 to grant 1 million MORE dreams. The entire premise was that Disney would fulfill one million dreams in a year and they had the Dream Team Squad out in the parks picking winners randomly each day.
Guests could win HUGE prizes like a near daily prize to stay in the Cinderella Suite at Cinderella Castle for the night, a vacation with Adventures by Disney, and even a Disney Cruise, or some smaller ones like a private meet and greet with characters or a golden FastPass up until Disney reached 1 million giveaways. Basically each day you were in the parks, you never knew if you’d be surprised with something special.
Galaxy’s Edge Coke Bottles
It’s no secret that Disney is VERY dedicated to their theming, so when Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge came to join the parks, Disney had to find a way to make drinking Coke fit into the planet of Batuu. And, to do this, they created Coke bottles that are made to look like thermal detonators with a sneaky way to keep that Coke branding. Coca-cola is a brand arguably as or more famous than Disney and, with that, they need their brand properly represented. The result was fiddling with the Star Wars language of Aurebesh and modifying the shapes used there to mimic the logos of Coke products to be sold. A Sprite may not say “Sprite” anywhere on the logo, but guests can easily identify the brand by its well-known colors and styling.
But, what Disney and Coca-cola may not have expected is how crazy popular these bottles would become! Guests heading to Galaxy’s Edge were already on the hunt for the Coke bottles (with lots of people buying them just for a photo or a cool souvenir) and then they became even MORE desirable when the TSA banned them because they resemble an explosive device.
Of course, the decision by the TSA has since been reversed and guests can now take an emptied bottle in their carry-on bag or place the full bottle in a checked bag for travel, but that hasn’t necessarily stopped the Coke bottles from being a hot commodity in the parks.
And, this isn’t the first time that we’ve seen some popular brands “Disney-fied” in the parks. Disney has a partnership with Ziploc that produces bags that you can put your phone in to make sure they don’t get wet on Splash Mountain, Cuties clementines are found in TONS of Quick Service restaurants (and they seem to keep adding them to more menus), and “it’s a small world” was even originally sponsored by Pepsi!
So, it’s safe to say that Disney knows what they’re doing when it comes to convincing us it’s time for another trip to the parks. And, you can learn more about all of these campaigns and MORE in our video below!
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Check out our latest video and let us know: What have been your all-time favorite Disney marketing campaigns?