I only hope that we don’t lose sight of one thing – that it was all started by a mouse. ~Walt Disney
Today I am in Orlando, Florida at one of the big Walt Disney Resort hotels getting ready for a 2-day workshop on Leadership for Strategy Execution. I got here early in order to properly prepare and had the luxury this morning of a workout, swim and leisurely breakfast in the hotel. Of course several of the Disney characters were there in costume entertaining the children. Great fun with lots of laughter and pictures.
I was sitting next to an older gentleman (even older than me!) having breakfast alone when I noticed his watch. It was a gold Rolex style, but with a picture of Mickey Mouse on the watch face. I normally associate Mickey Mouse watches with kids so obviously my curiosity was peaked. I leaned over, pointing at his watch and said: “A Disney fan I see.” He replied straight away. “Mickey is the boss!”
We chatted for a few minutes. He lives in a retirement village a few miles away but comes to the hotel for breakfast and then to Disney World for a walk around. He likes to see the families and hear the squeals of delight from the children.
I could definitely understand what he was talking about. When I was seven years old my aunt and uncle took me to Disneyland in Anaheim, California the first year it opened, 1955. I can still close my eyes and recall the sounds, the smells, and the entire experience. I even bought a Davy Crockett coon-skin cap.
Mickey is the Boss!
After I left breakfast I got to thinking about what the man said: “Mickey is the boss”. It was not the cartoon character he was referring to, but the values and principles that Mickey Mouse represents. It’s the Disney culture! The principles that Walt Disney built into all of his Disney fun parks and even in the older movies and television shows (like the Mickey Mouse Club) are what makes the Disney franchise such a valuable business, and such great entertainment for children and adults.
And the principles represented by Mickey Mouse show up prominently in the training that Disney employees receive. They aren’t employees, they are Cast members, and they don’t refer to people in the parks as customers, but Guests.
Mickey Mouse stands for a set of brand values, a culture and business principles that are baked into every facet of the company. Here is how one blogger described it (http://buildingabetterbrand.blogspot.com/2006/09/disneys-core-values-brand-promise-and.html)
Magical family fun
Only Disney can deliver a fantasy experience for families to share.
trustworthy – after years of interaction with the brand, it has brand integrity
wholesomeness – there will be no need for me to shield my kids from a Disney product
reliability – the characters have stood the test of time. People know that to expect with a new Mickey Mouse short or another film in the “Princess series”
quality – especially in the disney and pixar movies
likeable – c’mon, it’s Mickey!
imaginative – it captures the imagination of kids
I believe the essence, promise and values all have a positive effect on the brand equity. The key to all of these is the family focus, to me it is what Disney truly stands for.
As someone who helps CEOs and senior teams build strong cultures that support and enable effective strategy execution and sustainability, I see Mickey Mouse as a symbol of all that the Walt Disney Company stands for. One simple character epitomizes the entire successful Disney franchise.
So, I have to ask. Who is the “boss” in your company? A person with the title of CEO, or a set of cultural principles that deliver outstanding value? CEO’s come and go (and faster and faster these days), but core principles and culture can deliver long-term value.
Written and Posted by: John R. Childress
Senior Executive Advisor on Leadership, Culture and Strategy Execution Issues,
Business Author and Advisor to CEOs
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid
John also writes thriller novels!