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Image - Flickr, traveljunction

We’re Disney fans – at least, that’s how we identify. Those of us who love visiting Walt Disney World, or who surf the web looking for that one song from that attraction we love, or who cruise eBay waiting for that vintage piece of Disney memorabilia to pop up. We think we’re fans.

Unfortunately, we aren’t. We may have love for Disney – love borne out of nostalgia, fun, and family – but we aren’t really fans. Not to Disney. They call us guests, yes, but that’s not who we really are to them. We are their customers. Plain and simple. Because, despite acting like our friends, they aren’t – they’re a supermassive corporation.

And that’s not inherently a bad thing!

It may be a bit on-the-nose to put it so bluntly, yes, but it’s totally OK to like the products a corporation sells, and even to feel loyal to them. That relationship is part of the fundamental fabric of our country – supporting entities which give us the products we like. But it’s important to acknowledge that, beneath the pleasant and friendly exterior, there exists a machine designed to do one thing and one thing only: Separate you from your money as efficiently as possible. As long as you feel like you’re getting your money’s worth, it’s a win-win for everyone.

But there is a negative to the kind of loyalty we’re all grown to have for Disney. As much as we may love them, they cannot love us back. “They” are really an “it” – a soulless entity that, officially, is only embodied by a sheet of paper registered in California. “It” has shareholders. “It” is judged not by the smiles that it creates, but by the increased revenue it generates. “It” cannot have friends. Cast Members can be your friend. Bus drivers, mousekeeping, and desk attendants can be your friends. Disney, however, cannot.

Because Disney isn’t your friend, it doesn’t feel the same loyalty to us as we do to it – it feels loyal only to its shareholders, who grow more demanding year after year. It’s not enough for the shareholders that Disney makes money – which it does – instead, they want the company to be making more money each consecutive year. That’s how corporations work. And now, to please those shareholders, Disney is adopting a new strategy – one which is pricing out a lot of people.

This is a gross simplification, but go with me here – there are two ways to build a business: The first is to price your product in such a way as to encourage the most amount of people possible to purchase it. This means you have a slightly lower pricing structure, but a broader consumer base. The second method is to charge higher prices – meaning you have a smaller consumer base, but that lesser number of people pay more and more.

For the longest time, Disney did business from that first group, as evidenced by its structure of “Deluxe, Moderate, and Value” resorts – they wanted everyone. But recently, they’ve begun the shift toward the latter group, opting for more private, luxurious experiences to a select few.

Why would they want to do that? What does it mean for those of us who love Disney? What will it mean for the future of the company? We’ll get to that, but first, let’s look at the one company Disney looks up to: Apple.

How Apple has Become America’s Most Valuable Brand, and Why Disney is Copying It

The common story of Apple Computers goes like this: Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak invent the personal computer. After a few years of growth, Jobs gets pitched out on his own, where he starts his own company – building better computers – knowing that Apple would eventually have to buy his company and bring him back. They do, and his obsession to detail means that Apple creates the best (and, you know, most expensive) products on the market, pushing them to higher and higher heights.

It’s a good story, but here’s the thing: Why are Apple products are inherently better? They work with fewer applications. They are more expensive to repair. And, perhaps most importantly, they are vastly more expensive than their non-Apple competitors. Even if they are better, which is largely subjective, are they hundreds or even thousands of dollars better?

It doesn’t actually matter, because Apple isn’t selling you a laptop. Apple is selling you a piece of art that makes you feel a certain way when you look at it and use it. The guts of it aren’t worth the extra thousand dollars, but the feeling you get when you feel the cool metal in your hands might be.

That’s what made Steve Jobs a genius – he knew that what makes technology valuable isn’t necessarily what it can do, but how it makes you feel. Apple products make you feel like a cooler version of yourself, and people pay a premium to achieve that feeling.

Image: Apple

And that’s Apple’s business model: They aren’t trying to sell laptops to as many people as possible, they’re trying to sell expensive laptops to as many people as possible. That’s a unique thing in business, and it only really works when you have customers that are loyal – and Apple customers are as loyal as can be.

So, if you look at Apple’s valuation – which is over $700 Billion – it’s not hard to see why Disney might be envious. And it’s definitely not hard to see why Disney might try to follow in their footsteps and become, for all intents and purposes, a luxury brand. Disney already creates amazing experiences, and so they clearly think those experiences are worth more than what they’re currently getting for them.

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Comments

This is a great article. I am part of a middle class family. I have been to WDW over 50 times since 1983. I visited twice in 1983 when there were only two parks. It was not that expensive at all. I would go once or twice a year up until 2002. Then the prices started to rise faster then the raises I got or didn't get. And I have only been 6 times since. Once for a day when visiting my daughter. Our last family vacation this past October. We had 11 people, 7 adults, 3 children and one infant. We had a block of four rooms at POR. Total cost $15000 which included room, dining plan, tickets, flights to and from Orlando. The only thing we saved on was Magical Express. Granted this was divided between the 4 rooms. We are still paying for it now. What I mean is that we all paid using Disney Gift Cards prior to our trip. It's that now we are trying to catch up with other things that we put on the back burner. Unless I retire in the next 5 or 6 years and move to Florida to work at the Mouse House. Our next trip in the planning for sometime in late 2021 or early 2022 will be my last. I want to see the 50th Anniversary and see all the new stuff added by then. It is just to much to go yearly or every other year. My Mom and Dad got me hooked on WDW. I in turn got my family and others hooked. It's to bad they won't get to go as much as I was lucky enough to do. Yes the middle class will be excluded in a few years and I feel sorry for them all.

I used to like going to Disney to escape form the outside world and relax. But now you have to do so much scheduling to even eat or be able to rided a ride upu like without waiting an hour in line. It is no longer relaxing. A Disney vacation is too much work now. And with the expodential cost increases, I can leave the country for that escape and relaxation that Disney lost for way less.

This article says exactly what I have for quite some time now. I have been a Disney fan for more year than I'd like to admit to. I was a cast member for 9 years in various aspects of the company and loved every minute of it. My 3 boys and I looked forward to our trips there at least 5 to 6 times a year for at least 4 days at a time. My husband and I met up with some friends this past October and I couldn't believe what we paid even staying at a value resort for 4 days. This year we are taking a Caribbean cruise for 7 days all inclusive, for less than 4 days at Disney. They are definitely not for the middle class any longer, but what they forgot is that it was us people in the middle class that made Disney what it is today!!

Well times have changed since this story was written. Now Disney is going for the lowest common denominator by bringing back the SoCal AP's and letting people make interest free monthly payments!

Imagine you're a tourist that will drop thousands of dollars on a trip to Disneyland (even more if you stay in a Disney hotel) and when you get there it's shoulder to shoulder people with most of them only paying a few (yup, less than $5.00) buck to be there. You have to ask yourself is this worth it, since the only ones really making out on the deal is Iger and the other executive with their obscene bonuses...

Spot on. If you are going to price your offerings based on an experience, there better be a darn good experience. And that's the part of the equation that Disney has been neglecting. Frequent minor annoyances throughout ones visit are what contribute negatively to the entire experience. For instance, putting RFID's on the bottom of drink cups to prevent "unlimited" refills from occurring too quickly just to squeeze a few more pennies of margin out of a product is corporate greed, a greed who's presence is only magnified when the experience costs more and more.

That's why websites like GoingToWDW.com thrive offering tips and tricks to avoid being raped by a mouse.

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