If you’ve ever been to Disney World, you’ve noticed that employees (cast members) all wear name badges that are typically first name with the home town under the name. It’s been a very effective consumer activity, one which almost everybody in the industry followed. Guests would delight in seeing somebody from their state and/or home town. Wait staff would tell you about people who would tip more and kids would play the equivalent of the license plate game, tracking down people from where they live, all over the parks.
It was an amazingly subtle but effective brand/marketing activity for the Mouse. I say was because they ditched it.
Yup. Some marketing wonk in Disney decided to take that little tiny piece of brand real estate and change it. Because of the 50 year celebration, they re-issued all of the name tags so that you saw a branding message about the happiest celebration on earth. Uh Huh.
The net effect of this exercise? Pissed off employees and customers talking more about this ‘loss’ and talking about the pissed off employees vs. talking about the happiest celebration on earth. It was fascinating to ask employees “What happened to the name badges” and watch the robot-like smiles turn to growls as they complained about the “jerks, goofs, idiots, morons, and those people in head office”. Ah, yep, those would be quotes.
Disney, the master at controlling the message, making everybody happy happy, has hundreds, if not thousands of ‘cast members’ all grumbling outwardly to the customers. I randomly asked 20 employees at the various parks and, to the person, got a grumbling, growling, not happy answer, all pointing fingers at, well, see the above list.
The more important observation? The guests walking around talking about it. In lines, people would ask the employee in front of the Ride. At the gift shops, people were asking the clerks. At the restaurants, you guessed it, people were asking the staff about it. The responses, as you can imagine, were not pleasant. Ranging from the polite, yes it is a change, to the more direct home office moron alert.
While not up there with the New Coke Old Coke mess, it is a pretty interesting lesson in how the front office, you, often gets completely disconnected with what actually is going on and what actually matters to people on both sides of your counter.
So, boys and girls, Mickey says the lesson for today is: Pay attention to what really matters when it comes to your employees and guests. You’re likely to be amazed at what you find.