With the Disney, Pixar, Murdoch deal in the news, I’ve been reading a lot about Michael Eisner again. Today Newsweek’s Nick Tabakoff has an interview with Michael Eisner, the Mouseketeer who gets credit for taking Mickey from a household name to worldwide prominence.
As Nick Tabakoff at Newsweek says,
How did he transform Disney? Simply, by making decisions.
I have a personal connection with Mickey Mouse. He and I grew up with the same initials. So I paid attention when Eisner took over. Of course, it wasn’t just making decisions that made a difference, it was the decisions that the Head-Mouseketeer made.
So How Did Eisner Do It?
- Eisner defined the brand. Eisner let us know what Mickey stood for. A Disney movie, theme park, restaurant has values. They’re not written down for us, but we all know what they are. Movies that don’t meet the Disney brand are made for Miramax. Chefs at the 5-star Napa Rose Restaurant in the Anaheim resort have no facial hair. Everything Disney is clean, polite, wholesome, and good.
- Eisner understands the value of quality. Nothing Disney was done half way. Disney products and content were high value for customers at every level, in every size, shape, and form. In other words, he made sure customers wanted to buy what he had.
- Eisner differentiated his product to the point of exclusivity. They are the only Disney. Bugs Bunny wasn’t, isn’t, and never will be Mickey Mouse. Disney jealously guards all of its intellectual property to see that it stays that way. Use of a Disney song or image without permission is done at your peril. We might frown or joke about it, but it works to protect the Disney brand.
- Eisner made more things for current customers by extending what he had.
- Eisner branched out from where he was to make the same kind of things for new customers. Under Miramax we got Good Will Hunting and Shakespeare in Love. He didn’t go into whole new markets–a high risk venture–but changed what he had to meet new customers’ needs.
- Eisner then extended further into Disney Cruises when the market was ready. Grown-ups get a vacation while the kids are kept entertained. Enough said there.
- Eisner opened Disney Stores. Now he gave customers more opportunities to buy the things he knew they wanted.
Disney had made a handful of films when Eisner got there. Eisner used those seeds to grow a garden that included hits such as The Lion King, Toy Story, and Monsters Inc. He made more products his current customers would want to buy. They kept coming back.
The circle is complete–more things that customers want to buy, and more customers who have more opportunities to buy them–time to go around the circle again.
What Can I Take from the Mouse?
Eisner didn’t make random decisions. He followed solid business strategy. Anyone can use these strategic principles for success in any enterprise from a service business to a blog.
- Know your brand and what it stands for.
- Test your ideas against that brand.
- Offer new products or ideas for the customers/readers you already have. THEN add related items that will bring new customers/readers into the fold.
- Give every customer more opportunities to interact with your products whenever you can.
- Let the market tell you when it’s ready. Don’t give your customers things they don’t want or don’t expect.
- Never skimp on quality. Never go against your brand.
I’m sure you’ve heard it all before. Eisner is just one who actually did it. There’s no question Michael Eisner has his detractors. Likewise, there’s no question he made the Mouse a success. Either way, he’s not a rocket scientist. He’s just a guy who followed solid business strategy, which makes him one in a million, I’d guess.
–ME “Liz” Strauss
Read more about Michael Eisner: