How Walt Disney Used Content Marketing To Launch And Finance Disneyland

Posted: October 24, 2011 in Business Tips, Content Marketing

I wrote a guest post that seems to have really resonated with people.  It was called, “The Content Strategy That Made Justin Bieber a Star.”  You can see it on or on

Today I want to continue talking about Disney’s creative use of content marketing to promote their “properties.”

Content marketing isn’t just some new method that current Disney executives are using.  It’s something that they’ve used for 50-60 years.

In fact, Walt Disney himself used content marketing to launch AND FINANCE Disneyland!  I learned this story in a great little book called, “Disney Magic: Business Strategy You Can Use At Work And At Home” by Rich Hamilton.  (Learn more about it here.)

Rich doesn’t mention anything about content marketing directly, but I want to show you the veiled content marketing methods that I discovered as I read the book.

At First Walt Was Against TV

When TV first started out, Walt wasn’t so keen on it.  Why?  Because he was worried it would cause him to lose profits from his movies.  TV execs. kept pursuing him until he finally did a few TV specials, but he was still pretty negative about it overall.

Until one morning that all changed.

He woke up and had this thought: maybe television could be used to finance Disneyland?  This was how he decided to do it.  He offered to produce television programs (content) for the normal payment, PLUS investment in Disneyland.

It was a great idea, but what he did next was ingenious.  He came up with a bold content marketing strategy – before the term ever existed!

His Unbelievably Bold Content Strategy

He decided that one of the shows would be a Disneyland television show that would feature a different subject each week.  This show debuted a year before the park was even open.  The first week’s program was all about the park being built!  It was basically an hour-long commercial broken up with paid commercials from sponsors.

Can you believe he could pull that off?

Critics were upset, but not the viewers.   They loved it.  And the network (ABC) didn’t mind, because they now owned 35% of the park!  Get this.  The show quickly became the first program on ABC to get into the top 20 Nielsen ratings!

Now watch the other ingenious thing that Walt did with content…

He combined new production with old footage to create programs. He was repurposing content, again, before the term was even thought of!  An example of him doing this was when he created a show about the making of the movie 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea.  It was basically another veiled promotional program.

The Amazing Results Of His Content Marketing

By the time Disneyland actually opened, there were MILLIONS of people who couldn’t wait to visit!  All of this came from the content of his shows and the PR department of ABC (the partial owner).

If that wasn’t enough, the always creative Walt Disney “flipped the switch” and reversed his promotional influence by tying many of the early rides at the park into his movies, cartoons, and television shows (an early example of experience marketing).

He did this with many rides but some examples are: the ride “Peter Pan Flight” to promote his movie “Peter Pan,” the ride “Snow White’s Adventure” to promote his film “Snow White,” the ride “Dumbo Flying Elephants” to promote his film “Dumbo,” and “Mickey Mouse Club Theater” at Disneyland to promote his TV show “The Mickey Mouse Club.”

2 Lessons For Business Owners:
1. Walt Got Paid For Producing Content That Promoted His Business And So Can You.

If you begin promoting your business using content, and become good enough at content creation, you can be paid for producing your content.

Don’t believe me?  Many top bloggers like Chris Brogan, Jay Baer, Michael Stelzner, and others all produced content that eventually lead them to be paid for book deals by publishers.

You say, “Yeah, but I have a physical business.  That won’t work for me!”  Oh really?  Ever heard of Martin Yan?  Check this from Wikipedia… “Yan began teaching Chinese cooking for a college extension program and appearing on a Canadian, Calgary talk show in 1978 (on CFAC-TV, now CICT-TV). He has hosted over 1,500 episodes of the PBS cooking shows Yan Can Cook since 1982. His shows have been broadcast in over 50 countries.”Yan has opened a chain of Yan Can restaurants and founded the Yan Can International Cooking School in the San Francisco Bay Area. He has written over two dozen cookbooks.[1] TheAmerican Culinary Federation has designated him a Master Chef.”

Yan was just a chef (offline profession) until he started creating content for TV.  That lead to books, other shows, restaurants, and even schools!  You can use the power of content marketing to share your expertise with the world – and indirectly promote your business.

2. Even If You Don’t Get Paid, Many People Need & Want Your Content.

Getting paid isn’t the point.  It’s just a nice side benefit if you can pull it off.  There are so many “channels” that exist that have a never-ending need for content.  They are looking for people to create it for them.  And when I say “channels”, don’t get locked into the idea of only TV channels.

The channels that need your content are everywhere: local newspapers, local radio, local tv, blogs, youtube channels, local or online magazines, even local associations and clubs (speaking is content).

These “channels” all have one thing in common: they constantly need content.  In the same way that Walt Disney was able to create content for a channel and use it to promote his business, you can do the same thing.

You might not be able to be as bold and blatant as Disney and just create hour-long commercials, but you can create content that will clearly promote you and your business.

It All Starts Here

It all starts with you beginning to create content.  You have to start.  You have to begin writing or recording your ideas.  Put them on a blog.  Do something!

Until you start, it’s hard to get a chance to produce it for someone else.  And if you never start, it’s going to be even more difficult to get paid for your content.  It takes practice to become good at anything and content creation is no different.  

Want To Learn How To Create Better Content?

I have 21 years of experience in creating content on a regular basis, so I know it’s much easier for me to create content than it is for you.  I realize that I know methods that you don’t.  I know techniques for how to present my content that you don’t know.

Because of that fact, I want to teach you what I know.  That way you can have a head start on creating compelling, engaging content.

If you are interested in this, I’d like to send you some free lessons, which are excerpts from my upcoming e-course.

These free lessons will teach you:

  • 4 little-known “contact points” to use in your introductions
  • How to judge the results of your content with the “Change The World” Acid Test
  • Lessons from the world’s greatest story teller.
  • The lesson Rick Warren learned as a consultant for Dreamworks that can improve your content
  • Using the ingredients of emotion and pathos in your content
  • The power of “cliff hangers” to keep people’s attention
  • Why it’s important to know when to speak to “the Heart” or “the Mind” when creating your content
After you receive those lessons, you can decide if you want to take my online paid course called “Content Boosters: My Personal, Hard-Earned Recipes For Creating Successful Content.”  In this e-course, I’ll share with you what I’ve learned about content creation, over the last 20 years of trial and error.


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