Is Disney damaging its own brand on the long run?

Edited: August 22, 2021, 6:35 PM

In the same month, Disney got some backlash on the cancellation of the Disney express services from Orlando airport to wdw. Then front page level backlash from the pricing of the Star Cruiser weekend. Then backlask from the pricing of the Boo bash events for the halloween season. Then internet wide backlash for introducing the paid FOTL option that substitutes fastpass.
I AM not going to debate here the mérits or problems of the genie + system, or why Disney feels the need to recover loses from a catastrophic pandemic.
My concern is that seems that Disney Managment is betting on the strength of the brand to make money fast, keep stock owners happy and put a happy clean face to the general public. Now i AM NOT a business expert or anything like it. I just love theme parks. But Disney bread and Butter are hard working families in USA and around the world. Yes the pull of the new and nostalgia keep people coming, but the backlash and the constant culling to Resort hotel benefits are going to eventually drive people away. Not Tomorrow. Or the week after that. But in the future? For sure.
This disney fans sure like to grumble at any hint of a change. And this huge changed have them in an uproar. Yes they have sold out events and Big publicity but My feeling is that the most loyal fans are hurt. Hurt by the pandemic and an ever increasing curve of prices and planning and apps. There is a limit. Disney was the vacation with Granda and grandpa, and to invite Friends and couisins. Now those circules of fond memories and then come back My own children are starting to break. And Disney has more competition than ever.
It is wise to make more money now at the expense of your loyal costumers.? Or maybe i AM wrong and the brand is truly invulnerable??? Just a reflection.

Replies (34)

August 21, 2021, 11:36 AM

No. Cutting bad products in favor of trying something new eventually helps a brand, rather than hurts it.

And you answered your question. There is a community of people who build their traffic by bashing Disney anytime there’s a change. And by making plenty of changes, Disney has given them plenty to bash.

August 21, 2021, 2:00 PM

Sure hope so, Mr. Miles. I AM very fond of Disney. And they are still the Golden standard for the industry. I also understand (from a business point of view ) the convinience of stratification of costumers, and i do apreciate innovation and an effort to keep up to younger generations tastes. However the timing seems off. To soon when the pandemic is not over and economy is rebounding slowly. What baffles me the most is some of the hotel resorts guests perks. They were a huge draw for families. The perception that those families are somehow left behind migth be an exaggeration, and not widely shared ( yet ). But it migth be an snowball effect. And it saddens me to contemplate that possibility.

August 21, 2021, 2:44 PM

It's difficult to answer the thread's question when the copy does not define the perimeters of the phrase "long term".

Also, latest CNBC reports indicate Disney+ is dominating the streaming industry.

August 21, 2021, 3:19 PM

Pretty sure Netflix is dominating the streaming industry.

August 21, 2021, 4:55 PM

Actually James - Netflix has 209 million.

Disney has 179 Million..

So Disney has less then two years of streaming and is getting close...

August 21, 2021, 10:18 PM

Disney has no problem with being known for being expensive, TBH they wear it as a badge of honor. A WDW vacation has basically become an instagram status symbol for many people.

If they were to become known for bad quality then yes there would be a big problem, and I think we can all agree (WDW at least) goes through phases where sometimes the quality declines. I think that is a big danger if you are going to charge the big bucks you need to give the big bucks experience. But the majority of the GP doesn't really follow that closely like the fans do and for many its sensory overload, they go and their mind is blown while glossing over some of the details. I think all businesses need to constantly be trying to improve their customer experience to stay relevant but if Disney keeps offering a product that people will flock to I think we've seen the prices are irrelevant.

Edited: August 22, 2021, 8:27 PM

WDW faces this problem. It is a world class resort, meaning its customers consist of Americans and not, rich people and not, and planners and not, yet the product is such that it is in high demand. Pre-pandemic I believe WDW was struggling to manage the crowds while maintaining an experience worth $100 plus per person ticket. Post pandemic Disney Co. is trying to replace lost revenue while still building Guardians and Tron and finishing Ratatouille, Space 220 and the Star Wars Hotel. These millions have to be paid by something. So, yes, Genie + is going to generate money from those who want to buy it. But Genie itself, if it works, will give guests alternatives to standing in line for hours for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train: ride something else, get food and come back later, or not, and hopefully not go home complaining just about long lines. The real issue for guests is the value of time waiting v. the cost of not waiting. Or missing out completely on ROTR, for example, or Slinky Dog, or paying for the LL. Genie, if it works, will provide a tool guests can use to make informed choices about what to do with their time in the parks, including whether to pay money to make the time more productive. And a word about the lamented FastPass+. If you are planner, FP+ was great. 60 days in advance plan your visit and plan up to three rides. But is everyone a planner? No. And what if your interests change in 60 days? Or your kids and parents are pouty that day? Of if it is raining? WDW should not be a vacation that has to be planned like D-Day unless you want to plan it that way. And pre-pandemic if you weren't a D-day planner type and just showed up at MK you stood a good chance of waiting 90 minutes for every ride. And that is not a good theme park experience.

August 23, 2021, 11:44 AM

Prices increase over time. That's just a fact. But the increases this year just may be too much, too soon:

-January: Magical Express will be eliminated in January 2022.
-May: Avengers Campus opens in Disneyland, where, to increase you chances at a higher score in the land's E-ticket attraction "WEB SLINGERS: A Spiderman Adventure", $60 add-on toys can be purchased.
-June: Disney announces replacement for their "Extra Magic Hours" program. Resort guests will now only get 30 minutes instead of one hour in the mornings, and only deluxe and DVC resort guests can attend these extra hours in the evenings, thereby eliminating a perk value and moderate resort guests once had.
-Also June: Prices for "Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party" replacement, "BOO BASH" announced. Prices for adults range from $139-$199 for the three hour event, up from $79-$135 for MNSSHP which was a 5-hour event.
-July: Disneyland Paris announces a paid front-of-the-line program with tickets ranging from 8 to 15 euros per person per ride.
-Also July: Disney VIP guest groups (spending as much as $850 per hour) can skip the boarding group procedure for Rise of the Resistance to automatically be guaranteed a ride.
And then we get to a large number of announcements in August:
-Replacement for Disneyland's annual pass program is announced, "Magic Key". While prices are down slightly, Key holders can only hold a certain number of park reservations at a time with the number that can be held decreasing from 6 for the highest level to 2 for the lowest. Free parking is eliminated for everyone but the highest level with the second highest getting half price parking and the lowest tiers getting no parking discount. The number of blackout dates for each of the three lower tiers are increased as compared to the number of dates on a comparable AP tier.
-Prices for Magical Express' replacement, Mears Connect will offer round trip fares from Orlando International to Disney property for $32 for adults and $27 for kids. (Not money going to Disney, but an additional cost for something that was once free or at least part of your resort cost.
-Similar increases in price to the replacement for Mickey's Very Merry Christmas party as the Halloween party are announced with those prices ranging from $169-$229, nearly double the $99-$139 prices of MVMCP.
-Starting prices for the Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser with a two day, two night "cruise" and one "port of call" to Batuu in Hollywood Studios are announced: $4800 for two up to $6000 for four. STARTING prices, not including room upgrades or upsells.
-And then last week's announcement that Disney's free Fastpass+ service will go away to be replaced by Genie+ at a cost of $15 per person per day at Disneyworld and $20 at Disneyland and also the pay-per-ride service for one or two headliners in each park that is not part of the Genie+ service that can be had much like Disneyland Paris.

These are all new costs to 2021 and beyond. True, not everyone has to partake in every new upsell unless you want the same service as 2019 as those that used to be free. These are in addition to all the normal cost increases we are used to seeing: Ticket prices, lodging, food, souvenirs, etc.

Edited: August 23, 2021, 2:04 PM

The paying more for less is a common theme these days with the pandemic and "living wages" cited as the primary reasons. Customers are being asked to pay more at restaurants and tip better for service that is slow and substandard, but we're supposed to be OK with that because businesses are "struggling". However, while traditionally theme park prices have continued to increase year over year, never has there been such a reduction in value or what you get for those increased prices. That's what I find most disturbing about it.

I don't have an issue paying more because of inflation or to allow CMs to be paid a more competitive wage. However, Disney is cutting guest benefits/value, many of which cost Disney little to no money in the grand scheme of things.

Resort parking? Guests are paying a premium to stay at a WDW resort, yet Disney wants to charge guests extra to bring a car, while in the same breath eliminate Magical Express, which was the tool to try to keep guests in the "Disney bubble"? It's almost like they WANT guests to stay off-site.

EMH? I get pairing back the hours due to short staffing and trying to keep the current CMs from burning out. However, with operations and staffing expected to be back to 2019 levels by the end of the year, why has Disney chosen to eliminate this important benefit that probably nets WDW more visitors/resort guests than any other on-site perk? Again, it's like they're trying to drive guests to stay off-site.

After hours parties? This one is HUGE, and not fully explored by Twobits. It's not just the increased prices and decreased hours of the Halloween and Christmas events, it's also the decrease in offerings provided by these new parties. MNSSHP and MVMCP had unique offerings that guests could ONLY experience by buying tickets to those events. Exclusive characters, merchandise, shows, and fireworks could ONLY be seen during those events, while the new after hours parties simply offer the same park experience as during the daytime hours, just with the promise of significantly limited capacity. So aside from shorter lines and some free snacks/candy, what exactly are guests getting for these record breaking prices?

Again, I don't mind paying more in certain instances, but when guests are being asked to pay MORE and are getting far LESS in return, Disney is eventually going to run out of gullible Drones to fill Scrooge McDuck's vault.

Edited: August 23, 2021, 2:39 PM

Cudoos to Russel Meyer, he is spot on, with his 'unbiased customer viewpoint'.
Unbiased, in the sense of not getting caught in juggling with "promotional business marketing truths". (This is not a shareholders representative site, this is a customers viewpoint site.)

When it comes to the customer's viewpoint :
Generally speaking, throughout any business ...
- paying more for the same, is called 'inflation' (and generously accepted in time perspective)
- paying much more for the same, is called 'usury' (as percepted way above the general inflation factor in the sector, and badly recepted by any customer with financial insights)
- paying less for the same, is called 'promotion', or 'rebate' (and accepted as an opportunity, but seldom placed in a perspective of respectability - has been a topic in many social behaviour studies)
- paying the same for less value, is called 'depreciation' (and will be contested by customers as a situation to avoid)
- paying more for less value, is called 'rip-off' or 'scam' (and clearly 'legal fraud' when the marketing around the product is touting unexistent new qualities)
- paying (much) more while in one way or another this is harming other customers who are in line for the same product, in getting (considerable) less value for their (same or more) money, BECAUSE others pay more (!!!) , is called 'organised commercial suppression' (customers are getting moved in silent war with each other)

The last case could be the outcome with payed queues, when the bare fact these exist, is costing the other customers more wait time then ever before. It could lead to lawsuits (and Florida lawyers will be made very happy in the process... ) as this is by definition a sport, in the USA.


Edited: August 25, 2021, 11:25 AM

I agree with Robert and Russell. Disney already has the data otherwise they would not have made such a move. This ultimately improves their brand because it immediately makes them a more attractive option for the short term visitor. Someone has dropped a lot of cash for the week and wants to do it all would be willing to get a two day park hopper and then lighting pass the hell out of the parks premiere attractions so they can also get into Universal, Seaworld, etc. where as before, maybe not.

Disney in the last 2 years has tipped on the side of unaffordable for me. It's been over 8 years since I've been back to DLR and now 3 years since WDW. I really think that may have been it. I have some savings but not enough to get me a stay and park tickets for a week. The way to ultimately start looking at this is what will your budget get you if not Disney?

Disney does not care whether I can afford there parks anymore... because they have people that can afford it. Ultimately someone somewhere thinks Disney "Somehow had to do this and they go back to serving as the bad operator".

August 25, 2021, 9:59 PM

I always wonder how TH will manage to condescend someone and cheerlead Disney in the same comment, but he just keeps surprising me.

August 26, 2021, 9:37 AM

They all make good points in that in near future Disney Will make tons of money. But in the long run ( that means in a period of 4 or more years into the future ) a good number of costumers Will opt for other vacation destinations. And it's not just the económic issue. Its fair Game for Disney to put any prices on their services and products, and we decide if we want them Bad enough to pay. Its foul Game and unethical to take things that were free or part of a costumer perk and then substitutes those with a paid option and THEN tell us in our face thats is for our benefit and that they do it because they care so much for us. Thats what's i think hurts a brand.

Edited: August 26, 2021, 1:09 PM


Really great points. If there is an x-factor here, its the long term.

I just spoke to my friends last night and they happen to be ecstatic about Genie + and lighting lane. Why? This couple each have about 12+ years on me and they stopped going because the wear an tear on them waiting in the long lines broke them. They look at this as a way they can go back to the parks and now buy their way out of the wait not because they can afford it (They can't), they don't have to spend 90+ minutes in a line. They would not qualify in Disney's eye as being eligible for disability access (they are very fit IMO).

I also commented on another post here that Genie+ now makes this attractive to the short term visitor (especially in Florida) because they can now just get a two day park hopper, pay for Genie Plus, then add 1 or there max 2 Lightning lanes and see all four parts in two days. Then go to Universal and Seaworld. If you're coming from out of state/country and want to see it all, Disney just gave you even more motivation.

But in this case, does living by the sword going to mean dying by the sword? Long term. People shorting there visits? Less as "per guest revenue generated" as the Ajax man says... .

People will shorten there Disney visits and spend time at Universal, Sea World, and other attractions. If they are not in your parks then they are not spending. If they (Disney) take it in their teeth... I think this is ultimately what sinks them. Take their greatest strength and turn it into their biggest revenue drain.

I smell Disney making more restrictions to use Genie + now...

From the Disney movie Miracle: "You take their game and you shove it right back in their face. The team that is finally willing to do this is the team that has a chance to put them down."

August 27, 2021, 1:32 PM

@ NB: Really? You "always" wonder about me. I'm flattered.

And weren't we supposed to meet for a drink?

Edited: August 27, 2021, 5:32 PM

When the pandemic is over we ALL should be getting together for drinks!!!

September 3, 2021, 2:51 PM

So I guess after two weeks of poignant discussion. The answer is "no Disney is not damaging its own brand on the long run".

Good talk.

Edited: September 5, 2021, 9:03 PM

Mmm i do belive that maybe Disney it not going to feel the effects soon. The point of the tread was to point out that managment seems to belive that they can do no wrong and it's not a problem to lose the working family fan base because of a " few " rumbles on the internet and everybody Will turn the page, close the eyes and pay whatever. Whatever they lose they can make back with new eager costumers. It's the snowball effect. Channels of diehard Disney fans that usually are willing to take a bullet for the mouse are really angry. To Many changes, too fast, and not for the better on the paying client side. I don't have a Crystal ball or anything, it does FEEL diferent this time around. I AM willing to accept that maybe i AM just nostálgic. But giving less to Your fans for more money and dismissing their complaints can't be good.

September 5, 2021, 9:12 PM

Poignant enough?
I Guess so.

September 7, 2021, 4:35 AM

Pablo: "The point of the tread was to point out that managment seems to belive that they can do no wrong and it's not a problem to lose the working family fan base ..."

Me: There have ALWAYS been complaints related to excessive costs associated with a Walt Disney World vacation. This videographer named Bosox did family videos for years. Their second one begins with voiceovers from vloggers complaining about the cost of a Disney vacation -- and that was in 2011.

I would assert that Disney and Universal both know their product and know that pricing on tickets and other services can be adjusted to suit the demand of their customer base.

Edited: September 7, 2021, 11:38 AM

Oh i agree with You that they have the data on hand to go ahead and try things such as the Disney genie plus. The point here is not data managment, it's costumer PERCEPTION. I know Its a very fickle term. But lets try this: the Disney Cruise Line it's a very expensive product. But is very popular and succesful. People knows it does charge more than other lines in the same category, but it's PERCIVED as worth it because it gives the costumer a Lot of "plus" , but in term of service Quality and onboard experiencies. In the pricing on the parks and the resort overall experience the PERCEPTION of people ( some, no everybody )is that they are getting a Lot LESS services for MORE money. Articles are showing up in the New york times for example on this matter, with a negative ligth. The financial Times says Disney shares are up, but costumers reviews are flaring up. But most people are NOT Disney shareholders. Disney has generations of visitors earning support for thier products. The PERCEPTION is negative in lots of channels that usually are very supportive.
Thats My point. And most families don't look at data charts to make vacation plans.

September 7, 2021, 3:24 PM

Pablo: "The point here is not data managment, it's costumer PERCEPTION."

Me: And for more than a decade (at least) customer perception has been that WDW is expensive.

September 7, 2021, 6:10 PM

Sure. TH. Not a doubt Disney is expensive. But it never gave the sensation of a cheap low fare airline ( looking at You spirit airlines!! ) where they seem to be willing to cut your cabin oxígen once You reach 10,000 feet unless You pay extra. And it migth be a gross exageration but thats what is making headlines in news papers across the USA and going around the internet . Thats Bad PR. That makes a dent in anybody's image. Even the industry leader and Golden stadard bearer.

September 7, 2021, 6:13 PM

If they care or not about it is Another matter entirely.

September 7, 2021, 6:28 PM

Pablo - Something to think about. The simple fact that people get upset when Disney raises the admission prices to the parks and offers more upscale special events that are not intended for Joey Bagadonuts tells you that they're doing it right. Disney still owns the haters and complainers. After they get over their temper tantrums, they'll be back once they feel they've punished Disney enough with their absence.

What Disney needs to look out for is apathy because as everybody who's been divorced can tell you, the separation between love and hate can be mighty small, but once apathy sets in, there's no reconciliation.

September 7, 2021, 6:50 PM

Thats Indeed an excellent point, Mr. Hillman. And the expresssion " nobody goes there any more, it's too crowded " migth as well be applied here. But if the screams and plates trowing of your divorce makes the NEW YORK TIMES, it migth be that less people feel inclined to invite to the picnic.
But point well Taken about the apathy issue.

Edited: September 7, 2021, 10:38 PM

"Nobody ever goes there anymore; it’s too crowded." -- Yogi Berra

"Is Disney damaging its own brand on the long run?"
Robert gave the correct answer.

September 8, 2021, 4:50 AM

Pablo: "Sure. TH. Not a doubt Disney is expensive."

Me: That's not what I posted. I said the PERCEPTION (all caps, because that's what you offered up) that Disney is expensive has existed for over a decade. And yet, the people have kept showing up ... in droves

September 8, 2021, 10:31 AM

Well..ley me Say it. It is expensive. But i AM getting repetitive. Now besides being PERCIVED as expensive also some folks feels that now they are squezzed like lemons in every aspect of their vacations. And the PERCEPTION is being commented in an ever increasing number of outlets. That damages a brand. But everybody is telling that new costumers Will pick up that Slack of old fans grumbling and cancelling their vacations for a while. It's a shame that managment of Disney it's ok with that. I understand. As long as numbers hold up in the next quarter who cares for a little chink in the armor??

September 8, 2021, 10:36 AM

Big pharma has a Bad rep. But everybody buys medicine rigth? That Big Bad wolf corporate feeling was not associated with Disney ( as much )in the past. Now a little more. And more. Snowball effect.

Edited: September 8, 2021, 11:26 AM

Every vacation is getting increasingly expensive, it's not just Disney. When you pull out the transportation costs, the prices of attractions, food, and lodging has significantly outpaced inflation over the past 3-5 years, and has only gotten worse thanks to pandemic excuses that give customers a valid reason to accept even more price increases.

Disney is not alone in this, and to try to compare the costs of a vacation (luxury) to that of pharmaceuticals (essential) is a null hypothesis creating an unfair and invalid comparison.

I do think Disney is trying to capitalize on the free cash that exists in the upper end of the market, which in turn is having an affect on the lower-middle class, but companies have been making those pivots for YEARS, and continue to target the upper crust particularly in the face of an economic climate where the classes are more stratified than ever. I don't blame Disney for doing this, but I do think they're going a bit too much too fast, especially considering a moderate portion of their "core" audience has been significantly impacted by the pandemic, and risk being left behind by Disney's recent aggressiveness in pricing. Disney can certainly survive and thrive being a luxury destination/brand, but I think diversification has always been a hallmark of the company's success and turning away from that to follow the money might not lead them to the pot of gold they are seeking.

As far as damaging the brand as a whole, I think it's a Catch-22. If Disney is trying to reimagine itself as a luxury brand (at least for the resorts and parks division), charging more and creating the perception of increased value (which is where I think they're taking missteps in taking away perks while increasing prices), they are essentially trying to take what is seen as a Honda/Toyota and turning it into an Acura/Lexus. While not everyone can buy an Acura/Lexus, there's that prestige of saving up enough money to afford one, and that's where I think Disney is trying to go. They can sell millions of Hondas/Toyotas like they have over the past 6+ decades, or they can sell hundreds of thousands of Acuras/Luxuses (or is it Lexi) at price points that are 30% higher with better margins. I think it's clear that Disney is trying to make that migration and has been repositioning itself over the past 10-15 years. If you can't afford a WDW, there are plenty of other options available on the Honda/Toyota end of the scale like Sea World, Universal (though they're getting expensive too), Six Flags, or Cedar Fair.

September 8, 2021, 1:29 PM

Pablo: "Well..ley (sic) me Say it. It is expensive."

Me: It's always been expensive.

Pablo: "And the PERCEPTION is being commented in an ever increasing number of outlets."

Me: That seems a bit anecdotal. I mean, the comments may be appearing on more outlets, but the quantity of people complaining about how expensive it is to visit WDW has not necessarily increased.

September 8, 2021, 1:49 PM

Well said. Russell. I do agree. I do belive Disney is going for a higher echelon of costumers, as it does see better benefits in high revenue per cápita in food, merchandise and services as opposed to larger numbers of límited expending while in the parks. They are NOT being discreet about it.

October 12, 2021, 8:02 AM

Disney always taking a decision by considering some points. This time also they have a backup data that why this happen.

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