Surprise (Marketing lessons from Walt)

This is the first in my eight-day series – Marketing Lessons from Walt.  As my family and I enjoy Walt Disney World, I’m going to capture some of the marketing genius that I believe began with Walt’s passion and has now grown into one of the world’s most powerful brands.

We’re all familiar with the golden oldie – the giveaway.  Typically, we ask customers to sign up to win or create some sort of contest.  And then they wait to see if they won.  And in most cases, probably forgot they even signed up.

To tie in with their yearlong theme, "The Year of a Million Dreams," Disney has added a brilliant twist to the age-old favorite.                                                      
                                                They’ve added surprise.

Surprise Here’s their twist.  "Imagine walking through one of the Walt Disney World Theme Parks when a Cast Member taps you on the shoulder to offer you a dream come true. Right now, over a million extra-special dreams, some thought impossible, are being randomly awarded to people just like you."

It goes on to list prizes that range from not having to stand in a single line all day (more valuable than you can imagine) to traveling around the world, touring all of the Disney parks.

No little pieces of paper for your name and phone number.  No essay contest.  You just win because you’re there.  At that very moment.


Surprise is a story-inspiring emotion. It demands to be shared.

How could you add one of Walt’s favorite elements — surprise — to your marketing mix?

Marketing Lessons from Walt  – The Series:

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19 comments on “Surprise (Marketing lessons from Walt)

  1. Cyndee,

    Agreed 100%. They are brilliant at it. What amazes me the most is that they’ve been able to maintain that level of excellence long after Walt’s death.

    That’s a deeply held and understood brand.


  2. Charles,

    It truly is a must see destination. To be fair, WDW was build 20+ years after Disneyland and had a huge amount of land to use. So they learned from their earlier mistakes and simply have been able to build it out much bigger and better.

    But DL has all the history — it was literally the park that Walt built.

    Either one is worth the trip. But if you’re only going to do it once…Disney World wins, hands down.


  3. Lindsay says:

    Disney is an amazing business to follow when it comes to marketing!! They are brilliant!

  4. Lindsay,

    Agreed — there is probably no one better!


  5. EH says:

    I agree. Disney’s marketing is amazing. It has been main example of great marketing at several presentations I have participated in.

  6. EH,

    Yes, I think they are one of the iconic marketers of our era. And they were/are so effective because they are very clear about their brand. They know who they are and who they are not.

    And when they’ve veered from that — it has caused them a lot of trouble. While they are practically perfect — they could also be used as a bad example in a presentation or two!


  7. Max Entin says:

    I agree, surprising your customers by giving them something valuable they didn’t expect can be very powerful. I guess the old cliche under promise and over deliver is still valid.

  8. Max,

    I believe that surprise is one of the most under utilized and most effective marketing strategies out there.


  9. JustinSMV says:

    Disney is a huge marketing monster, look at the sales of Hannah Montanna you can’t go anywhere without seeing this Disney Rock Star’s brand embedded everywhere. If you learn from Disney about marketing, then you are definitely in the right direction.

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  11. This is great article on marketing genius. I found it very much interesting. Thank you for sharing.

  12. Oh i never really thought surprise could play any key role in marketing. My opinion was that we could always combine surprise with something else to pull off something crazy from the crowd!

  13. Never underestimate the power of surprising your customers with something valuable. Under promise, over-deliver, words to live by.

  14. Surprising your customers by giving them something valuable they didn’t expect can be very powerful. I guess the old cliche under promise and over deliver is still valid.

  15. Blogging is now becoming one of the new phenomenal ways to make money online. It is no surprise because you can work on your own hours, if you call it working that is.

  16. This is how every contest should be. I see the contests that are held in the malls, or any other store, and the first thing that I think about is how it’s a scam, and how they will contact me calling me the winner.

    I like this. Kudos to Disney, great company!

  17. auto loan says:

    Thats great that you have learn one good marketing lesson from Walt and share with us the lesson. I will try to implement this lesson on my work.

  18. As a regular reader of your blog I’m very grateful for such a good information that you provide every time, Mika

  19. The marketing lessons shared by you are simply rocking.Keep sharing more lessons like this.

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