Why a giant like Disney is turning to influencer marketing

Mar 2, 2023

Few brands in this last century have achieved the iconic status of the Walt Disney Company.

Founded in 1923, Disney, in its relatively short existence, has accomplished what most organizations can only ever dream of – becoming a household name recognized and beloved by hundreds of millions worldwide.

Considering the sheer scale and reach of Disney’s $203+ billion empire, it’s easy to see how the brand has gained so much influence.[1] The stories and experiences that Disney created are timeless and have stayed with so many people throughout the years.

But Disney’s rise to global dominance in the entertainment industry was never easy, nor was it the result of a fixed business strategy. Instead, Disney has had to regularly innovate and evolve to stay current with their audience, and so far, it’s been very effective. In fact, the only thing more “magical” than their storytelling abilities has been their marketing prowess.

Disney’s Marketing Strategy

Ever since Walt Disney’s first animated shorts, the company has been a leader in marketing its products. It was among the first to understand the power of an integrated media strategy around Disney TV shows, movies, video games, and other related merchandise. B

ut what truly separates Disney from its peers is its ability to use the power of nostalgia and deep-rooted emotional responses to build a sustainable business model that continues to survive multiple generations.

The Power of Nostalgia

Disney’s marketing strategy takes advantage of the love for nostalgia. Tapping into childhood memories is a powerful way to connect emotionally with a product. Few brands accomplish this as well as Disney, which is why so many of their products remain timeless. Whether seeing classic characters like Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck or hearing memorable songs from classic movies like The Lion King or Aladdin, Disney knows how to get its audience’s attention, spark interest, and evoke powerful emotions.

By activating this type of mention, Disney is able to create a connection with its audience that goes well beyond selling products or services. When people share in their favorite childhood movies or visit a theme park, they’re transported back in time to a simpler moment in their lives, creating positive associations with the brand that can last a lifetime.

Disney’s ability to leverage nostalgia has expanded its reach beyond children and families. Adults who grew up watching Disney movies are now passing down their love for these stories to their own children. This multi-generational appeal has helped make Disney one of the most beloved brands in the world.

Storytelling at Its Best

Even from the very beginning, Walt Disney proved to be a master storyteller, and that tradition has continued throughout the company’s history. Every piece of content tells a story that captures the imagination.

Disney movies are well known for their exciting stories, relatable characters, and memorable musical scores. From classics like Snow White and Cinderella to modern films like Frozen and Moana, Disney has worked diligently to pique the interest of multiple generations.

In addition to movies, Disney also uses storytelling in its theme parks and merchandise as well. Each attraction at a Disney park tells its own story – whether it’s taking guests on an adventure through space or bringing them face-to-face with their favorite Disney characters.

Even the merchandise is carefully curated by Disney. From plush toys featuring everyone’s favorite characters to apparel inspired by Disney films, every item is designed to help fans connect with the brand in unique ways.

Deep Customer Connections

Disney creates connections with its audience by making them feel like they are part of something special. From the shared experiences at theme parks to the community formed around fandoms like Star Wars or Marvel, Disney knows how to unite people around their shared passions.

One way Disney creates connections is through its theme parks. Millions of people visit Disneyland or Disney World each year. Whether people are riding roller coasters together or watching parades, these experiences bring people together around their love for all things Disney related.

Another way Disney builds connections is through its merchandise. People can purchase everything from t-shirts showcasing their favorite characters to limited-edition collectibles celebrating milestone anniversaries or events related to specific occasions.

Social media also plays an important role in building connections between fans and the brand itself. On platforms like Twitter or Instagram, fans can stay up-to-date on the news related to upcoming movies or events at theme parks worldwide and share in real-time their experiences with friends and family.

But while Disney seemingly has invented the winning blueprint for successful brand marketing, historically, the brand has never rested on its laurels. Year after year, Disney constantly explores new opportunities for innovation to stay ahead of the curve. It has now turned its attention to influencer marketing strategies to reach new audiences while demonstrating its focus on creating an inclusive and welcoming environment for all.

The Disney Creator Lab

In September 2021, Disney announced the launch of the Disney Creator Lab, an innovative program designed to identify and nurture content creators worldwide.[2] This program was created to assist smaller influencers in growing their reach and giving them the opportunity to make social media a full-time profession.

Disney’s program meticulously chose 20 influencers to take part in a three-month long online training course that covered all the essential topics from branding and creativity to monetization. One of Disney’s criteria for the program was to highlight the importance of diversity among their creators with regard to age, race, gender identity, and individual creative processes.

The program was a major success and was met with a lot of enthusiasm from the influencers and their fans. Over the course of three months, many of these creators saw a surge in their followers and engagement on their social media accounts.

Additionally, several of them secured deals to create content for larger brands.

disney influencer

Source: @ypulse on Twiiter


Disney has now announced that they are launching a second phase of the Creator Lab program with even more creators and influencers. Unlike its predecessor, Disney Creator Lab 2.0 offers influencers the unique opportunity to engage in exciting activities, such as brunch mixers and behind-the-scenes field trips at Walt Disney Studios, to offer more exclusivity to their program. In an effort to amplify engagement and extend its reach, Disney has wisely tapped influencers from various media platforms. Notably, Disney is now committed to influencers promoting through YouTube Shorts.

Disney Influencer marketing

Source: @little.cinema on Instagram

But while Disney’s Creator Lab program is a great way to foster relationships with influencers and encourage content creation, it begs the question, does the company really need this additional marketing lever as it moves forward? It’s important to note that Disney’s Creator Lab program is not just a marketing lever but a strategic move to maintain its stronghold in the entertainment industry. With the rise of social media and digital platforms, influencers have become crucial in promoting brands and reaching new audiences. By partnering with them through Creator Lab, Disney can tap into their vast networks and create more engaging content that resonates with younger generations.

Also, because much of Disney’s success has been associated with creating “magical experiences,” it only makes sense that they partner with individuals capable of sharing those experiences with others. Beyond the well-known theme parks, Disney Cruise Lines is also a major part of the company’s success, and utilizing influencers to promote their cruise packages can help drive sales.

Moreover, as Disney continues to expand its influence into new arenas, such as streaming services, it will be important for them to create a strong bond between content creators and viewers. The Creator Lab gives them an opportunity to do just that and establish a platform for emerging creators to make their mark in the industry.

What Can Businesses Learn From Disney’s Approach To Influencer Marketing?

Businesses can learn a lot from Disney’s approach to influencer marketing, particularly regarding the importance of fostering relationships and building trust with their customers. By partnering with small-time influencers through the Creator Lab program, Disney can get their message out there and create an emotional connection between viewers and their brand.

Disney’s approach also serves as an example of how to effectively use influencers for content creation. Disney is a masterclass in strategic influencer partnerships, from its selection process and training course to the exclusive activities offered in Creator Lab 2.0. As businesses explore ways to reach their target audiences better, they should take a page from Disney and focus on creating mutually beneficial partnerships. This helps build trust between the influencer and the audience and provides an opportunity for businesses to gain more exposure.

Disney’s influencer marketing approach proves that investing in relationships pays off. Disney has successfully carved out a place in the entertainment industry by understanding its target audience and working with influencers to create compelling content.