Throughout the years, Walt Disney and his iconic films have taught us all important life lessons. “Pinocchio teaches the importance of honesty. “Cinderella” teaches us to believe in our dreams. “Beauty and the Beast” teaches us to not judge appearances.

As adults and communication professionals, we can glean other lessons from Disney, not only through its movies but also through its marketing strategy. This summer Disney-owned Pixar is releasing “Monsters University,” the prequel to its popular 2001 film “Monsters Inc. “ There are five key lessons communication professionals should take away from this inspired marketing campaign and the man himself, Walt Disney.

1.    “You’re dead if you aim only for kids. Adults are only kids grown up.”

Walt Disney understood his target audience just as the successful brands of today do. It’s important to not only understand the demographics of your key consumers but also how and when to reach them. While animated, Disney’s movies entertain kids and adults alike. Adults are still kids at heart and nostalgic for the simpler times of their childhood. While kids are sure to be excited about Pixar’s newest film, I would wager young adults will be, too. The release of “Monsters University” is well timed, hitting theaters 11 years after the first movie debuted. The kids who gobbled up the original in 2001 are now college aged.

2.    “I believe in being an innovator.”

If the Walt Disney Company is known for anything, it’s innovation. Brands with high consumer engagement develop fresh ideas and move beyond their comfort zones. Marketing “Monsters University” extends beyond the traditional movie trailer and licensing deal with a tongue-in-cheek campaign promoting Monsters University as an actual school and not a film. The ads mimic the cheesy and inspirational commercials we expect from real-world colleges. The added stroke of genius here comes from the media planners. These ads debuted during the Rose Bowl alongside the very university ads “Monsters University” is meant to parody.


3.     “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”

As communicators we can learn from Disney’s example by embracing projects and ideas that seem far-fetched at first glance. The pros at Pixar took on the laborious task of creating a fully functional school website dedicated to Monsters University. The sheer amount of creative writing and content on this site is enough to make your head spin. Site visitors can find answers to all their MU questions including University history, admission requirements and Campus Life. “Students” can read about and locate on the campus map the school’s Greek life chapters including Gamma Roar Roar (GRR) fraternity and Slugma Slugma Kappa (EEK) sorority. Site visitors can actually purchase merchandise from the campus store like coffee mugs or a four-armed sweatshirt.

4.    “I only hope that we don’t lose sight of one thing – that it was all started by a mouse.”

Every facet of a company and its communication efforts should be an extension of the brand and its promise. Know what you stand for and only execute tactics that are in line with those ideals. The “Monsters University” campaign is imaginative, creative, entertaining and just plain fun. These are all characteristics of the mouse himself and the brand he has come to represent.

5.     “Laughter is America’s most important export.”

Arguably the most important thing we can learn from Disney is to have fun. Your brand should inspire people, make their lives easier and simply make them laugh. “Monsters University” creates a world we’d like to visit using some of our most fond and comforting memories. It doesn’t matter what service or product your company produces; it’s all about your attitude. It’s about building relationships with your consumers. 

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