Roy Disney: "Branding is something you do to cows"

This is a great, emotional transcript of Stanley Gold and Roy Disney’s remarks at the annual meeting of Disney yesterday. I’ve been saying that branding is not something that your corporation “does” but what happens in the minds of your customers to make them feel the way they do about you.

Here’s an excerpt from Roy Disney’s speech:

Let me tell you about the danger of Institution Think: It is often said that our company’s most valuable asset is the Disney name. You’ll get no argument from me. I kind of like the name myself. But, in recent times, there’s been a tendency to refer to it as the “Disney brand.” To me, this degrades Disney into a “thing” to be bureaucratically managed, rather than a “name” to be creatively championed. And lately I’ve been seeing Mickey receive this treatment too, as well as Pooh and a lot of others.

As I’ve said on other occasions, branding is something you do to cows. It makes sense if you’re a rancher, since cows do tend to look alike. It’s also useful to lots of businessmen, and they brand things like detergents or shoes for almost the same reason as ranchers. Branding is what you do when there’s nothing original about your product.

But there is something original about our products. Or at least there used to be. Our name already means something to consumers.

I really believe that if we keep thinking of Disney as a “brand,” we will lose all the meaning that has been built into those six letters for more than three-quarters of a century. We need to get back to thinking of it as a “name” that needs to be prized and enhanced, escape the clutches of Institution Think and resume our trajectory of creative and financial success.

How did the Disney Company create enormous shareholder value in the past? Two ways: first by trusting the talents and imagination of its creative people — and then by supporting them with the resources they required.

I don’t care what current management may tell you. The plain fact is, you can’t fool all the people all the time. Nor can you succeed in our business by trying to get by on the cheap. Consumers know when they are getting value for their money, and they know when you’re trying to sell them second-hand goods.

It’s a rather long read, but worth every word. Roy Disney understands branding although he doesn’t like the word.

This one’s going to be interesting to follow!

Stanley Gold and Roy Disney Statements at Annual Meeting Of Walt Disney Co. March 3, 2004

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