This past week, I finished up a vacation at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. I had been there many times before (it was my 9th trip since 1982) and as always, I had a great trip. While I was on vacation, I couldn’t help but be amazed at how big an operation it is (I was treated to some interesting trivia throughout my trip) and at the following that the Disney brand has. It’s fascinating what you can learn by enjoying a box of popcorn and a cold drink while sitting on a bench in a theme park for half an hour.

I’ve vacationed in a lot of places but none seem to have as much as to talk about as Walt Disney World. In fact, I could probably write an entire book on those 47 square miles of central Florida (I’ve even considered a separate blog on the subject). Like anyone who’s visited a destination more than once, I have my share of tips to make the most out your vacation there, but what I find more interesting is the cult-like following that the brand has.

There are a lot of excellent fan sites for Walt Disney World that are much more informative than the official Disney site and I use them extensively every few years when I’m planning a trip. But the people who run these sites and contribute to them are absolutely fascinating. Sure, some are a bit odd (there are people who are sad right now because they’re not physically on Disney property) but some of them have been able to make their living (or operate a comfortable side business) by enjoying their favorite vacation spot and sharing their experiences with others.

The one thing about Disney that I’m most envious of is a group of folks that call themselves RADPers (which comes from the old usenet newsgroup rec.arts.disney.parks). These folks plan meets at the theme park throughout the year with the mother of all events being the Mousefest meet which attracts almost one thousand people each December. Some of these folks put on shows that rival the entertainment provided within the park during these events. But what’s even more amazing is how this on-line community has sprung up on its own without any help from Disney. People simply started posting their experiences, memories and advice and other people responded with their own experiences and comments and then all the sudden there was this on-line community of thousands of folks. Some folks even post trip reports — long posts that describe what happened on the writer’s trip. Some are brief while others cover every minute detail such as when the person woke up, what they ate, what rides and attractions they experienced and what they paid for food and souvenirs. I find these reports useful as you can often get a better feel for an attraction or eatery than you would with a normal review. One interesting tidbit about this that I share with my networking classes is that this is a powerful way to make contacts — a man and a women who each wrote trip reports eventually met up, fell in love and got married (at Disney’s Wedding Pavilion, of course).

In future posts, I’ll get into more details about the Disney “magic” — the marketing and branding effort that turned one of the biggest corporations in the world into a well-liked company hidden behind loveably characters. But most importantly, I’ll tell you how you can use the same “magic” to transform your own business.

The Magic of Walt Disney World
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