Modeling Your Business After Disneyland

Quick, what is the happiest place on earth?

Most, if not all of you, probably just said "Disneyland." Right? True or not, we are programmed to respond in such a way thanks to clever marketing. Despite your or this humble writer's opinion, the fact remains that for millions and millions of children every year, it is the happiest place on earth!

I recently had the opportunity to visit Walt Disney's imagined paradise. This time, wise and hardened through these twenty-something years, I made some stunning discoveries about Disneyland and why they continue to be successful. How can we apply these principles to our businesses, websites, and (dare I say it?) even our lives to maximize returns?

Be Friendly

Disneyland Characters Friendly

Whether it be in everyday life, online or in person, people want to feel welcome in a warm and friendly environment. This is, save for in a few exceptions, a universal truth. Go to Disneyland and you'll see hardened, muscular, biker types grinning ear to ear alongside children, crotchety old people, and just about everyone else that walks through those gates.

Know Why?

Okay, the sugar highs, bright lights, and jovial décor can help. But mostly it is because from the second you walk in, you are metaphorically slapped in the face by friendly faces and kindness. Every worker is trained to have a smile on their face and treat everyone with respect and they'll bend over backwards to help you if they can.


It does not matter if you are the CEO of a giant corporation or taking someone's cash at a Burger King. It does not matter if you are running the largest blog in the world or a niche site about the construction of model train sets. Being friendly will get you further. Take time to get to know your clients and customers, ask them engaging questions, and always greet them with a smile.

Now that you have the right attitude, what about these digs?

Don’t Ever Let People See Backstage

Disneyland Parade

Ever seen a Disney Main Street parade? Crazy. It almost feels spontaneous. Have you been on a ride full of bells and whistles, bumbling animatronics, zips bangs, booms and pops? It all seems so effortlessly choreographed, just for you. It's lovely. There's no anxiety because of a mess, rarely any delays. If ever a piece of chewing gum or wrapper is dropped, it's gone before you even know it... almost as though it was picked up by some mysterious, unknown force.

Disneyland feels so pleasant and effortless because they rarely (in fact, I would argue never) let you see what is happening backstage: the painstaking, untold hours of planning and prep, the well organized and discreet custodial operations, the long nights of practices and training. All this and more for a clean, polished exterior. On the rare occasion that Disney does allow people backstage, what you see is exactly what they want you to see, not more or less. (Keep this in mind for websites and projects that are in beta.)


If you own a brick and mortar location, keep it tidy. It does not matter if you have the most disorganized, scattered, chaotic back end (although that’s really never ideal), never let your customers or clients see this. Stock your shelves after hours, keep your desk neat, and, for the love of all that is holy, do your cleaning (especially vacuuming) when there are no customers around. I cannot tell you how many times I'll get off work late and pop into a grocery store where they are doing the floors. 24/7 locations have a pass on this, but I hate little more than feeling like I am inconveniencing you by shopping at your store. Anyone else have any experience with this? It makes you want to get out of there asap which translates to less sales.

Under Construction

If you're an app or website developer, skip the animated "Under Construction" banners please. It is okay to launch a product in beta (the trend these days seems to be eternal beta) and let people know. But you can still control how it looks, how much of the inner workings you show, and it's overall functionality. If a page, article, app, widget, etc. is not ready then keep it in-house until it is.

It is easy to wow customers, readers, and clients with your products and projects when you keep them a little closer to the chest until you're happy with the outcome.

Maximize Profit

Disneyland Merchandise

Upsell, upsell, upsell. That is the name of the game at Disneyland. You already forked out a metric butt-load of cash for your ticket, but it's not unusual to spend at least that much again in the park. Disney does this by offering tantalizing products and extra memberships at every turn.

Hungry? They got you covered. Have fun on that ride? Great, buy a picture memorializing it. Good trip all around? Well there's a brochure waiting for you when you get home detailing every Disney destination in the country. Makes planning your next trip a cinch. Before you go, don't forget to visit one of their (approximately) 800 gift shops on the way out and pick up a snow globe.


With a little creativity you should be able to come up with at least a half a dozen ways to pull some extra pennies from your customers. Think e-books for blogs, impulse items at check out for both brick and mortar stores as well as e-commerce, consultation services, additional ads, etc.

If you're having trouble thinking of extra monetization techniques for your business, website, or blog, contact us. We offer top-of-the-line consultation at a reasonable rate.

Be a Tastemaker

Haunted House

Cars, princesses, mouse ears, The Matterhorn, Haunted Mansion, teacups! Born out of the imagination of dedicated artists and engineers, Disneyland created rides that were fun, attracted a crowd, and have become iconic. Quotes from Disney movies have become part of our vernacular. Everywhere the world over there are little boys and girls dressing up like princes and princesses, slaying mythological giants made out of pillows in their room and consuming all things Disney like it's going out of style.

The thing is, though, it's not. Rather than jumping on any one trend or cultural meme, Disneyland has managed to stay relevant through the ages while keeping that old familiar charm for returning guests. They've created their own space and dominated it. In short, they're tastemakers.


I once heard someone say that if you create content or sell a product that you like, you have a guaranteed customer base of one. If one person likes what you're selling chances are another might. Another turns into another and the next thing you know you have a loyal customer base of people that are similar to you, that you know, that you can almost always please.

Be A Tastemaker

Carving out your own space in this world is essential. Those that do thrive beyond bad economies, cultural and social changes, and any low points. Those that do not may have some success but it is ephemeral.

Think about it like this: life, business, websites and blogs are like a basketball game. You can run all around chasing after the person with the ball, and positioned in the right place, you may be able to pick up a rebound or a loose ball. Or you can take the ball, cut through all the people running up and down the court and dunk on those fools from the free throw line like you're Jordan.

All those other guys are just taking up space. And honestly, if you ever find yourself as one of them, go take a seat on the bench, catch your breath, make room for the people actually playing, and get back on the floor when you have something to offer.

Your Job Is Your Job But, So Is Customer Service. Always!

Mickey, Minnie, Goofy

Something that struck me as amazing during my visit to Disneyland was the customer service. While there we had janitors stop what they were doing to help us take a picture or locate an attraction. Everyone, regardless of their station, said hello, smiled, asked how we were and acted like their job was a greeter.

Cooks in the back of the kitchen waved at the kids. Even those who were obviously corporate bigwig suits would stop what they were doing to take you to the nearest bathroom, help with strollers, or offer a smile. Everyone there had a specific, probably tedious and time consuming job to do but on top of that, they were there to help the customer first and foremost. Simple concept, incredible results.


If you are the sole owner/operator/worker bee in your business, you should already know that customer service is everything. In this economy chances are you have twenty competitors that can do anything you do faster and cheaper. All that does not matter if they have a bad buying experience.

Customer Service

If you employ workers, programmers, writers, and so forth, drill the importance of customer service into their heads every chance you get. Incentivize it if you must. Some people are better with people than others, that's a given. Stick those people in key customer service positions like on the phones or at the registers, but dig your other employees out of their caves and have them interact too.

Politeness, even forced, has an amazing effect of being contagious. If your employees are happy, considerate and helpful, your customers will be too. This acts as an intangible signal to new and prospective clients and customers that this is where they want to be. Chances are [Insert your name here] Web Development Firm or Grocery or e-store will never become synonymous with the "happiest place on earth" but that's no reason for you not to try to make it so.

Share your experience with exceptional companies in the comments section below!

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