If you are just looking at the numbers, Disney could have been killed by 2020. Over half of their 2019 revenues came from unmasked people sitting near each other riding a ride or watching something on a movie screen.
Here’s their stock price (from Google):
They’ve not only made it through, but they’ve thrived, culminating recently with their investors meeting where they announced so much new content… well, if you were wondering what Thor’s grandniece is up to or a young Salacious Crumb was doing during the Clone Wars, they’ll probably get to it.
Disney teaches us it’s not about the channel; it’s about the relationship with the person. What do you do when your channels temporarily don’t exist? (I’m looking at you, galas, 5Ks, and (for a time) canvassing.) It’s not about that, any more than Disney is about theme parks and movie theatres. This is how people experienced the brand and, yes, some will only engage through that medium, but that means it’s time to double down on a new medium (Disney+) or shore up an old favorite (Disney’s network properties, other than ESPN). Because for many Disney (or a sub-brands) holds a special place in the heart, a special relationship, people are willing to engage with it in new ways. We should always be so special to our donors.
It’s also about the data from that person. A decade again, Disney still used paper tickets. Everyone who entered a park was an anonymous face in the crowd. Now, you wear a wristband that is your pass to everything and tracks your every move in a surveillance state that would make Stalin so happy, he wouldn’t execute anyone that day. Or maybe he’d execute more people—not really sure what that guy did when he was happy. Anyway, all that data is tracked to a person and used both for customer satisfaction—helping build itineraries and such—and revenue optimization—helping get more people in the park and steer them to the upcharges of their hearts desire.
Disney+ is the perfection of this, where the recommendation algorithm knows whether you are a Marvel person, Star Wars person, Hamilton person, or young Kurt Russell aficionado who wants to watch The Computer Wore Tennis Sneakers on loop. This binds your loyal to the service as well as providing the data grist for the mill of their other marketing efforts. Data serves the relationship; the relationship serves to create more data.
And the data-based content is king, There’s a reason Disney’s stock price shot up after announcing many new Marvels and Star Warses: these are the things the bulk of their supporters want. Not all of it is for all people; few people are equally excited about the Cassian Andor Disney+ series and Enchanted 2 (I’m one of those few). Those are most often for different audiences.
Same thing for nonprofits. What program(s) do you tune in to your PBS stations to watch? For me, it’s British people killing each other: Sherlock, Poirot, Miss Marple, etc.; for my wife, it’s British people not killing each other: Downton Abbey, Victoria, Pride and Prejudice, etc.) If you are marketing renewal to me with one of her shows or vice versa, your appeal will be treated like a houseguest in one of the aforementioned Agatha Christie shows: barely considered, then disposed of.
Likewise, you know or should know who the premium donors are. Who gives in emergencies. Who only gives in December. Who only gives to matches. Who wants their gifts to go domestically only. And on and on. Or, at least, your algorithms should know.
Yes, Disney has truly massive cash reserves to accomplish this, something we should never have as non-profits. But the time to build the ark is before the rain: we need to invest in relationships before, after, and during our times of crisis. Because you never know when 2020 will happen and you’ll need them to survive.