Don’t Just Have A Brand Identity, Create A Total Brand Experience

Successful companies don’t just have a brand identity, they create a total brand experience. A total brand experience causes people to FEEL their brand, and I can’t think of a finer example of a Company who has mastered creating a total brand experience then Disney.

Years ago I was asked to come out to Disney Studios in Burbank, California to meet with one of their executives. I have always been a huge fan of Disney, from their theme parks to their family films, but it was on this particular trip that it struck me just how much Disney had mastered the art of creating the total brand experience. And as a CEO myself, going through the experience at their Studio that day gave me all kinds of ideas on how my own company could learn from Disney’s example.


It could almost go without saying that the décor branding Disney does is nothing short of amazing! From the moment you pull up to the street for Disney Studios you see the rod iron fence has Mickey Mouse heads molded into the iron. When you get past the guard gate you see a grassy area with a bronze statue of Walt Disney sitting on a bench next to Mickey Mouse. Every wall is covered with framed movie posters of the films they have done. The restaurant for lunch was inside the Studio and even the chair backs were wooden with carved out Mickey Mouse heads. They completely envelop you in the Disney brand and you just FEEL that Disney magic while you are there. It made me realize the impact it has when a company carries their brand through every aspect of their offices. For example, if a company is international they could add international flags outside of their building to have the brand identity felt from the time someone drives up. But it can’t stop there. The brand needs to be tied into each room of the office, from the lobby to the restrooms, there needs to be brand elements incorporated throughout the entire space that create a feeling of your Company’s brand the way that Disney does.

In Addition To The Décor, A Brand Experience Requires The Efforts Of The People

“You can dream, create, design and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it requires people to make the dream a reality.” –Walt Disney

When I arrived at the security gate of the studio the guards greeted me by name with a huge smile on their faces as if they were so excited that I had arrived! They expressed how honored they were to have me visit them. They made me feel like I was the queen of the castle arriving…it felt really nice! It made me realize how impactful that initial impression is when you first arrive at the front entry of a company. Little things like having a welcome sign with the arriving guests name displayed as they enter the building and having a person assigned to await the guests’ arrival so they can enthusiastically greet them by name can make all the difference in showing your guests that you value them. In true Disney fashion, you could even consider rolling out a red carpet runner for the arrival of those extra special guests.

After passing through the entry, they then directed me to the next guard station where the guard had a badge printed with my name, the date and time, and the name of the Disney executive that was hosting me for the day’s visit. That was a nice touch as it made others aware of who I was there to see. Every company should give a badge like this to their visitors when they arrive because it helps the guest feel more comfortable and it alerts employees of who the guest is there to see.

At the end of the day I understood why a Company’s brand experience is dependent on the behavior and attitude of its employees. A nicely decorated lobby will become meaningless if the employee at the desk isn’t willing to greet a visitor with a smile, and the employee on the phone isn’t willing to create a “wow” experience for the customer they’re supporting.

Involve Employees In Transforming The Brand Identity Into A Brand Experience

The best way for any company to begin transforming their brand identity into a total brand experience is to have the Leader communicate their Company’s desire to create it and ask the employees to help them to make it happen. Ask employees for ideas on how to use design elements to incorporate the brand into every aspect of the company office décor. Ask every employee to think through every single touch point where a customer has any interaction whatsoever with the company, whether it be a touch point in person, through a company website, through a company software application, or over the telephone, and create a comprehensive list that includes all of those touch points. Then walk through and have every employee give ideas on what can be done to ensure that a brand experience is created at every single one of those touch points. Then have everyone vote for their favorite ideas and use the best ones to create an overall action plan that can be implemented throughout the organization.

Including every employee in the process of coming up with ideas is the best way to garner support from each person in the organization. Everyone enjoys the excitement of being part of the improvement process and everyone appreciates knowing their ideas are valued by their company. Walt Disney was bold in letting his people know how pivotal they were, stating “The whole thing here is the organization. Whatever we accomplish belongs to our entire group. A tribute to our combined effort. I feel there is no door which, with the kind of talent we have here, cannot be opened.” With a leader like that it is no wonder that they have been able to create the magical brand experience we all know and love called Disney.

~Amy Rees Anderson  (this article has also been published on )


  • Ed Bailey says:

    I loved this blog today Amy. Every executive in the C suite has got to be thinking how they can create a great total brand experience in their company verses letting the brand stand on its own. It sure got me thinking! Thank you

  • Karmel Larson says:

    I really like your idea, “Including every employee in the process of coming up with ideas is the best way to garner support from each person in the organization.” As my startup company grows larger, I’m wondering the best way to do that. I want to create the kind of culture that you describe. For the mere sake of convenience and time… I think teams could slack or e-mail their ideas. Though that seems like it would cause a loss of community that happens through personal discussion. I’d love to know more about the nuts and bolts of the actual information and idea gathering. Or maybe it’s different for each team and each situation. Grateful for your insights.

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