All that Glitters Ain’t Gold

16 Nov

Apparently there is a new “bridezilla” in town says R. Setoodeh and J. Yabroff in their article “Princess Power” (1)- her name is “princesszilla.” This princesszilla is one very lucky girl- she is worth about $4 billion and is said to be just about the most successful marketing venture ever. Sadly, this princesszilla does not actually exist in human form. She is made up of products from the Disney Princess line launched in 2000 and works her way into homes of little girls (and now adults) everywhere. Her many faces are branded onto everything from ice shows, to DVD’s, to books, to sleepwear, to toys, to dolls, to wedding gowns and now even house wares, credit cards and Mac Cosmetics. Either this is one very popular girl, or her main man, Walt Disney, is an excellent marketer. I’ll go with the latter.

I often wonder what it is that makes Disney’s products, more specifically princess products, so enticing to purchase. Is it the glitter? The pink, the purple? The actual movies themselves? The desire to hold a Disney doll in your hands as if you have just found a new best friend? I’m not too sure that any of these reasons can be all that true because think about it… there are several other companies such as Barbie that create similar “girly“ commodities, but the success rate of their products is not as high, long lasting, and successful in as many age groups as Disney.

After doing some research, I came across and article by A. Donahue entitled “The Mouse that Roared in Retail” (2), that helped me form a better understanding of the marketing strategies behind Disney’s Princess product success rates. Some of the key ingredients to their princess marketing strategies are:

-Targeting at an age range where girls are old enough to want to grow up, but young enough that they still want to play.

-Working closely with stylists to help girls see what Disney thinks would be popular, or take from what they are actually doing.

-Taking a “style-guide” to retailers for orders 18-24 months before the products will be sold in stores which will help serve the quick turn over of clothing merchandise in addition to giving an ample amount of time to manufacture.

-Not advertising with blunt, “in your face” campaigns because many viewers (even tweens) are more sophisticated than that these days.

– Advertising in a way that makes girls look up to these princesses, so they therefore want to be them and need to have their products to do so.

– Getting into the “DNA” of the show or movie to see what it is about it that appeals to females of all ages.

-Creating a large variety of product diversity.

-Crafting pitches based on the audience that each retailer attracts (ex. Walmart attracts a different audience than Target.)

After discovering some of Disney’s main marketing strategies my one and only response was- “Wow.” On one hand I want to give Disney a round of applause for creating such effective strategies that help them market to females of all ages, but on the other hand I want to scream at them for forcing themselves into the minds of such young and innocent girls. So is Disney really as “kid” and “family friendly” as they are cracked up to be? I don’t think so. I don’t know many moms and dads who would appreciate anyone forcing commodities and mature ideas into their young daughters’ minds.

(1) Setoodeh, R, & Yabroff, J. Princess power. Newsweek, 150 (22), Retrieved from the Ebsco Host Database

(2) Donahue, A. (2009) The mouse that roared at retail. Billboard, 121 (30), Retrieved from the Ebsco Host Database

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A New Kind Of Royal Couple

16 Nov

Disney’s most recent animated princess movie, The Princess and the Frog, is achieving a lot of firsts, it is the first traditionally animated film Disney has made since 2004’s Home on the Range, it features the companies first African American princess, and features one of the first interracial couples for Disney animated films. 

Prince Naveen has a French accent and a tan complexion while Tiana is African-American. The race issue is not mentioned in the movie, which is a good thing because by drawing more attention to it makes it seem as though there is something wrong or different with an interracial relationship.

 In a Newsweek article, A Frog of a Different Color, it addresses the issue about how race is still somewhat of an issue to African-American women, who still prefer to have relationships within their race. 

“Since the 1960s, marriages between black men and white women have been steadily increasing–14 percent of all black men are now married outside the race. Yet only 4 percent of black women do the same. Why? Black women, for better or worse, have always seemed to maintain a loyalty to the ideal of the black family unit.”

While it is easy to say, “Let’s do what the fictional Disney princess does” the portrayal of an interracial couple will allow little girls to be open-minded when it comes to love. It sends the message that race is not an issue and not something to be inhibited by. Disney is sending a positive message to not think about color when they are looking for their Prince Charming.

 

Samuels, A. (2009). A Frog of a Different Color. Newsweek, 154(22), 56. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier database.

Is Disney “Anti-Arabs” or are they just Ignorant?

16 Nov

Recent studies have shown Arab advocacy groups fighting against the Disney Company.  This past August a Muslim employee in Disneyland’s Grand California Hotel was sent home from work with no pay because she refused to take off her hijab while working as a hostess in one of the hotel’s restaurants.  Her name was Imane Boudlal.  She filed a complaint against Disney with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, whose job it is to enforce anti-discrimination laws in the workplace.  Now, is Disney serious? This seems a little rash and racist.  According to Disney sources Boudlal’s hijab did not fit the “Disney look”, so she could either take it off, work in the back where no one would see her or go home (1).

Boudal, along with the Council of American-Islamic Relations, Greater Los Angeles Area (CAIR-LA) sent a letter to Disney demanding they edit their “look” to account for religious accommodations, which of course, is in the Constitution! What the hell is wrong with Disney?! They have Arab characters in Aladdin wearing their Hijab’s in the movies but a hostess in their restaurant cant wear one for religious purposes? An advocacy group called UNITE HERE represents thousands of employed individuals in hospitality, gaming, food service, manufacturing, textile, laundry, and airport industries throughout North America. Its no wonder Arab Americans such as Boudlal join such groups!!

However, Arab advocacy groups such as The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) are protesting Disney for more than just its unfair treatment of its employees and their “look”.  ADC fights Disney because they feel that Disney portrays Arabs in a stereotypical way that reflects negatively on Arab Americans.  In a July 1966 issue of Disney Adventures, Disney’s children’s magazine, the issue had a story claiming how Arabs greeted one another, which many Arab’s were offended due to its false claim.  The issue stated that to “”greet somebody Arab-style” one must “grab a friend and blow in his face at the same time he blows into yours! Just don’t turn your head to avoid your buddy’s breath.  Arabs consider that a major insult!”” (56)  As we can clearly see Disney is presenting Arab’s in a negative light and making inaccurate claims!

What Disney is forgetting, that these advocacy groups have a problem with, is that young children see and read what they put out, so they may develop negative images of Arabs or find them to be very different from them, which can only propel further racist issues! I mean isn’t Disney supposed to be child friendly and support children, OF ALL RACES?!?  Arab children are offended by these statements made by the Disney Company.

Further ADC along with other Arab-Americans had serious complaints about the movie Aladdin when it was first released.  In the introduction to the song, there is a line that says “where they cut off your ears if they don’t like your face”.  It should not be a shock to anyone how racist and stereotyping and just wrong it is to put lyrics like that into a children movie! The last thing ADC wants is to allow Disney to reinforce such negative stereotypes about Arabs that will leave lasting impressions on new generations of impressionable children.  It took six months of protesting, but Disney finally decided to substitute alternative lyrics to the films video release.  In the Video below, you can see what they changed the lyrics too and why (original lyrics written in RED).

According to Albert Mokbiber, President of the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee, “We’re not looking for people to portray Arabs as angels. We’re just saying lets have a little balance and a little reality.”  This is reasonable, is it not?? The ADC is working still to petition Disney to remove to word “barbaric” from the offensive song that is the introduction to the movie Aladdin. In the video below, we can clearly see Disney does not portray Arabs in the most positive lights.  In fact, could we even say, “barbaric”??

According to Jack Shaheen, professor of mass communications at Southern Illinois University and author of “The TV Arab,” who was involved in the “Aladdin” negotiations, “When imagemakers portray any group, if they were to think of the group as they would their own, that person as they would someone of their own color or heritage, then we would see different, more balanced films”.  Maybe Disney should take a page out of Shaheen’s book!!!

Lumetta, G. (n.d.). Arab-American Activism: ADC Continues Protests Against Disney Stereotyping. Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. Retrieved November 9, 2010, from http://wrmea.com/backissues/1096/9610056a.html

Shelton, L. (2010, August 19). UNITE HERE: Disneyland Employee Sent Home for Wearing Hijab. PR Newswire, p. 2. Retrieved November 9, 2010, from the LexisNexis database

Strauss, B. (1993, July 29). Protesting the Movies. BPI Entertainment News Wire, p. 4. Retrieved November 7, 2010, from the LexisNexis Academic database.

Strauss, B. (1993, July 25). Interest Groups Rally Their Forces; Movie Stereotype Face Vocal Opposition. Chicago Sun Times, p. 3. Retrieved November 6, 2010, from the LexisNexis Academic database.

Not the Next Einstein After All…..

15 Nov

When we think of Disney, we tend to think child friendly and a company that has a child’s best interest at heart, right?  Wrong! When Disney came out with their “educational” video for babies and toddlers, also known as Baby Einstein, advertisers and marketing executives claimed that if parents bought these videos that it would increase the intellect of their children. According to a New York Times article, Baby Einstein (may need to have a NY times account to open) is “delivered via the non-responsive television screen, providing canned information that includes abstract concepts, useless to the new minds it purports to “teach””(1).

Advocacy groups such as The Campaign for  Commercial Free Childhood filed federal complaints against Disney for false advertising and selling without proof of success.  CCFC asked the FTC to prohibit Disney from making these false claims about their videos educational benefits and to require that the ads and packaging for the Baby Einstein products display the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation for no television for children under the age of 2 years old.  This way, parents who are buying these products are aware that Baby Einstein is NOT approved by the American Academy of Pediatrics and that in fact, it is strongly discouraged for purchase for children under the age of 2.

The problem, as the CCFC claim is that parents want the best for their children, and so through Disney’s deceptive marketing, parents are being exploited and buying these products for their children.  However, in reality, these videos may be putting the children at risk, according to Dr. Alvin Poussaint, a Harvard Medical School psychiatrist and member of the Boston-based advocacy group claims (A14).  There is no research or evidence to support that these videos are helping children develop.  In fact, research has shown that television is actually a poor education took for very young children!

The CCFC in a suit against Disney forced the Disney Company to offer full refunds to everyone who had bought Baby Einstein videos from June 2004 to September of 2009.  The American Academy of Pediatrics claims that screen time for children under the age of 2 is actually more beneficial than any of these videos that claim to increase the intelligence of a child.  Disney, after the suit had the CCFC (may need NY times account to access) forced out of the Harvard-affiliated children’s mental health center in Boston, which had housed and sponsored the group for over a decade.  Clearly, Disney has a problem being wrong and wants to make a statement to not be challenged again.  Then again, this seems to be the best information to have! Is this not the reason why we have advocacy groups? To fight major corporations who are harming members of society? As one of the articles writes, “It’s really chilling that any corporation, and particularly one marketing itself as child friendly, would lean on a children’s center,” said Dr. Lynn, a psychiatry instructor at Harvard Medical School.  “And it’s heartbreaking that a children’s center would cave in.””

So, since we have been talking about these videos, below is a clip from one of the Baby Einstein videos. See for yourself what all the controversy was over…..

Now ask yourself, what do you think of Disney’s Baby Einstein?!?!?

Crary, D. (2006, May 1). Advocacy Group Files Federal Complaint Against Makers of Videos for Infants. The Associated Press State & Local Wire, p. 2. Retrieved November 7, 2010, from the LexisNexis Academic database

LETTERS; A Formula for Smart Babies? It’s Not E=mc2. (2009, October 28). New York Times, p. 2. Retrieved November 8, 2010, from http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=940DE0D81730F93BA15753C1A96F9C8B63&ref=disney_walt_company

Lewin, Tamar. “After Victory Over Disney, Group Loses Its Lease.” New York Times 9 Mar. 2010, sec. Education: 3. http://www.nytimes.com. Web. 8 Nov. 2010.

Wizards of Waverly Place- Everything Is Not What It Seems

15 Nov

Like many other projects that Disney has put forth to expand its racial barriers, Wizards of Waverly Place seems to be making strides as far as racial diversity goes. It follows the story of  three wizards in training who live in New York City with their family. Seems like most other sitcoms on the Disney Channel? The Difference with Wizards of Waverly Place is that the family the show revolves around is biracial, composed of a Hispanic mother and Italian-American father.

 In a scholarly article, Ideologies of Racial and Ethnic Identity in Disney’s Wizards of Waverly Place, the author, Holmes expresses discontent with the approach the show has taken to ethnicity and embracing diverse backgrounds. She states:

   “It normalizes certain attitudes and beliefs about ways of being in the world and ways of evaluating racial or ethnic identity through the use of stereotyping. These aspects of  identity emerge in a few episodes of the series, but primarily are absent throughout the entire series.”

While the show briefly addresses the two different cultures, it is rarely a priority of the show. The children in the show demonstrate little knowledge of their heritage or express little connection or desire to learn more about it. There is a scene when Alex, the main character shows no interest and very little knowledge about her family’s background saying “I love being half Mexican and half-whatever he is”, referring to her father.

The show could be a platform for Disney to embrace biracial families and incorporate different cultures into regular programming. Disney has stopped short of progress in expanding its racial barriers. While no one is asking for the show to mock or stereotype Hispanic or Italian races, their heritage show be integrated into the show subtlety, either by the food they eat, the clothes they wear or other subtle references that set the cultures apart and embrace the differences. Instead, the show is just another Disney sitcom.

Holmes, S. (2009). Everything is Not What it Seems: Ideologies of Racial and Ethnic Identity in Disney’s Wizards of Waverly Place. Conference Papers — National Communication Association, 1. Retrieved from Communication & Mass Media Complete database.

Princesszilla

15 Nov

There’s a new villain in the Disney world.  He’s not ugly or vicious, at least judging by appearance; he’s not out to destroy anyone in particular and perhaps most importantly, he’s not a he – he’s a she.  She doesn’t appear in films, video games or television shows.  She’s real.  Yes, a real life villain.  Her name: Princesszilla.  The name sounds evil, but for Disney, she’s a “a dream come true.”

Similar to the question of, “When did Disney become Disney?” we can also ask, “when did the princesses become the princesses?”  Belle and Snow White and the rest of the crew have been around for decades, but it wasn’t until 2000 when the new chairman of consumer goods noticed the popularity of the princesses at a “Disney on Ice” show that he suggested marketing the princesses as a package.  The marketing began with a target audience of young girls and tweens, bombarding them with princess-group DVDs, books and other paraphernalia.  Slowly the market changed as older women became more interested and some might say, obsessed, with Disney princesses.  Ramin Setoodeh and Jennie Yabroff talk about Lindsey Timberman in their article, “Princess Power,” a bride whose wedding is taking on an entirely Disney princess theme (1).  The only problem: her fiancé is not nearly as excited as she is.  Her dress, modeled after Belle’s in “Beauty and the Beast,” is set to match the red roses (you might remember the red rose in the movie and the Beast’s quest to find love and be loved in return before the last petal fell, leaving him a beast forever), and Lindsey’s search continues for glass slippers.  Lindsey is not 8 years old, she’s 29.  And she’s still obsessed with the princesses and having a truly fairy tale wedding.  Perhaps her fiancé rescued her from a burning bridge or a giant castle, hence the inspiration.  But probably not.  Lindsey has clearly fallen for the mystical world of Disney princesses and the fun doesn’t have to stop at her wedding.  Sleepwear and houseware are next on the list for Disney’s expansion to appeal to an older demographic.

Disney is well aware of the success and potential for the princess campaign.  How could they not be when, “Princess is a $4 billion business that’s on its way to becoming the most successful marketing venture ever” (1)?

Hooking one consumer at a time (2)

While some parents are worried about the effects of Disney’s messages on their kids (gendered messages, racial stereotypes, the girl needing to be rescued, etc.), for some women the messages might never stop if their infatuation with the Disney empire never stops.  Many Disney fans outgrow the obsession in their teens, but if the obsession never stops, the messages are perpetuated throughout their lives, and their parents probably won’t be there to help block some of those messages.  At that point the children are no longer children, and they are responsible for seeing and interpreting messages.  And, if Disney-obsessed adults start having kids, what will the effect be on their children?  The amount of Disney in their children’s lives will probably increase tenfold, and their bedrooms might end up looking like this:

(3)

So these “Princesszilla’s,” an evil combination of bridezilla and princess, will continue to impose their Disney righteousness on others until they teach their children to do the same.  Although, the princess lifestyle doesn’t seem as glamorous when you look at it this way:

Is this what they're really trying to tell us? (4)

(1) Setoodeh, R., & Yabroff, J. (2007). Princess Power. Newsweek150(22), 66-67. Retrieved from Business Source Premier database.

(2) Cliff1066. (2008, December 19). Look Mickey, 1961, oil on canvas by Roy Lichtenstein. Image posted to http://www.flickr.com/photos/nostri-imago/3137425672/
(3) Orlando vacation home rental. Image posted to http://www.squidoo.com/orlandovacationhomerental
(4) Jardin, X. (2010, May 24). What Disney princesses teach girls. Image posted to http://www.boingboing.net/2010/05/24/what-disney-princess.html

How Disney remains Disney

15 Nov

One of my initial questions when beginning the process of debunking the Disney empire was to find out – how did Disney achieve this?  How did Disney become Disney?  Why can every child recognize a Disney princess, or sing the lyrics by heart to songs from “The Lion King,” or recognize an evil step-mother?  How did Disney do that?!  Although that still remains somewhat of a mystery, how they maintain that position is through a strategic business plan.  Not only does Disney know how to gain new customers, but they know how to continue pleasing repeat customers.  Their target audience may be children, but everyone knows that most of the money funneled into Disney comes straight from the pockets of those children’s parents.

(1)

So, how does Disney target those parents to make sure they’ll see them a second, third, fourth…time?  According to Carmine Gallo, a writer for BusinessWeek.com, it’s done by following these 5 steps  (2):

1. Employees should be respectful of all customers, including children.  Reach out to the kids, it may make the parent more inclined to stay in the store.

2. Nobody likes to wait in line, so make it entertaining.  Employees should strike up conversations with customers in line, tell them about upcoming events and new products (essentially: sell, sell, sell).

3. Keep up the appearance of your store, venue or website.  Whether you’re the CEO or the janitor, if you see a piece of trash on the ground, pick it up!  If you don’t have a store or physical location, your website becomes your location.  Make sure it’s aesthetically pleasing, easy to use and functional.

4. Differentiate between public space and private employee space.  Off-duty employee activities should be done out of view from customers.

5. Be “assertively friendly.”  Disney wants employees to seek contact with guests.  If someone looks confused or unhappy, approach them and ask how you can help.  Offer assistance until a solution is found.

Businesses that are a fraction of the size of Disney are implementing these tactics and finding huge success.  The fact that Disney does it on such an enormous scale explains at least some of the success they have in continuing to please children and their families.  So, instead of wondering how Disney casts this magical spell on you every time you walk into a store or theme park, snap back to reality and realize that no one is waving a wand in front of your face, the employees are simply taught exceptional customer service and selling techniques.  Doesn’t sound so magical when you put it like that, does it?

(1) Barker, Jeremy. Popped Culture. Image posted to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NuUTdaJ_Obw&NR=1

(2) Gallo, C. (2009). How Disney Works to Win Repeat Customers. BusinessWeek.com, 20. Retrieved from Business Source Premier database.