Yes, I am that crazy woman who brought a crocheted pig into Disney World and snapped a photo of him! On an average day almost 53,000 individuals enter the gates of Magic Kingdom in Orlando, FL. Gasp. Let that sink in for a sec… That equals over nineteen million visitors each year! It is the most visited amusement park in the world and there are no signs of it slowing down any time soon, even with more competition coming on the scene in recent years.
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We recently went on a wonderful trip to Disney World. It had been almost a decade since we had been there and I saw it with new eyes! Waiting in line for the Small World ride my family and I began discussing how well Disney deals with the overwhelming crowds of people. I noticed how clean all the little nooks and crannies were while waiting in line for the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. At the Confectioner’s Shop I couldn’t help but be impressed with the smiles from the cashier even though she had likely been there for quite a while and had been ringing up customer after customer. It got us all thinking about the inner workings of the iconic park and how they have perfected the concept of “experience”.
For the rest of the trip and the nine hour drive home I thought about how Disney does what they do and how well they do it. It began to dawn on me that many of these same principles can be applied to our own little handmade businesses as well!
(For more information about the pig pattern check out my Amigurumi Pattern Directory)
No one, and I mean no one, has perfected their branding like Disney. Their font is instantly recognizable. The music, the movies, the merch… it doesn’t even need to have their name or logo on it and we all know exactly where it came from.
How can we as handmade makers begin to develop our own brand recognition? First I believe we all need to be clear about who we are and what we do. I have a few friends on Instagram that I immediately recognize their photos, I don’t even need to see their handle. The products they make, the style of their photos, and their consistent editing make them a brand, and a good one at that! One maker has a very rustic look throughout all her photos, another has bright pinks, yellows, and turquoise! They both have different photos, products, and messages they are promoting, but they stay true to their defined aesthetic.
I was awestruck when I really took the time to notice all the details at Disney. Since I had a lot of time to wait I started looking for them and I was not disappointed. Each and every ride had so many details, from the cobwebs at the Haunted Mansion to the antique furniture in the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse, no element was overlooked.
In my humble opinion details make the creation. What I mean by that is the little details create the entire piece. For example, my little piggie wouldn’t be nearly as adorable if he didn’t have eyebrows, or suspenders, or his little bowtie. Even if you are making a toy that doesn’t have a lot of details within the original design, that shouldn’t stop you from creating them yourself. Packaging and tags are another way to add those personal details that make toys special.
(For more about how to create those memorable details: Making Amigurumi: The Artistry is in the Details)
Disney shows up day after day, week after week, month after month…you get the idea. When someone buys a ticket to Magic Kingdom they can be assured that the quality of the rides, the food, and the entertainment value will be the same. I have been going to Disney World since I was a young girl and there is a sense of comfort knowing that I’m going to enjoy my favorite rides and shows.
As makers we need to show up, whether that’s on your social media accounts, blog, or website. We need to show up day after day, week after week, year after year. And that’s hard. It’s hard when you’re in a creative slump. It’s hard when you’re sick. It’s hard when you’re busy. But that’s what sets apart the serious makers from those who just want a hobby. There is nothing wrong with having a hobby, but for those of us who want more consistency is key.
Disney’s slogan is “The Happiest Place on Earth” and they work very hard to make sure that message comes across loud and clear. They aren’t screaming this statement from their rooftops but they are clearly communicating it. Every employee has a smile on their face. Every ride is full of happiness. Take the Haunted Mansion for example, some theme parks have haunted houses and they are scary! But Disney’s is spooky in a fun, childlike way. Their message is unambiguous and consistent.
What message are you trying to convey? Are you a serious maker, are you silly, are you quirky? What do you want people to know about you? How do you want them to feel when they interact with your content? Defining your message and communicating it in written and visual form is paramount to your success.
Every single Disney employee we encountered was friendly and knowledgeable. The waiter at Tony’s Town Square Restaurant was professional and conscientious. The food was amazing and the atmosphere was so charming. I’m certain that Disney employees are trained in excellent customer service.
We as makers should treat our own customers with great care. We are creating an experience for them as well. When they purchase a finished product, respond to our content, or buy a pattern they should feel our appreciation. I don’t have a physical storefront, but I do have a virtual one and I try to treat online customers just as I would if we were face to face. Making people feel welcomed is something each one of us can do!
These five principles are simple. It doesn’t take a genius to see how important they are for handmade businesses but it does take effort, a lot of effort. What suggestions do you have for making your small business better? Do you have big scale organizations you look to for inspiration?