Robert Allen Iger, or more familiar as Bob Iger, is an American businessman who is executive chairman and former CEO (2005-2020) of The Walt Disney Company. Under his management, Disney’s market capitalization increased from $48 billion to $257 billion. He oversaw the acquisitions of Pixar in 2006 for $7.4 billion, Marvel Entertainment in 2009 for $4 billion, Lucasfilm in 2012 for $4.06 billion, and the entertainment assets of 21st Century Fox in 2019 for $71.3 billion. Iger also expanded the company’s theme park resorts in East Asia.
Needless to say, if there’s anyone who knows a thing or two about brands and branding, it is Bob Iger.
Masterclass offers a class on Business Strategy and Leadership with him, it is really a great investment and if you haven’t already I would strongly recommend you take the course. I had the pleasure to complete the class. Here are some highlights on the topic of brands and branding that I find invaluable and relevant to our audience. Enjoy.
When talking about branding, Bob starts by pointing out that people nowadays are faced with countless decisions each day, making it really hard and time-consuming to make any choices. A strong brand is very valuable as it allows the consumer to cut through the noise by recognizing your brand and sticking with your product. They form an opinion about you once, and as long as you don’t betray that trust, their familiarity with the brand simplifies their decision-making process.
When you create a brand you have to immediately ask yourself a question: When I put that brand name on the product or when I say that brand name to a consumer what does it convey? What are the specific values, the specific features, the specific brand attributes that that consumer immediately thinks about or feels or wants when they hear that name?
Bob goes to explain with examples – if you were selling ice cream, you would want when people hear your brand name, see your truck, for them to have an exact feeling, idea of what they would be getting. Disney was launched as a company in 1923, which now makes more than 5 generations who know exactly what Disney is and have an emotional connection and feeling just by hearing the brand name.
In many respects, a brand is a very, very careful balance between legacy, or heritage, and innovation.
Our world moves at such a fast pace, it is very important for brands to stay relevant and adapt in order to survive. Bob however takes time to explain that being relevant shouldn’t be done at the cost of betraying the core brand values. He mentions a time where there was pressure for Disney to respond to our reality that is a lot edgier than it was a century ago – in the search for becoming “edgy” many brands, especially in the media and art space, have incorporated violence, graphic materials, and topics, sexually explicit content, etc. Disney could’ve gone that way but that would’ve been a huge mistake as that sort of image is not right and not fitting with Disney’s core values as a brand. Bob argues that you need to cherish and respect a brand while allowing it to grow and adapt to the current reality.
If you respect a brand vs. revere it then you are considering all the reasons why it was valuable in the first place but doing so in a way that it brings those values forward but enables it to change and be relevant in a world that is substantially different from the world the brand was created in.
A great example practical example follows – think of Disney princesses and how they have changed from Snow White and Cinderella to Moana, Merida from Brave or the sisters in Frozen – all young women who are empowered, have a sense of themselves, a purpose who is not related or determined by the love of a man, women who have a spirit of adventure and capable to follow their dreams. Those characters have evolved not to just entertain but to teach very positive stories for young girls and women around the world.
Creating a strong brand gives the ability to monetize the company’s investment in many ways and gives it a great edge. Each Disney story is not only a story on screen – it also spills into merchandise, attractions, activity parks, thus creating value for the customer. You can experience and connect with your favorite characters in many different ways, down to completely physical immersive realities.
What a brand really is is a relationship between a product and consumer. And it’s incredibly important to manage that relationship very carefully; not only with great care but also with great understanding about just what it is that creates that connection.
Iger states that the most important thing about maximizing brand value or managing a brand is to completely understand the essence of the brand. Once you determine what your brand is exactly, what are the core values of that brand, what it stands for, you have to adhere to those values. Make sure that every time your brand name is put on a product, service, whatever it is that the brand is applied to, those core brand attributes apply to that product.
In terms of digital assets, Disney owns nearly 50 000 domain names – different variations of spelling, geographic extensions for local markets, domains for different projects and movies, all the assets that came with brand acquisitions over the years, and many protective registrations. The main one – Disney.com was registered on March 21, 1990. Some of the most notable names include go.com, ABC.com, kid.com, family.com among others.
Bob touched on negotiation, which may not be directly related to brand and branding at first sight, but it reminded me of one of my favorite entrepreneurship quotes by Philip Kotler:
Companies pay too much attention to the cost of doing something. They should worry more about the cost of not doing it.
Professor Philip Kotler
He was talking about the acquisition of 21st Century Fox assets by Disney. Just after crafting the deal, they had Comcast jump in with an offer that topped the initial offer Disney had made. Disney had three options – to give up, to get into a bidding war, or to make an offer that could not be refused. They went for the third one and, again, I recommend you take the class for details, but here is a short summary of the reasoning:
…not only we were looking at the prospect of not getting assets we thought would have real value, but of those assets ultimately ending up in the hands of a true competitor, which could have the potential effect of damaging our business long-term.
This is something many entrepreneurs miss in my experience when it comes to investing in their brand, and in particular, in their domain name. You can ignore your clients and believe/hope they will continue typing extra words to get to your domain name, you can continue making life harder for them by asking them to remember what your URL is because it doesn’t match your brand name, you can even risk losing they trust, by losing emails they send to the wrong email. But how much is it going to cost you if a competitor gets your perfect domain name? How is this going to affect your business?
We hope the above is of use to you in making smarter choices about your brand. Do feel free to reach out for more advice, we are always happy to help.