By: Kirby Lawrence
Participating in Professor Kent Drummond’s Marketing Manhattan class has enriched my collegiate experience in many ways. It has opened my eyes to the constantly evolving metropolis that is New York City, as well as the fascinating world of marketing, and how it plays a part in our culture, whether it is through love stories, movies, or our own perceptions of the Big Apple. The objective of the class was to look at the marketing role in New York City, specifically after 9/11. The class cumulated into a final project where we conducted marketing research on places in Manhattan, and evaluated how they have been responding to the changing city around them.
Our trip to NYC
In order to conduct our research, a trip to New York City was needed so that we could experience first hand research on marketing and be able to evaluate consumer behavior. While in New York City, we looked at busking in Washington Square, and how they market their skills, the 9/11 museum, the Rockettes, and a Broadway production – Wicked. This really allowed us to understand the city better, and look at the different ways it is being marketed. However, we, the students, were very fortunate in being able to experience all of this, as well as meet University of Wyoming alumni in New York who were more than willing to share their insight into the city, how it has changed in the aftermath of 9/11, and the evolving world of marketing around it.
College of Business alumni
One of the alumni, Peter Sherman, discussed with us his career path from the University of Wyoming and how it led him to BBDO, a prestigious advertising agency. We learned about the different roles in marketing, and the advice he gave us to succeed was to have energy, and be able to communicate well, and quickly. We also had the opportunity to speak to University of Wyoming alumnae, Myron Gnall, about how New York has changed since 9-11. A lot of the change came through disneyfication of Times Square.
My marketing project
My marketing project for this class was actually looking at Disney’s current role in Times Square. With an internship in the Disney College Program for their concierge role in the fall, a lifelong love of the theme parks and products, as well as a participant in an Honor’s Disney class, I was very excited to see how the Disney brand was shaped by the Big Apple, and the Big Apple by Disney. While most people probably associate Disney affecting a city through its theme parks, like in Orlando, Florida and Anaheim, California, Disney has been impacting New York City and Times Square for over 20 years.
Disney had promised that if Times Square began to have a cleaner image that they would bring in more shows. In 1994, Times Square had immense promise and Disney’s Broadway production, Beauty and the Beast enchanted audiences. Yet, the real mover-and shaker was in 1997, when Lion King roared onto stage. I was actually able to experience this incredible production, and the artistry from animated film to the stage is amazing.
Disney continues to expand their presence on Times Square, with two Broadway productions, Aladdin and Lion King, and the Disney Store. But this isn’t the Times Square of the 1980s and 90s. It is a lot more pedestrian friendly, the streets are cleaner, and the stores are of all the brands you already know. It is much more family-oriented. There is also unique competition for Disney in this area, including a 3 floor Toys R’ Us with a Ferris wheel, and candy stores devoted to M&Ms and Hersheys. So how does Disney continue to stand out? Unlike their theme parks, you don’t plan an entire trip around Mickey Mouse when you go to New York City.
What I learned
What I found, that continuously distinguishes the Disney brand on Times Square has to do with how they orient your experience in that store, and to the Disney brand. Most of their competitor’s focused on the individual aspect in order to push their brand, such as getting customized items, including toys, shirts, and other merchandise. When I checked out the competition, meet the Yellow M&M at the M&M store, take pictures at a photo booth, or even figure what color M&M you should get based on your mood. The focus was more on you, and your individuality. However, through my experience at BBDO, I learned that while humans have an innate desire to be unique and individual, there is a growing realization with the social media that we also want to belong.
This is what distinguishes Disney on Times Square because they try to make it an experience to which you belong of, and you connect to others. For example, although you are not in one of the theme parks, you can still be a part of the “3 o’clock parade”, a Disney tradition of having a parade at that time. At the Disney Store, they also created their own parade with the guests on the “pixie dust” path. Further, as a way to bring the magic of Disney to Times Square, Disney has used an interactive screen on the front of its store, where guests stand in a spot and can surf with Stitch, dance with Minnie and Mickey, or a sword fight with Captain Hook. Disney continues to stand out on Times Square by focusing on the experience and creating a sense of togetherness.
Ask me about it!
All in all, this class was an amazing opportunity to learn about the Big Apple, as well as to apply concepts that I have learned this past semester into my future. It has been an amazing and unique experience, and it is incredible to see how supportive the University Of Wyoming College Of Business, and their alumni, are of the students.
Comment below to ask me about the trip, to talk about Disney, or to learn more about the class – I hear it fills up fast every year and I certainly understand why!