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For the Love of Disney: A Look into the Power of Loyalty

Posted by Alyse Dunn on Wed, Jul 23, 2014

loyalty, Chadwick Martin Bailey, DisneyHow many times have you done your favorite thing? It doesn’t matter what your favorite thing may be, or if your favorite thing varies by season. Just think of the number. Does it seem lower than you would expect? Does it seem higher? Or, does it feel just right?Have you ever been to Walt Disney World 50 times? I have. And I continue to go every year. Why? That’s an excellent question and even though, at this point, I have a fairly automated response to that very question, people still don’t seem to understand.

Let me start by addressing the most typical questions I am asked:

  • Don’t you ever go anywhere else? Sometimes, but why would I want to? Ever since I was little, Disney has been (and continues to be) where we have our family vacation every single year. I have expanded my travel as an adult, but the Disney allure still pulls my whole family back annually.
  • Don’t you get sick of going? Not at all. When you’ve been as many times as I have, you get to see Disney through a new lens. There is less of a focus on getting everything in and more of a focus on taking it all in.
  • And the pièce de résistance: Aren’t you too old for Disney? This is my favorite question to answer—not just because I am much younger than most people would assume given my record. I love this question because I get to respond in a way that would garner Disney’s approval—you are never too old for Disney World.  In youth, I was drawn by the enchantment. In adulthood, I’m now just drawn by that feeling I get each time I step through those gates.

I may be able to sing “A Whole New World” without musical accompaniment and relay unnecessarily detailed quips about every ride in the park, but I don’t find that juvenile. I find that—for lack of a better word—magical.

All of my trips to Disney have done a lot for me, but at the end of the day, there is far more to this than just ample travel—and that’s loyalty. I am 100% loyal to Disney. I own their dinnerware, clothing, and toys. I name my pets after their characters. I see all of their movies and know almost everything about them, and I still can’t sleep the night before a trip.  

What makes someone loyal? Lots of things can sprout loyalty, but not all loyalty is equal. In fact, there are a few different kinds of loyalty that a person can experience, including:

  • Captive Loyalty. In colloquial terms, “I will stay with you because it’s too difficult to change.” How frequently do you change your bank or cable provider? Not often, right? That’s because changing providers can be more trouble than it’s worth. That’s not to say that some people don’t love their bank, but maybe that love is a little more conditional.
  • Uninvolved Loyalty. How much thought have you put in to your car insurance provider since purchasing the car? (Bueller?) Maybe that’s because the automated processes that are in place for paying this type and other types of insurance (mortgage) have made you consider it less. Loyal? Yes. Actively loyal? Maybe not so much. It may be part of the reason why companies are encouraging automatic withdrawals for payments.
  • Distribution Loyalty. What is your absolute favorite beer? Is it easily/readily available? If you answered “yes,” it could be that part of your choice is based on distribution—the fact that you can easily get what you want, when you want it. Why are some brands so successful? Perhaps it’s because they have the market bandwidth.
  • Heritage Loyalty. Did your parents always use the same detergent when you were a child? Do you use that same one in your own home today? Sometimes loyalty happens based on what we grow up with. Think back to some of the everyday products you choose. Does your family use them as well? There you go.
  • Loyal Loyalty (aka True Loyalty). The following are elements of true loyalty: you think of the brand first, you believe the brand is the best at what they do, you believe any new line extension they introduce will be a winner and is definitely worth trying, and you have an emotional attachment to the brand. This is the kind of loyalty brands are looking for—the kind I have for Disney.

Loyalty plays into all of the daily choices we make like which brand of soap, chips, or shoes to buy. We find something that works, and we stick with it. Loyalty is often hard to shake. How many times have one of “your brands” upset you, and yet you’ve still given them another chance?

The question that market research should strive to answer is: what can drive this loyalty? As researchers, we need to help companies deepen emotional attachment and better understand their loyal customer base and develop products and services that suit their needs.

Alyse is a Senior Research Associate on the financial/retail practice and still travels to Disney with her family at least once a year. Through her multiple excursions, she has discovered EPCOT is more fun the older you get.

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Topics: travel and hospitality research, customer experience and loyalty, digital media and entertainment research