An Interview With Disney's Jill Estorino

By ANA InSites Archives
Cover image for  article: An Interview With Disney's Jill Estorino

Disney is a brand of magic and wonder — one that inspires as much awe among leaders of other brands as it does among children enthralled with Mickey Mouse or Elsa.Jill Estorino (pictured above), executive vice president, global marketing and sales for Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products, is going to reveal some of the secrets behind all that magic. On Thursday, October 3, Estorino will deliver a keynote at the ANA Masters of Marketing Conference in Orlando, FL., titled, “A Peek Behind the Curtain at Disney.”

ANA director of communications John Wolfe recently interviewed Estorino to get a preview of her keynote.

John Wolfe: Who are the key constituencies for your marketing efforts?

Jill Estorino: Approximately 150 million guests visit with us each year and we speak to an even larger number. We like to think our key constituents are in two groups: guests and consumers — that is to say, people who could be our guests but who have not yet decided to visit us. Within those groups there are, of course, a number of sub-groups; think families, fans of a certain franchise, etcetera. So, we have a mix of campaigns and tactics that speak to a mass audience and others that are targeted. In both cases, our marketing is focused on the emotional connection people have with our brands, stories, and characters.

Wolfe: What is the value of an immersive experience for a consumer and how does it differ from non-immersive activities?

Estorino: For us, “immersive experience” is more than a buzzword — it's our stock in trade. In fact, Walt Disney practically invented the concept and it's what we've been delivering in new and more exciting ways for more than 60 years. Of course, the best and most recent example is Star Wars:Galaxy's Edge at Disneyland and Walt Disney World, where literally every aspect of the land is 100 percent authentically Star Wars.

Wolfe: How important is it to be “industry-disrupting” and how do you gauge the inherent risks?

Estorino:As a legacy brand, it's a strategic imperative to innovate and ensure we are positioned for the future. That begins with a deep understanding of not only our consumers, but also the cultural forces and high-level trends that shape the environment we live in now and in the future. We've created a consumer foresight team to focus on trends, identify opportunities, and anticipate how to best move forward as a brand. They help us better understand which risks to take based on significant research and [form] a deep understanding of our consumers.

Wolfe: Do you rely on external agencies to help you develop your marketing efforts or do you have an in-house agency?

Estorino: We have a large in-house agency called Yellow Shoes Creative Group that supports about 20 different businesses within our division. This is a full creative agency — from account and project management to business affairs, to creative concepting and production — working on roughly 6,000 projects annually.  Within this firm, we have recently built an in-house content studio to develop content specifically for YouTube.  Finally, we also work with an outside agency, mcgarrybowen, which has been our agency of record for over 10 years. This partnership keeps our creative fresh by combining internal and external creative perspectives.

Wolfe: How do cultural considerations and marketing pillars inform your creative and commercial decisions?

Estorino:Shanghai Disney Resort might be the best example of how we integrate the many cultures that make up our audience into our brand. In developing this unique destination, we had to combine the common design themes that unite all Disney Parks, with elements that would resonate with the Chinese market and its unique cultural identity. We also had to train thousands of Chinese Cast Members who had never been to a Disney Park in legendary Disney Guest Service principles. With that work, we were able to create a park, a business, and an experience that resonated with the Chinese market. It's what [Disney chief executive officer]) Bob Iger called, “Authentically Disney, Distinctly Chinese.”

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