PART ONE:When discussingsuccessful brands (especially international ones), one of the key qualities ischange – evolution; brands that lack the ability to adapt or evolve, struggleand in many cases, tend to get lost along the way. Nicholas Ind further stretches this point in The Corporate Brand, he explains “beinga successful global brand is full of contradictions. While economies of production andcommunication encourage consistency the need to be competitive in local marketsencourages adaptation” (Ind, 1997: 150). Another point made by emphasized is consistency, as much as evolution isnecessary, it is equally important to retain the core idea of the brand as wellas its values.
To furtherand efficiently discuss this topic, two brands have been selected and will be analysedand critically compared using specific brand and design frameworks. Walt DisneyCo. is an international family friendly entertainment and media enterprisefounded in 1923. It operates throughfour business segments: Media Networks, Parks & Resorts, StudioEntertainment and Consumer Products & Interactive Media; however, it allstarted with making content for digital (Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio) andthen expanded into tangible ventures like Disneyland in 1955, which wasfollowed by the Disney store in 1987.
Toys “R” Us was founded shortly after Disney, in 1948 and in 1996expanded their area of focus from just kids to babies to, with the invention ofBabies “R” Us – the company now operates over 1800 stores in more than 30countries worldwide where toys, educational products, baby merchandise andchildren’s apparel are sold. These twocompanies are different in a variety of ways, the most obvious being that oneof the brands focusses on the retailing industry and the other focuses on massmedia and entertainment. However, bothbrands have similar values which is to be the best in their industry byproviding memorable experiences to each customer, in both cases these customersare families and mainly consist of children. James U. McNeal divides childreninto three markets: The primary market – spend their own money on their wantsand needs, The Influence Market – they determine much of the spending byparents or guardians, and finally the Future Market – Eventually they become apotential market for all goods and service. He argues that with all these markets combined, children represent morepotential than a variety of demographic segments. “In the beginning, the notion that kids asconsumer got no respect…Now kids are everybody’s business” (McNeal, 1999).
With thissetting the tone, it is easy to see why Disney has had so much success and continuousgrowth over the years and ranks part of the top 15 on Interbrand’s list of the ‘Best global brands of 2017’. Nevertheless, it fails to explain why in thesame year, Toys “R” Us filed for bankruptcy in the US; Are children no longerinterested in toys? It is highly impossible this is the reason behind having toshut down over 100 stores especially with The Walt Disney Company launching twoinnovative shopping experiences in selected locations both in the e-commercespace and at brick-and-mortar stores. Furthermore, other toy companies are still making sales, for example The Entertainer store which was foundedyears after Toys “R” Us – in 1981 and since has acquired over 130 stores in theUK and 6 international stores. The importanceor impact of design on brands is often neglected or underestimated, Toys “R” Usis a classic example of that; over the years, day by day and minute by minute,the world is becoming more digital prone and Toys “R” Us failed to build a significantdigital presence, it is no longer enough to have content on a website, how thiscontent is presented, accessed and consumed are major parts of theexperience. Visual style is now more importantthan ever, the typeface, colours and logo haven’t significantly changed over theyears but the children are constantly changing. The stores have different products, new models of previous products butthe arrangements are the same and according to online reviews and feedback, sois the in-store experience.
Disney onthe other hand have adapted a completely different technique, for instance, themultiple logo variations adapted over the years while retaining the originallogo identity. Furthermore, the companyis constantly renovating parks, resorts and retail stores thereby keepingcustomers guessing and receiving a different experience each time individualsconnect with the brand. Through researchcarried out and from existing data, it was easy to see that the current brandstrategies adapted by Disney is Level 5 – Innovation of the 5 stages of designthinking, design is no longer just aesthetics, it is at the core of the businessand operation. while Toys “R” Us practises the Level 2 technique of usingdesign superficially to restyle or modify current or new products. PART TWO:The type ofresearch that will be used in this study are qualitative research andquantitative research. Inorder to satisfy the objectives of the dissertation, a qualitative research washeld an applied one, numerous pieces of previous academic research regarding frameworks,the role of design and design thinking as well as brand promotion andmanagement. Additional research wasconducted on the two brands in focus and a few questionnaires were passed outto further aid getting optimum critique and analysis while using theseframeworks; especially those that focus on the customer perspective. Disney and Toys “R” Us are two huge brandsthat have existed for over 50 years and to thoroughly and effectively strengthenand underpin these brands, the methods selected must be all-encompassing, focuson customer perspective and experience but most also be able to assessemotional branding strategy.
On that note, the selected frameworks are: ‘The Design Pillars’ Chris Holt (2017)which consists of six pillars that support a brand, each pillar provides twomeasures/opportunities to fully assess the brand in a positive or negativecontext; this will help pinpoint the strengths of both brands both mostimportantly will help reveal weaknesses that can be turned to strengths andfurther contribute value to the brand. The second tool being applied is ‘The Five Consumer Experience Dimensions ofBrand Building’ John Boult (2003),also referred to as A ‘CREED’, this framework focuses on thoughts, opinions andfacts of how consumers think of a brand; while analysing Disney and Toys “R”Us, this tool allows for the brands strength and weaknesses to be drawn andmeasured from the consumers experience, this will help both brands see ifconsumers are indeed receiving the same message, service, experience or productbelieved to be provided by either brands.The final framework being used for this project is the ‘4-D Branding’ Thomas Gad (2001), this frameworkis similar to the aforementioned as it also focuses on consumers andexperiences; however, it makes a slight break from the mould by solely focusingon analysing the emotions felt or shown towards a brand.
This will be beneficial to the brands inquestion as these days it is no longer enough or suitable to just look at theproduct, sales or opinions of staff assigned to that area/task. Thomas Gad states that consumers are moreaware of what is happening around them than ever before, people matter, most ofthe successful business men and women today are characterized by the insight gatheredabout others and how these people are treated. Gad further explains greatauthority figures know that people who manage the company/business are the coreof not just the organisation, but their jobs. (Gad, 2001:130). Simply put, how consumers feel, think and acthave become important to any business, especially when trying to plan future directionsof that brand or brands of the future. PARTTHREE (A)Whenit comes to humans, the ultimate goal for most individuals is to do somethingthat allows the opportunity to stand out from billions of people, brands are nodifferent in this sense; for every big idea, there are hundreds of versionsthat exist around the world, however not on the same scale. The first pillar – D, represents differentiateand desire; Disney has always been a pioneer in the design aspect of businessand that constantly sets the brand apart from competition.
The Grimm fairy taleSnow White and The Seven Dwarfs, is aperfect example of this, Disney’s first animated film in Technicolor. With Toys “R” Us however it starts off thatway but along the way loses that uniqueness, especially with rivals like ‘TheEntertainer’ which carries similar products but most importantly, it carries asimilar visual identity by adapting blue as a primary colour. PART THREE (B)The problemis not the children or demand for these toys, both are present, From theresearch carried out and analysis above, the problem lays in lack ofconvergence.
Jenkins illustrates “convergencerepresents a cultural shift as consumers are encouraged to seek out newinformation and make connections among dispersed media content … spectatorsperform in the new media system” (Jenkins, 2006:3). There are three different aspects ofconvergence; Conglomeration – to do with multiple brands being owned by thesame parent company, across multiple media industries, Transmedia – to do withstories, programmes and brands being produced across multiple media/platformsand Interactivity – to do with audiences being engaged across multiplemedia/platforms. In this ageof media convergence, Disney has mastered the art of integrating multiple textsto create a narrative so large that it cannot be contained within a singlemedium., with roots in cable (A, Lifetime, ESPN), Production and Distribution(Touchstone Pictures, Pixar, Walt Disney Studio), Television Networks (ABC),Publishing (Disney Consumer Products), Music (), online (Disney InteractiveMedia Group) and Parks and Resort; transmedia storytelling has never been more efficient.
An example is the release of an originalDisney animated film being previewed on Disney channel, then promotion,interviews and soundtracks being played on Disney Radio and showcased on thewebsite, followed by the DVD sales of this film in Disney stores and the offeringup costumes, toy, games and collectibles of characters from the film, Finally,by providing the opportunity to actually step into this world and live aroundthe or in many cases, live in the home of these characters, Disney comes full circleand each step along the way built on what has come before, while offering newpoints of entry. As James Pallister said, “The 20th Century approach for designers wasto make people want things, the 21st Century approach is to make things peoplewant”. This could not be more true oraccurate in this situation.
Toys “R” Us usedto be great at making children want toys they didn’t know they did and itworked for years but with the constant growth of digital platforms and vices,children want to feel like a part of shows they watch and things they see on TVor Online; this is achieved either by having action figures or collectibles,dressing up as favourite characters or the best alternative, actually steppinginto this world. When you look at itthat way, Disney has the right idea; the world has evolved from princesses indistress and princes coming to the rescue, children can now be any superhero inthe Marvel ‘Avengers’ franchise or a Jedi in Star Wars. Toys “R” Us onthe other hand have failed to adapt, the belief that children will always wanttoys is running the company into the ground; users have more access toinformation and technology than ever before and as so are major parts of notjust the experience but the design. Jenkinpaints a clearer picture in ‘Convergence Culture’ he elucidates that “Producerswho fail to make their peace with this new participatory culture will facedeclining goodwill and diminishing revenues.
The resulting struggles andcompromises will define the public culture of the future.” (Jenkins, 2006:24). In order to really get an edge on competitors,Toys “R” Us needs to make in-store experiences and services more memorable, specialand unique; there are three sections of the company: Physical stores, Onlinestores and Babies “R” Us, looking at each section there is no seamlessness, theyare not intractably linked, each section feels different from the last and haslittle or no connection. There is no storytelling. Additionally, Toys “R” Us can borrow a pagefrom Disney’s playbook and make design the core of the business, intertwine itwith everything else so it is almost impossible to tell where the journey endsor begins; Richard Seymour argues that “all that is not nature is design”, thatin mind, brands can be seen as design, they start off intangible (a big idea)and with the help of design evolve into something tangible; values, service,product and experience are major parts of the brand but eventually contributeto the visual style and help build character. Wally Olins describes logos and symbols as the key identifier for almostevery brand as they carry immense power and can work faster than words in themind.
Olins further explains this point by referring to them as visual triggersthat stir or release the most difficult and deep emotions (Olins, 2008:30); in orderfor something to have such an effect, it must have character, a personality – aswally olins says “a brand is simply an organization, or a product, or service witha personality” (Olins, 2008:8) and that’s what the Toy “R” Us is missing,especially online.