Since 1955, Disneyland has been a prominent Orange County landmark that has been able to survive through great cultural changes. It is also the top employer in Orange County.
Disneyland Resort President Matt Ouimet, who spoke at UC Irvine’s Beckman Center on Nov. 15 as part of the Paul Merage School of Business Distinguished Speakers Series, attributes Disneyland’s perseverance to a solid idea.
‘Walt Disney’s basic premise was [that] he wanted to create a place where a dad and his daughters could have fun together,’ Ouimet said. ‘He did that 50 years ago and people ask me [if] I think that Disneyland will be around 50 years from now. … I fundamentally think that premise will apply 50 years from now.’
Ouimet spoke about Disney’s new Chief Executive Officer Bob Eiger and his strategies for growth. Ouimet is supportive of Eiger because of his appropriate challenging methods to achieve direction for the company.
‘A lot of times when you see a new CEO come into a company, they will [have] a new vision or strategy that is fundamentally different than where you were before,’ Ouimet said. ‘That worries me, because I believe there are fundamental building blocks of everybody’s business model that don’t need to radically change in most cases. [Eiger] laid out something that feels really good, it feels really natural for us and it feels challenging.’
Eiger cited three central strategies to improve the Disney business model. The first element is an emphasis on creative content. This is crucial to Disney, which has achieved success by integrating storytelling and related products.
‘There is no doubt in the business we’re in that for the indefinite future the strength of our creativity and the result in content is the fundamental foundation for the Walt Disney Company,’ Ouimet said. ‘You have leverage if you have content that people want.’
Disney’s new animated movie ‘Chicken Little’ served as a recent example of integration. Its popularity in the movie theaters provides additional opportunities for profit.
‘For us this is the first time we had a successful digital film,’ Ouimet said. ‘Now that ‘Chicken Little’ is successful, we can think about the videos, the consumer plush, rolling it out internationally and the characters in the theme park.’
Ouimet believes that the hardest thing about managing content is predicting what will be popular in the future.
‘It is very easy for me to think that sports programming of some nature will be as compelling 50 years from now as it is today,’ Ouimet explained. ‘Reality television is not the [same] case.’
Ouimet explained that due to technological advancements, the ability to create content is now available to nearly everyone.
‘In the 1920s and 1930s, the major movie studios controlled all the content,’ Ouimet said. ‘Now anyone with a digital camera and a computer can make their own film, edit it and distribute it to millions of people overnight. Is it the big studio model or is it the individuals who create content that will be most appealing?’
The second focus of the Disney Company is the role that technology will play.
‘We are storytellers. … Using technology to make the story better, more compelling and different is exactly where we see the most success,’ Ouimet said.
‘Chicken Little’ provides an example of good utilization of technology, according to Ouimet. Theaters that offered the movie in 3-D made three times as much revenue as other theaters.
‘You have the opportunity to individualize it,’ Ouimet said. ‘You will see a continued evolution in specialized marketing.’
The third category in Eiger’s strategy for success is a focus on growth outside of the United States.
‘One of the fundamental challenges for any content company is the intellectual property rights,’ Ouimet said. ‘If my product cannot be protected, I cannot be in business.’
Justin May, a second-year aerospace engineering major, found Ouimet’s presentation interesting.
‘It was really informative,’ May said. ‘The ideas of the new CEO seem very logical and promising.’