Branding Beat - Cut Through the Noise

Supply and Demand, Disney-Style: Why You Shouldn’t Copy Their Methods

I have been waiting for Finding Nemo to come out on Blu-ray since the day I got a Playstation 3 and a 1080p TV. Not only is it a great movie (my favorite Pixar flick), but animated movies just look incredible on Blu-Ray. So where in the heck is it? Nemo came out in 2003; Toy Story came out in 1995 and we have a Blu-Ray of that. What is Disney thinking? Aren’t they going to lose customers? There’s a supply and demand issue here, right? Demand will drop eventually….

Not so fast. When you are as big as Disney, you get to make your own marketing rules. Most companies have to rely on those age-old principles of supply and demand to be successful, but Disney has shown that not everyone plays by the same rules. Instead, they seem to have completely made up their own, such as:

You’re just going to have to wait Most companies need to get their products in the hands of consumers when the consumers want, lest their interest begins to wane. Somehow Disney has reversed this trend and no matter how long they make people wait, everything still sells like gangbusters. When you’ve built up as much brand loyalty as Disney has, delaying releases only seems to BUILD interest. I was at first only intrigued by the idea of purchasing Finding Nemo on Blu-Ray, but now I’m writing a blog about it. See what I mean?

It’s now or never! – Not only can Disney wait forever to release a movie, they can do so for only a limited time before it goes back in the “Disney Vault” and is no longer available in stores. Could you imagine if they had released the original Die Hard on DVD with the tagline: “Get it now before it’s gone forever!?” No one but Jana would rush out to the store. That’s a marketing strategy with fail written all over it…under normal circumstances. Not for Disney. They’ve created an incentive to buy something that was already eagerly anticipated (though this is somewhat lessened since the rise of second-hand online sales). This is a shrewd move that is only possible for the rarest of companies.

Classics never go out of style Last but certainly not least, Disney keeps making movies that stand the test of time. There are no cheesy 80’s montages, outdated hairstyles, child actors fallen from grace, or even scenery that dates the film. For the most part, if Snow White was re-released in theatres today, it could pass as a modern movie (sans the 3D) – and that timelessness has an immeasurable impact on any marketing strategy. It is really what makes everything else possible.

The moral of the story? Don’t hold out on customers too long. Disney’s version of supply and demand probably won’t work for you, and there will come a time when you’ll have to give people what they want. Unless you’ve built the same level of brand loyalty (which is highly unlikely for non-Fortune 500 companies), provide truly timeless products, and feel comfortable with taking risks, then you’ll be better off sticking to a more traditional sense of supply and demand. Buyers won’t wait for you forever!

Can you think of any other companies that have gone against conventional marketing wisdom and been successful? What is your opinion of Disney’s supply and demand strategy?

Image credit to mandiberg.


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  1. Mandy Kilinskis

    Ah, Disney. You’re so good at making up your own rules – and we still all fall for them. But you’re right, Jeff, not just anyone could do this and get away with it. if I wanted Die Hard and couldn’t get it, I would be crushed.

    As for Snow White, I don’t think it could pass as a modern movie. But that’s not the point of this blog and everyone in 726 has already heard my Disney Princess views. 🙂

    • JPorretto

      I believe your “Disney Princess views” would fit squarely in my “for the most part” qualifier of that statement =)

      But yes we do fall for it every time with Disney… except Cars 2 for me. Pass…

    • amy

      I love our Disney Princess discussions 🙂 I’d hope little girls wouldn’t think that Ariel from the Little Mermaid would be a good role model in today’s society. I digress though.

  2. Jill Tooley

    You know another brand that makes up their own rules like this? Nintendo. At least, that’s what they tried to do with the original Wii release. I couldn’t even tell you how many all-nighters I pulled in order to be first in line at stores when they opened (yeah, I’m one of those crazies), just to find that there were no Wiis in sight. Eventually, the supply of Wii devices was so slim that it seemed like NO ONE was getting them, and a lot of people lost interest. Nintendo probably wasn’t hurting because of this, but I found it hard to believe that they were only able to produce a handful of consoles a week – especially with their biggest seller in years.

    Disney is much the same; you’re completely right. Their kooky supply and demand strategies work, too (I’m ashamed to say). The last time I saw Alice in Wonderland (the cartoon) and Sleeping Beauty advertised as being “put back into the Disney Vault,” I thought long and hard about running out to buy them just because their days were numbered. And that’s exactly what Disney was going for! 🙂

    • JPorretto

      You’re so right. Nintendo is its own rule follower. Sometimes, it doesn’t pay off though. Gamecube wasn’t exactly selling like hotcakes…

      But the Wii was a retail monster. The lack of stock almost gave it a “Mystique” quality.

  3. Juliette

    Hey now, I’d be right there with Jana, probably waiting in line overnight for my limited Die Hard copy!

    I’ve often been curious about Disney’s way of releasing films for a limited time but since I’m a big fan of buying mine used I don’t normally rush to the store for my copy. I’m agree that there aren’t many places that could get away with doing business that way. But they also supplement those limited releases with plenty of well done and current films to keep folks happy. *coughcoughpiratescoughcough*

    (P.S. There is one Disney classic that I’d love to see re-released in theaters: The Sword in the Stone)

    • JPorretto

      I’m with you, I buy everything used that I can. So the “Disney Vault” doesn’t really affect me. But the delays to release these dang movies in the first place sure does!

      • Amanda

        I agree! Used stuff is the best! But Blu Rays aren’t something you can buy used really yet, so I see how it’s frustrating. I can only imagine how good animated Disney movies look in Blu Ray. We have a high def tv and a regular dvd player, and animated stuff looks amazing! I can’t wait to get Blu Ray! =)

      • Juliette

        Yeah, the delay is kinda harsh. I hadn’t realized that Nemo hadn’t been released on blu-ray yet. Especially since it was such a wonderful movie.

  4. amy

    Before reading this I had a little bit of an idea that Disney played by their own rules, but after reading I had no idea the extent! Since I’ve grown up with Disney I’m sure I’m a bit biased, but if I were them I’d be careful playing with these rules. If customers view companies as a faceless corporation that doesn’t listen to them, they may look elsewhere for entertainment. However, with that being said I’m sure who Disney’s competition is and is probably why they can do pretty much whatever they like.

    You pointed out some great points, very thought-provoking!

    • Amanda

      Same here Amy–I never really thought about how Disney does this with their movies–since almost all of our Disney movies are still on VHS. I just haven’t wanted to cough up the money to get them all on DVD. I can see why they do this, but in a way, since they’re such classic and popular movies, you’d think that you can just go to Walmart and pick them up anytime, but I guess you can’t always.

  5. Joseph Giorgi

    I love that you touched on the fact that “classics never go out of style.” Disney, as a company, has always held itself to the highest standards of quality. Most Disney films tend to have a universal, cross-generational appeal, which is an achievement in and of itself. Their films are compelling, engaging, and relevant to just about any viewer.

    The release structure for Disney’s films is equal parts brilliant and exploitative. Brilliant because it forces the consumer to purchase re-released classics time and time again, and exploitative because it, ummm, forces the consumer to purchase re-released classics time and time again.

    Oh Disney, how we love to hate you!

    Awesome post, Jeff! 🙂

    • JPorretto

      Thanks! I was trying to figure out why their strategy works, and it dawned on me…. because they’re the best at what they do. People will wait for the best. It’s really as simple as that.

  6. LK

    The vault got me with Lady and the Tramp. I wanted that movie for sooo long when I was a kid, and it was trapped in the vault for what seemed like forever! Once it came out, I ran out to get it.. even though I swear it was at least 10 years later.
    All because Disney withheld Lady and the Tramp from me for so long, I had to have it once it came out of the vault.

    Great post.. I love Disney.

    • Amanda

      I love Disney too! I just haven’t re-watched a lot of their movies in years. Most of the movies I have that are Disney, are still on VHS, lol. I’d love to take a weekend or even an afternoon and watch some Disney movies on DVD.

    • JPorretto

      If Finding Nemo came out of the vault right this instant, you’d see a Jeff-shaped hole in the wall and tire tracks in the parking lot. So I definitely see where you’re coming from.

  7. Vern-Matic

    See I would have to disagree w/you Jeff that their older movies would not stand up today. Now being the marketing geniuses that they are they will cross promote their shows w/whatever is popular right now. In the sense that Hana Montana will have an episode where they have some zany adventure in a movie theater watching whatever movie is being released. Remember when Snow White was re-released in theaters? It was a few of their sitcoms cross promoting Snow White.

  8. Vern-Matic

    Also, “the only reason Mickey Mouse has three fingers is because he can’t pick up a check.” – Robin Williams

  9. Kyle

    Finding Nemo in glorious 1080p would be great, I have to admit. That’s probably one of the few Disney movies that I’d consider upgrading from ye olde VHS/DVD to Blu-ray. I remember watching that movie countless times on my old tube TV and even then the visuals were simply jaw-dropping. I totally agree with you Jeff, best Pixar film for sure!

    Guess we gotta “just keep swimming” ’till it finally comes to Blu-ray!

    And I know what you all are already thinking: “Ya know, for a Clownfish, he really isn’t that funny…” 😀

    • JPorretto

      I throw out Finding Nemo jokes all the time. Do you? Do ya? Do ya?

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