Pixie Dust & Profits is a podcast for small business owners who love Disney and want to sprinkle some of that magic onto their own businesses. Join your host, Nicole Boucher and Yasmine Spencer. As they explore the mouse’s $12.6 billion operation and break down exactly how you can apply these big scale concepts to your own business.
Hi, everyone. Welcome to this week’s episode of pixie dust and profits. We are super excited to have a guest interview. Today. We are joined by Diane Barrow Smith and she is a strategy and planning manager by day at her corporate job. But by night she’s taking those skills to Disney fans like us to help them plan their extended Disney world vacations. And this has because she’s in the UK and in the UK, they take their holidays a bit differently than we do. We don’t typically go for three weeks at a time. We go for me one weeks, tops. I think my longest trip to Disney world was, was it like six or seven days with you Yasmine? Yeah,
That was two years ago, right?
Where we went with. That was, yes. Well, we’re going to have to take another one of those trips soon, but seriously, six days felt like a really long time for me. And I know that we came back to family and business stuff piling up. So I can’t imagine the amount of planning that needs to go into a three week vacation. So luckily you have Diane here to help you with that. She also makes stationary to make the planning process even more smooth. So this is our love language, Disney operations strategy planning. Love it. So today she’s here to talk to us a little bit about some marketing activities and some products that Disney is offering overseas, and we don’t usually get these types of advertisements. So it’s really fun to learn about the things they’re doing in other places. So Diane, can you tell us a little bit more about these UK staycation cruises that Disney’s offering?
Yeah, sure. So they the UK does new staycation cruises. They released them which was a whole summer’s worth of shot two to four night cruises from four different parts in the UK. So we normally only get maybe one or two cruises each year that leave from the UK. They tend to be longer form cruises. So seven, 10, even 14 night cruises. And actually them leaving from the UK. They tend to leave from Dover and they, they’re not very frequent. And also they’re really expensive because obviously they’re longer cruises. So if you’ve never done a Disney cruise before they can look really pricey. And if you’re wondering what the value is, they can be a bit daunting. So what they’ve done is they’ve brought the Disney magic ship over and they have launched I think there’s like six weeks or so maybe a bit longer. I think originally was a little longer these two to four night cruises that are literally leaving from these ports looping around, floating around in the sea and then coming back to that part. So they’ve called them Disney’s magic at sea. And they are literally staycations that don’t leave the UK. So there a really interesting way of getting a new audience interested in something and utilizing an asset that they already have floating about doing nothing at the moment.
Yeah. I’ve never been on a Disney cruise. And I admit that, you know, even as a vacation club member who spends quite a bit of time at Disney, the cruises have a pretty big price tag that can be a deterrent to especially new new audiences, right? So a Disney cruise is typically for someone who’s been to Disney world knows what to expect. Usually families there, they expect characters, they expect shows it’s, it’s different than a typical cruise. And so there’s a price tag that comes along with that entertainment level. And I, I think it’s such a smart move for them to, you know, deal with the risks right now with the Corona virus in a way that first of all, it makes us more accessible to people who wouldn’t otherwise afford a Disney cruise and, you know, just builds the trust and makes them feel safe. Because like you said, they’re not leaving the UK, they’re going from one port and sailing around and coming right back.
And what’s really interesting is Disney sort of implements a slightly similar model when they’re departing from the U S so they actually have like two to three day cruises that go through The Bahamas. They don’t stop at Castaway Cay, which is, Disney’s like private owned island in The Bahamas and just like loop back to what does it celebration? No, not celebration. It’s Polk enough roll
In Florida. Yeah.
So they just loop back to port Canaveral in Florida. And you know, when we think about going on cruises and going on those trips, you typically think of those, like multi-stop you know, vacations where you’re, you know, doing a little day trips at all these different ports, but Disney does their cruises a little differently and they have a ton of entertainment on board. Dan, can you tell us a little bit about like what makes a Disney cruise a little bit different from maybe your standard fare from like Royal Caribbean and other competitors?
I mean, I could literally talk about this for like an inquire day. I absolutely loved Disney cruises. We’ve, we’ve been to all the parks bar Shanghai, and that was only because Shanghai opened late. I might add I was over there when they were meant to open and they did it. I was devastated. So the, the cruises are actually one of my absolute favorite things to do because the service level on them is absolutely incredible. So if you think about the service level that you get from the cast members in particularly Disney world it’s that of service and then some like the service level is incredible. Like I’ve never seen anything like it. They’ll cut up your kids’ food for you so that you don’t have to do it, which is incredible. I’m like, yeah, sure. You can do that.
You go ahead and they remember what drinks you like so that they come to you, like on your second or third night with, you know, would you like that drink that you had last night? The, they, they follow you around. So your, your serving team follow you each night. So they know they get to know you, they get to know your likes, any allergies, dislikes, entertainment wise, there’s like Broadway or west end, wherever you’re from level like that kind of caliber of shows. So it might be tangled or beauty and the beast, or there’s like specific Disney, like the Disney dream you’re selling me here. Oh, that’s so good. It love them. They’re amazing. And then there’s obviously all the characters and there’s some really rare ones. They have seasonal ones. So the Halloween on the high seas is an amazing cruise. And they have like a big tree that grows pumpkin’s in the atrium and
They have the eyes of an adult and a kid.
And then on that, from that perspective, like there’s a nursery and kids clubs as well. So if you want to have a family holiday, a family vacation, that you can have a bit of both the time for both separately, there’s an adult pool. And so if your kids often the kids club meeting bell or doing a slime creating activity or something, you can go to the adult pool and they have these like really nice lounges with like comfy cushions on them. And there’s a bar and you can get cocktails and there’s no children. So it’s an amazing balance of, that’s why I love them. Like, there’s just so many positives to a Disney cruise. They’re incredible. And yeah, I could go on about them all day long. So
It’s actually gone on a Disney cruise. Like I have been planning to go on one, but one of the common themes that we talk about is how me getting pregnant, ruined all my Disney plans. And I had a trip where I was supposed to go to Disney and do a cruise with my mum in like December of 2019, but, you know, had a baby instead. But one of the things that I really liked about the cruises and it’s one of the things I like about Disney is the different dining experiences. So they actually have like different restaurants on board with different vibes and like feels and stuff, which again is really exciting for kids and adults who are children at heart like me.
Oh yeah. The Tiana’s one on the wander. So there’s like, they’ve made Tiana’s restaurant on the wonder. And they have a band playing and Tiana goes around and meets people and they do like a Mardi Gras festival with a parade in the restaurant. And you get to join in and they give you the beads and the crocodile goes around and you get to meet the crocodile it’s so it’s such good fun. I absolutely love it. It’s like, and the food’s amazing as well. So you kind of adding all the best bits of Disney, putting it on a boat and getting to see amazing places, normally amazing places as well. So yeah, absolutely. My favorite Disney trip, I mean, I mean comes close second, but yeah, well
This all sounds amazing. And of course, we’re all going to go look and see how much a cruises is when they’re reopening over here now. So as of the recording of this, the staycation cruises are not yet able to be booked and they’ve only been marketed and put out there. So is there any information about how it’s going to be different from this traditional experience that you’re describing here? I know it’s going to be shorter, but are there going to be, you know, characters out and about right now and the parks, there are it’s, they’re kind of at a distance and a conclave of cars. So have they talked about that at all? They
Have, but the information that they’ve released at the moment is minimal at best. So, and obviously they are adapting to the information that the UK government setting out for them, which is obviously changing frequently as it is across every country in the world right now. There’s not even any information on masks or whether you need a vaccine or not. It kind of just says there will be COVID restrictions and these will change, and some things may be closed or different from normal. So they’ve made it quite clear that it’s not going to be what it would normally be. Obviously as there always is in the Disney community, there’s rumors all over the place. But there’s nothing set in stone because I, I’m not convinced that they are set in stone like that they have set that in stone yet.
And I think there’s a lot of things that they need to iron out with regards to that, because in, so in the UK, our vaccine program is around age 45 ish. You can get a vaccine 45 plus or underlying health conditions. Which means that kids are a long way off that yet. And obviously Disney’s target is families with young children. And by some others there’s no guarantee that kids would have been vaccinated or whether they will be. So I think they’re still sort of holding back on some of those decisions, not even the information, just making those decisions closer to the time. So it’s definitely all a bit up in the air at the moment, but there’s a lot of noise about it and everyone’s really excited. So, yeah. Interesting strategy for sure.
It’s interesting because you know, they’ve put this information out there, they kind of outlined dates and told people, you know, this is coming, but Ben intentionally vague. And this reminds me of all the times he has been, some of our clients have, you know, pre-launched something where they’re kind of just saying, Hey, you know, this is coming put in your deposit and it’s very vague, but you know, you want it. And so there’s this demand to get out of the house, to do something relatively safe, but you know, enjoyable and entertaining. And, you know, people have been cooped up, especially in the Northern regions. Winter’s just ending, we’re getting out of like the always cold weather. It’s starting to get sunny and that itch to leave. Our houses gets even bigger. And so, you know, they’re marketing these things, but like you said, the product doesn’t seem fully fleshed out yet. You can’t book it yet. You’ll be able to book it soon if they don’t move that date, which will be very interesting to see if they do. And can you talk a little bit about just how many dates they’re offered and how this has changed since it was announced?
Yeah. So this was announced a couple of weeks ago and it was the whole season. So I think the first one was that the 11th of June and then the last one was the 1st of September or the 3rd of September, the beginning of September. Anyway. and then today, literally today, maybe like two or three hours before I jumped on this they have pulled essentially six weeks. So two parts worth from the website. There’s no message about it. There’s no, there’s nothing. So it may well just be a technical glitch. It could be that they’re just updating something or they could have literally canceled half of the cruises. And if, if they have there’s so many reasons why they could have done that and everybody in the Disney community, in the UK, that it was looking at these as kind of going, oh, what’s happening? Like what is going on? Yeah. Right. They
Had a little bit of excitement built up that they’d be able to get their Disney fix and, and now half the dates are gone and there could be any number of reasons, like you said, and, you know, you talked about, there was demand for this. They started marketing it early. And so, you know, we’re kind of speculating. Are they trying to build some scarcity around these dates? Are they just trying to play it safe and see, okay, how many of these are actually going to get booked? Like people might say they’re excited, but when you have to put a deposit down and it involves travel even within your own country, which has permitted, it might still not be a time where people feel safe enough to do that. So maybe they’re doing it for data. Maybe they’re maybe they only have one full crew and you know, their second or third crew, they haven’t been able to get all of the things they need to have that crew in place. I mean, there’s so many races and when it comes to Disney, it could literally just be an it pixie dust issue. I think we’ve all been there.
Yep. And I think that’s kind of what everybody’s hoping for because they’ve pulled two of the, like, it looks like they pulled two of the parts and one of them’s London, like and the other ones Newcastle. So those two parts, like Newcastle’s the Northeast. And obviously London’s London. So they’re, they’re big old parts and they’ve, they’ve kind of done them from like the four corners. So they’d done one in the Northwest. They don’t want in the Northeast, they’ve done London and then they’d done south Hampton, which is the very bottom. So it’s kind of like to pull London and new castle there that like, you know, they’re big parts that there are big bunch of people that would have been considering those. So, yeah, it’d be interesting to see a, if they have pulled them and B why, if they have what, like what the reasoning is, and if they’re going to tell us, like, is there anything yeah. And
Disney doesn’t always reveal their secrets.
But one thing we do know about Disney is every decision they make for the most part is pretty calculated. And there’s a lot of thought that goes into it. So it’ll be really interesting to time to learn later on again, if they ever do reveal their secrets, like Nicole said what the reason behind all this is,
I think that’s a really good segue to talking about what small business lessons we can learn from this launch. That’s miss this mystery, this new product testing, this new audience testing. Because I mean, we, we hear respectfully on the strategy behind the pixie does, but we don’t know. And so, you know, it’s, there’s so many different ways. I think we can take this. So Diane, I mean, what do you think is like the biggest thing you can learn from this as a small business?
So Mike kind of thought on this was about the way that they’re using the assets that they already have. And they’ve kind of gone at the moment. We can’t cruise in the U S which is obviously where most of the, their cruises originally go from. So that, I think they’ve kind of looked at it and gone, right. Let’s work out how we can use this asset for a different audience. And in this instance, they’ve kind of gone. Where’s another audience that lines up with our current audience that we know we already have a base. And obviously the UK generally is one of the biggest international, I was going to say non domestic, but no international travelers over to Walt Disney world or to Disneyland Paris. They already have a huge base here, but they’re not really the, the audience that is tapped into these cruises.
So to come and bring those over to this audience, get them interested in it. Not only does it currently use the asset that they’ve got, but also then encourages them to then book into the future without actually impacting the audience that you already have over in the U S so I think my thought was for small businesses looking at the assets that you have available and all the audiences that you could potentially tap into and how to match those things up. So not necessarily whether it’s a tangible asset, so, you know, it doesn’t need to be a millions of dollars cruise ship, you know, we could be talking about a skill or a product or something that you have within your business, and then other audiences that that could map to, I think that was my first thought around how you could utilize that strategy in your own small business.
Yeah, definitely. I mean, just thinking about you have a product line coming out and it’s, well, first of all, tell us about it and what you’re releasing, but, you know, I think that’s related to what’s inside your head and you just realize that there’s another way to put this out there. This is an asset I have that’s intangible right now. Let me turn that into something tangible.
Yeah. So I always wanted to do the itinerary planning for people and I love doing it and I’ve done, I’ve done quite a few of them now. But then obviously to do that, I use I use a load of tools. I use a load of like, you know, draw my plans out, my spreadsheets, all that kind of thing. And I did originally think, oh, maybe I could sell the spreadsheet. And then I thought, no, it’s really specific to the way that I plan. And it’s got a lot of formulas in. So what I’ve done instead is designed stationary that allows people to do their own way of planning. So to start with, I’ve got to Disney themed wall planners coming out for people to just plan what they’re doing this year. Like not even Disney holidays or any holidays, you know, kids’ football games or whatever it is. But it kind of brings together those worlds of planning and Disney. So it brings those things together. And I’m very excited to launch them then. Yeah, I can’t wait
Kind of a sneak peek, sorry guys. You’re going to have to check out her Instagram, which we will link in the show notes and to get your sneak peek too. It’s super cute. Thank you. You know, you’re welcome. I
Mean, who, doesn’t love a little bit of Disney magic when they’re planning their day. I mean, it definitely makes the less boring, but that’s for sure. Sure. I mean, I work from home,
Obviously it’s most of the world does right now. If they have like office jobs and my entire office is completely Disney themed in the direction that you can’t see. So I have a really like very professional strategy job where I have to be very professional at the same time. I’m just looking at a whole
Wall. So fun. It’s funny because my office is the opposite. I’m staring at all the diplomas and stuff on the wall, but all the Disney stuff is behind me. Yeah. So at wallpaper, oh, that’s so fun. I have honestly considered painting a purple wall in my office because I think that would be really fun. Endless Instagram opportunities. Yeah. Yeah. You can take your own selfies in front of my office and instead of going all the way to really know. So one of the things that I have been getting out of like this discussion we’ve talked so many times about Ascension models and our audience is probably like, they keep talking about Ascension models, but it’s so important. Yeah. And I just think like, you know, Disney is doing this, they’re trying to kind of reach a new audience, like an opportunity here to reach people who, again, like Disney might be something that was out of their price range, especially the cruises.
And they know once they get that hook of pixie dust in, and you can experience the level of the guest experience and the level of customer service and especially in a cruise or it’s like all inclusive. So you already, it’s built in that. You’re going to have to do less and do less planning when you do, when you’re actually visiting the parks. You know, it’s kind of a lower priced option, a new demographic and getting, getting them in, getting into that first level of your Ascension model. And then hopefully, you know, law of large numbers, quite a few of them will return the next time you have a cruise in the area or decide they should take their next holiday overseas and come to Walt Disney world, or even just taking that quick weekend trip to Disneyland Paris. So I feel like this is also a discussion that we can get into about Ascension models and moving people further up until they become vacation club.
For sure. Then like the other way that you can look at it. And Diane mentioned this it’s through purposing, an asset that you already have and leveraging it with a new audience. So like yes, Disney had the cruises, but this model is something that they already worked with in The Bahamas, right? Like they already did these like two, three day cruises that had no stops. So they’re moving it over to the UK, to an audience who they can engage right now, because there aren’t any restrictions around cruising in the same way. There are in us and Canada. And they’re basically like, you know, identifying like their secondary audience for this. Like we say, every business, you have your primary audience that you speak to, but you can’t forget about your secondary and tertiary audiences they’re there. And sometimes it’s just a matter of taking an asset that you already have and packaging it up to speak about it in a new way to serve them.
And that’s exactly what they’re doing in here. They don’t call it staycations in the states, right? It’s a, three-day cruise in The Bahamas, but here it’s a staycation. And that appeals because it adds that like element of safety that you talked about day in and the security that comes with knowing that you know, you’re just limited to fellow travelers from the UK, which I don’t think we mentioned, but you, you had said that only UK residents are able to go on this trip. So, you know said America is not letting in any north Americans right now, but we can’t just hop over and jump in on the staycation just because we’re going through Disney withdrawal.
It’s definitely just UK residents. Obviously we can’t go over to Paris at the moment either because the board is just with us from a UK perspective, obviously there’s loads of people that have, you know, what Disney world annual passes that live in the UK, or that have Disneyland Paris passes that again, live in the UK and are desperately missing every form of Disney and our shops have been shot over here since Christmas. So we can’t even get to the Disney store like this. There’s no way other than the TV right now to get your, your Disney fix over here. So everyone is really excited, but yeah, UK residents only which, which never happens for us, we never get you can eat Disney only thing. It’s, it’s kind of like what you’re doing, what frauds shore, how much money do you want? Take it straight.
As a fellow member of the Commonwealth, I am super jealous right now because we’re literally just north of the border in the states, but with the border restrictions and everything you can’t go and yet Disney’s shops are closed because we’re in another lockdown in Ontario. And it’s basically just like online TV. And my favorite way of getting my Disney fixed, which is buying yours from Disney small
Shops. So we talked about like tweaking your product for a new audience and also tweaking it for the environment right now, right? The COVID restrictions are still very much in place. And so when you’re looking at your own assets and your own programs and products and services, maybe if something’s not selling, it’s not because it’s not a good product, which I think is where entrepreneurs often throw their, their, their little, a devil shoulder goes right to this. This product is not good. That’s why it’s not selling. And maybe you need to look at the environment it’s in, look at your product description page and how it’s being described. And, you know, especially if you have something that people might worry about in this COVID world right now, tweak it a little bit, make it sound safer, make it sound more trustworthy. You know, we have previously talked about product safety and like, how can you make people feel more secure in their purchase is always a good strategy to take when you’re in business.
So I think there’s just so many lessons here and we didn’t even touch on the scarcity of them taking away half of the dates, right? I mean, they took away half the dates. Why did they do that? I mean, there’s so many reasons they could do that, but you know, our last episode, we talked about making scarcity if demand is high and you don’t have as many dates, you’re going to get those booked up. And maybe they’re doing this just to see how many they’re even going to book, how are they going to sell out a ship? Who knows
It will be really interesting on booking day as well, because they haven’t released the pricing, which is standard for Disney cruise. They don’t release until platinum day, but it’s, it’s gonna be really interesting because it’s a new market for them. It’s only people that have done these cruises before that understand how much they’re probably going to, but, you know, they’re still not going to be cheap. But by doing themselves two or three days that tweak to, to do as short form cruises allows it to be more appealing. But at the same time, they’ve kind of then added this pricing aspect of a complete unknown. Is it going to be, is it going to be really cheap to try and get people in and interested or are they going to go well, we’re at 35% capacity or whatever the lower capacity is. We’ve had our ships, you know, in dry dock for a year, we need to recoup some of this money. And actually you’re getting the Disney experience. Our competition is minimal because you can’t leave the country. There’s not much else going on and are they going to hike those prices up? So it’s a really interesting way of launching a product or service, however, you’d classify. How would you classify that?
Yeah, it’s a, I guess that’s a service, right? It is a product, but if it’s a service, it you’re buying the magic and the getting away from the house. Yes.
And is it still snowing here? Occasionally it was literally snowing yesterday which is very rare in April in the UK. You know, th the, the demand for them is incredible, but yeah, it’s definitely, they’ve definitely done both. They’ve tweaked their usual service and created this scarcity, whether they intended to or not. Whether, you know, whether it’s a technical issue or a legislation issue, they’ve definitely created some of that scarcity if they’ve canceled half of these cruises. So it’s, and then they’ve put in this pricing aspect, there’s just so many things that they’ve done which is why I messaged you guys going, I’ve got an idea. We definitely need to
Talk about this. Cause it’s, it’s
Very, very clever. It’s a really clever way of doing it
When, you know, you run your own small business, right. And sometimes you feel like everyone else has it figured out, and you looked at like places like Disney and you think, oh, they’ve got everything under hat. Well, first of all, they have way more employees than you do to like sit in a boardroom and come up with these decisions and ideas and get them executed. But you can, we can clearly see that this is a brand new product that they have experience implementing products similar, but they’re, I don’t want to say they’re throwing spaghetti at the wall because I think every decision they make that gets to the point where the public knows about it as a very intentional, and it gets released when it was meant to be released. But, you know, you can kind of see that they’re playing with us as they’re doing it.
And so I think it just gives permission to small business owners. Like you don’t have to have it all, figure it out. You can kind of shift with the seas and, you know, make things as your, as it unfolds, right. Seeing what the demand is, seeing how things need to change. And, you know, there is a part of business as much as we love our planning on our spreadsheets and our strategies and all of that. There is a part of business that is the visionary, that is the CEO, and that is there just like the gut feeling and, you know, going for it. So we always say like, take that feeling and evaluate it for if it makes sense. And if it’s something sustainable and something you can scale, but you know, that gut feeling needs to exist somewhere. So I am so appreciative of you coming and bringing this topic to us. And I think it’s a really fun case study for small business owners in so many ways, because I mean, we talked about everything from audience, audience targeting to product creation, to shifting when times are crazy to scarcity and selling. And I mean, it touches on so many things. And it’s just one small example of the massive operation that is the Walt Disney world company, that
Piece about it gives you the kind of permission to realize actually, things don’t always go to plan as well. Like so as a planner, as a strategist, I sit there with my own small business and I go, right, this is what I’m doing. I’ve planned my roadmap for the year, and this is what I’m going to launch now as, and when, and then obviously these cruises came out and I plan itineraries. These don’t need itineraries, but I, you know, my positioning is Disney expertise, travel, support, that kind of aspect. So I immediately then had to shift to this and at the same time was then planning my launches for my, my wall planners. And it all got a bit crazy. And I sat there going, well, maybe this isn’t the right thing to do and questioning myself because it wasn’t along my perfectly lined up plan, which as you can imagine, was color-coded and well laid out. And actually stuff like this when they do these kinds of things and they launched something and then they pulled stuff and then there’s stuff that’s missing from the information. It kind of reminds me that actually not everything does go to plan that as a small business owner, that actually being able to shift with those changes and being able to realize that actually things don’t have to be perfect every time because they can’t be is, is a huge thing for a small business owner that has a perfectionism streak.
Well, and we’ve talked about this before, where like one of the biggest strengths of being an entrepreneur or small business owner is that we are more nimble and flexible. No, we don’t have the mighty team behind us, but things can move faster in a lot of ways because we don’t have the bureaucracy and the levels of approval that you need to have. And so there’s always strengths and weaknesses to every type of business. And I love that you brought up that even as a planner, you have to kind of roll with the punches that Disney sends out and shift gears. And, you know, even if this product gets pulled, I mean, we’ll see it’s supposed to go for sale in a few days for bookings. And, you know, even if this product gets pulled and they decide not to do it, they’ve created people who are very interested right now in getting the Disney fix. And so maybe that means they start planning their 20, 22 trips. And you’re, you’re busier than you were before because you stayed involved in this conversation and continue to like read up on it and help past clients or talk about it with potential new clients. And so being immersed in these things is still going to serve you well, even though you can’t actually help with the planning aboard the ship because it’s, the itinerary is already completed for something like that. So it’s just interesting how everything ends up relating. Thank
You guys again for joining us for another episode. And Diane, thank you so much for joining us to talk about this interesting issue and thing that’s going on in the UK. So if you want to follow Diane, you can find her on Instagram @sixcastlecompany, which I’m guessing is because there are six Disney castles right on the ticket. Okay, awesome. And if you don’t follow us on Instagram, you can find us @pixiedustandprofits. And if you haven’t joined our mailing list where we do send out super fun episode recaps there’s lots of interesting gifts and sometimes surprises. I mean, those are, those are always a reason to subscribe. You can join our mailing list at magic.pixiedustandprofits.com. Thank you again for listening and we’ll see you real soon. [inaudible].