Disney is working with Steve Jobs and the Apple retail team to turn its stores into entertainment destinations. The company plans to revamp all of its 340 U.S. stores, complete with theaters where children can watch clips from their favorite Disney films. Visitors can also speak with characters via satellite, role-play costumes, interactive displays activated by computer chips built into merchandise and touch screens where parents can book a Disney Cruise.
“It’s about making this an experience rather than just picking up a toy,” said Disney rep Shawn Turner. “We want them to leave feeling like they had the full Disney experience. They don’t necessarily need to go to the park to have that experience, they can get it at the local mall.”
The new look, branded “Imagination Park,” is going to be unveiled in spring of next year in the New York area, according to Disney. Jobs, who has been on the Disney board since 2006, provided the company with proprietary information about the development and operation of Apple’s high-tech and highly successful stores.
“This is not surprising. The Disney stores were like museums that were all gift shop without the experience of the museum,” said Richard Bates, chief creative officer at branding agency The Brand Union. “Your goal is to immerse them in the brands so that they aren’t just coming into the store, they want to buy so they can have a piece of that experience.”
Bates said that the challenge is to balance the active experiences of interacting with the brand with the more passive experiences of buying products. The Soho Apple store in New York has done this successfully, he said. It allows for a wide range of participation, from those actively involved for an hour or more, to shoppers who just drop by and take a quick look at the presentation.
“You have to make sure that the activities are reinforcing the core brand message, and that they are not just enhancing the store experience, but they’re reinforcing the bigger brand message,” said Bates. “You have to build a brand experience that’s enriching enough in its own right, but also amplifies that experience after they leave the store.”