Senior Vice President, Brand, Franchise and Customer Relationship Management
The Walt Disney Company
What points can you share from your experiences that contribute in building a successful brand?
As we know from Interbrand’s valuation work, brands create enormous value for companies – but they do this only when they are valuable to consumers. Disney’s success as a brand comes from a constant and consistent focus on consumer needs and consumer expectations. Our guests rely on Disney as a sure choice for their family entertainment needs. This means that every time they choose Disney, whether it’s for a vacation, a night out at the movies, a toy or something for the kids to watch on TV – we have to deliver. For us, that means listening to consumers, not just through research, but anywhere and everywhere that consumers are saying something about us. Fortunately, Disney is one of the most talked-about brands in the world, so there’s always a lot for us to learn. Improving our brand also means constantly asking ourselves whether we’ve done everything we can do to get it right before we go to market – and in those occasional instances when we don’t get it right, asking ourselves what we can learn to do better next time. And it means staying focused on the promise of our brand, to deliver special entertainment with heart, which for us is great storytelling, quality and innovation, good values, and especially, great fun.
How does your brand influence the decisions made at your organization?
At some companies, responsibility for brand is assigned to the marketing department, or maybe product development. At Disney, everyone, from the CEO to interns who work in our parks, is responsible in every single decision-making moment. Long before anyone else in the media and entertainment industry had recognized the power of a strong brand, Disney had made it part of how we do business. Our front-line cast members who interact directly with the public know the importance of delivering against brand expectations. Our operations teams always think about the impact of their decisions on the products we make. Finance executives must always consider the brand impact of financial decisions. At Disney, everyone is encouraged to innovate, which sometimes means taking risks. But the risks we won’t take are the ones that could jeopardize the trust that people have in our brand.
How much of a role does corporate citizenship play in managing your brand?
Perhaps because we create products and experiences that become such an important part of peoples’ lives, people care immensely not just about the products and experiences themselves, but also about the organization that stands behind them. Long before corporate responsibility became a fashionable concept, Disney has been a leading practitioner of doing the right thing by our customers. It’s been a part of our DNA that also turns out to be very good for business – because delivering against the very high expectations people have of Disney helps to build trust and love for the brand. This starts with being responsible and having public interests at heart when we create, manufacture and operate. A great example is the healthy kids’ initiative we put into place a few years ago, well before it became the prominent issue it is today. We adopted strict limits on the kinds of foods we would market to children because we knew that too many kids were developing harmful eating habits, and as Disney, we just couldn’t be part of the problem. Today, we’re part of the solution, with programs that help kids make healthy choices. This initiative is just one aspect of the public service orientation that is simply part of how we do business.
Matthew Ryan is Senior Vice President, Brand, Franchise & Customer Relationship Management at The Walt Disney Company.
Ryan’s brand management functions include the stewardship and development of Disney brand equity across the company, providing consumer input into the company’s long term strategic planning, overseeing the development and cultivation of character franchises, developing strategy and implementing practices for the collection and usage of customer data, implementing and managing the company’s cross-divisional customer relationship management (CRM) programs, including the Disney Rewards Visa Card, and focusing consumer strategy around key segments such as multicultural consumers.
Ryan joined the Walt Disney Company in 1998 as a vice president, with responsibility for brand stewardship in North America. In 2000, he was promoted to his current position, which includes overseeing brand management functions worldwide.
Ryan is a native of Buffalo and graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University with an A.B. degree in history and literature.