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A Lesson From Disney On Creating An Unforgettable Brand Experience

I haven't always been obsessed with Disney. In fact, it wasn't until adulthood that I fell in complete-head-over-heels-heart-eyes love with Disney. And it wasn't even for the thing they're best known for (their movies), it was for the parks.

Especially Disneyland. Maybe I'm a #westcoastbestcoast girl, or maybe it's because the magic is more concentrated (but that's a topic for a different blog post!). But if you ask me, Disneyland is perfect. Absolute perfection.

And I'm not the only adult who feels this way. In fact, one may think Disney's target audience is children, but kids don't have money. Disney's true target audience is adults—with money.

What is it exactly about Disneyland that makes it so irresistible to kids and adults alike? Well, if there's only one thing Disney does well, I think we can all agree it's storytelling. And the storytelling doesn't end with their films. It continues in their parks.

In fact, I'd dare to say their storytelling gets even better in the parks.

Disney has perfected their immersive atmosphere by paying attention to details and creating a layered brand experience for their guests that engages all five of the senses. From the moment you set foot through the gate you are completely enveloped in the magic of the Disney brand and story telling. From the posters on the walls to the colors of the flowers, every single thing you see, smell, hear, touch, and taste was put in front of you with intention.

That's exactly why Disneyland has been able to raise it's ticket prices over 50% from $72 for a 1-day ticket in 2009 (when my love affair started), to $135 for the same ticket in 2019 in an effort to reduce the number of people in the parks, but has actually seen their attendance increase over the same time period. The immersive experience they've created is unparalleled and exclusive only to them.

And you can use the same magic to create an unforgettable customer experience in your own business that will have your fans lining up at the gate for you.

No matter if you own an online business or a brick and mortar store, you can engage your customers' senses in a way that makes them excited to spend their money with you and look forward to the next time they can engage with you again.


Ever notice when you're in Disneyland how it feels like you've been completely transported to another time and place? When in fact, you're completely surrounded by hotels, busy Southern California freeways, and the Anaheim convention center—all, quite literally, across the street. But once you're inside you don't see any of it. Disney has strategically built their parks to block out the noise of the world and create a magical cocoon in which all your cares melt away. They pay attention to things like sight lines to make sure you're only seeing what they want you to see, when they want you to see it. They use buildings and curved walkways to block out things that would break the illusion, they consider every tiny detail that's in your line of vision (even down to the trash cans!) of utmost importance to make sure your transition from land to land is completely seamless. And did you know they even strategically created a paint color (actually two!) that they research and formulated specifically to be ignored so your eye wistfully glosses over the big ugly show buildings? That's how much they know the value of clean sight lines can add to their guest experience.

So how can you apply this to your brand?

Use your brand to its fullest possible extent. Create your website to be an extension of your brand come-to-life. Create visual texture with things like color, pattern, images, and shapes. It's about more than just dishing up eye candy, it's about engaging their sight in a meaningful way that aligns strategically with your business. Creating a visual experience within your brand makes it fun for your customers to discover new things and feel wholly immersed when they engage with your business.

It can be helpful to walk through your business as if you were a customer. Visit your website, walk through your checkout process, create a shipment for yourself. When we're inside the business it can be hard to see your brand for what it really is. Getting an outside perspective will help you see all the touch points your customer has so you can make sure your brand is reaching all of them.


This is the section in which I'll make myself clear—I'm not a theme park girl. I'm a Disney girl. And much of the distinction is due to the smell (you ever catch a whiff of a generic theme park on a hot day? HARD PASS).

Even as I'm sitting here writing this, if close my eyes and imagine myself standing smack in the middle of Main Street, U.S.A. I can practically smell the warm popcorn and fish cookies wafting through air. Do you know why that is? Is it because our sense of smell is more closely linked to memory than any of our other senses? Or is it because Disney pipes in the smell of popcorn when you first enter the park to create the same sense of anticipation you feel when you're about to experience an exciting new movie in the theater? If you yelled out "BOTH!" You are correct!

Both of those things are absolutely true. Our sense of smell is directly tied to the place in our brain where memories are created. Smells are taken from our nose, straight to our brain and processes directly in the amygdala (which is also where our emotions are processed). This is why scent is SUCH a strong trigger for emotional connection. Disney knows that creating an olfactory experience will enhance your memories which is why they do their best to make it a pleasant one. You won't smell putrid garbage cans or overflowing dumpsters here.

(PS—Disney also pumps scent into other attractions to enhance the experience. Most notably the scent of oranges in Soarin’ Over California as you fly over the orange groves of Anaheim, but even in less noticeable ways like they way they add a dusty scent to the haunted mansion to magnify it’s old, spooky hauntedness. )

So how can you apply this to your brand?

When I think of scents and branding three businesses immediately come to mind—Anthropologie and their signature scent Volcano by Capri Blue, The Body Shop and their citrusy signature scent Satsuma, and of course, Abercrombie & Fitch and their musky scent that instantly takes me back to 2003 any time I catch a whiff. If you have a shop that you welcome customers into I'd highly recommend finding a deliciously irresistible signature scent that becomes part of your brand, and then sell it to your customers so they can enjoy it and think of your business all the time. (Take it from my personal experience with my Anthro Volcano candle—now not only does the scent make my home feel like Anthropologie, it makes Anthropologie feel like home.)

And, for my online business friends, since websites aren't exactly scratch and sniff you can get creative with this. Did I engage your sense of smell when I mentioned the popcorn on Main Street? What about if I say something like "book your services with us and we'll help take the stress away almost as much as a plumeria scented Maui breeze..." What about that? Did you feel like you could smell the plumeria?! Ok well, I'm not a copywriter, but you get the point. Use some smelly adjectives to trigger those olfactory memories and create good vibes in your customer.


Did you know Disney actually puts a special polyurethane coating on the shoes of the horses going down Main Street? (I was actually today-years-old when I learned that. Thanks Google!) Apparently it helps make that clip-clop sound of their hooves on the pavement even more clippy-cloppy, heightening nostalgia and creating a more thematic experience for you, the guest.

Were you like me in high school and created a mix CD every single summer, with the perfect songs in the perfect order to score your perfect summer day? That's the vibe Disney is leaning into by paying attention to what you hear when you're at the parks. They're creating a cinematic soundtrack for your experience.

So how can you apply this to your brand?

If you have a brick and mortar shop, crank up the tunes. And I don't mean just playing the top 40 on Spotify (unlesss that's your brand's jam, then by all means.) Think about the kind of experience you want your customers to have, the kind of moment you want them to be living in when they're in your store and then create a soundtrack for it.

For online business owners, DO NOT UNDER AND CIRCUMSTANCES PUT AUTOPLAYING MUSIC, SOUND EFFECTS, OR VIDEOS ON YOUR WEBSITE. They're dated and startling and the most effective way to get people to bounce right off your website. When it comes to caring for the soundtrack of your client's experience, less is more in this case. However, there are still places within your business where sound can enhance your client's experience. Videos you create, Podcast episodes, Tik Toks and Reels. Choose sound intentionally in these areas will make your content more engaging and feel more like a cohesive brand experience.


For Disney, no detail is too small. They care about everything above you, below you, around you, and in your hands. Their merchandising is on point. Do I have a Woody doll in my office that looks and feels exactly like what I imagined he would when I first saw him in Toy Story? Yes, yes I do. They are geniuses at taking the imaginary and making it tangible. Everything you touch when you're in one of their parks is branded. From the special Starbucks cup design to the Mickey shaped pretzel. I mean, it's just a soft pretzel but somehow it tastes better when it's Mickey shaped and that makes me willing (And excited!) to pay more. Why exactly do things taste better when they're Mickey shaped? It's not because the recipe is different, it's because we have emotional ties to it. I feel more connected to the brand, therefor deepening my positive experience, when I can partake in something Mickey shaped.

So how can you apply this to your brand?

Creating an elevated, tactile experience within your brand for your customers is hugely influential in their perception of your brand. Do you sell a high end offer but your business cards are flimsy? That's going to trigger a disconnect in the mind of your customer and make them question the quality of what they get when they buy from you. Everything from packaging design, shipping materials, paper selection, and printing quality has an effect on the perception of your brand. Putting care in to make sure your touch points match the brand experience you want your customers to have will create trust in your customers and more cohesive overall brand experience.


Disneyland crushes it when it comes to food. They offer things you can't get anywhere else. The Dole Whip just hits different when you're eating it in Adventureland and those turkey legs are unmatched! Each land has some kind of exclusive special offering that gets your mouth drooling for it anytime you think about it. The key here is exclusivity. That Dole Whip is ONLY in Adventureland. Those turkey legs are ONLY on Main Street. The weird blue and green milks are ONLY in Galaxy's Edge. Those exclusive flavors become synonymous with the your memories and experience and keeps you going back for more.

So how can you apply this to your brand?

What can you create in your brand that's exclusive? What can you offer your customers that they can only get with you? If you have a coffee shop, maybe it's a creative signature drink, or a rotating seasonal menu. If you're a service provider, what do you offer (or what can you add) that is proprietary to your process? Finding your secret sauce and pouring it all over your business will make your business stand out from others and be more memorable.

Creating an immersive, layered brand experience in your business will help you attract more customers and get people talking about your business so you can grow. It's the special attention to detail that gets people excited, and by paying attention to those things you're communicating to your customers that you care about them. And, if you need a little help—we're here for you! Our in depth brand strategy process will help to uncover the ways your business is unique and help you find ways to create your own magic.

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About the Author

Brittany Wong

Brittany Wong is the Founder and Creative Director of Happyland Creative®, a design studio helping small business owners make more money with their branding.