Finding the Essence of Your Value Proposition

For those of you who know me, you know that I have a big place in my heart for the Walt Disney Company. Having worked for the “the mouse”, met the love of my life at Disney World, and gotten married on Disney property with a view of the castle in the distance, I believe in the “magic” that the Disney brand represents.

Those who have vacationed at a Disney resort (Disney World, Disney Land, etc.) know the “magic” I am referring to. If you have never been to Disney, you know what the brand represents from hearing friends and family talk about their experiences with Disney.
Disney “magic” is the emotional response created by artfully crafted traditions, theming, and customer service. The essence of Disney’s value proposition is the memories that couples, families, and friends can create.

Learning from Disney’s New Marketing Campaign

Disney’s new campaign brilliantly highlights the “magic” that real people experience. Disney knows that when they exceed guests’ expectations, their guests want to share that story with others.

By creating a platform for people to share their Disney memories, Disney is able to bring the smiles and memories that they have always highlighted in their marketing further down to the level of real people. When you see the videos online, or on TV, after a long day of work or caring for your children, you warmly think, “I remember that time.” or “That could be me.”

Avoid the Checkbox War

Disney has always done a good job of steering their value proposition away from their “features and functionality” where competitors’ marketing can easily compare and contrast rides, attraction, shows, and restaurants. They focus their messaging on the emotional benefits, like togetherness and once-in-a-lifetime memories, that they help create.
This point is highlighted in the following two ads from Disney World and Universal Studios. Universal Studios highlights a new ride, while Disney focuses on the emotions their guests experience when they visit.

Disney World Marketing Video

Universal Studios Marketing Video

Marketing the “Magic” of Your Product or Service

If most organizations have the ability to market in this way, why don’t they?

Before you move your organization toward identifying and marketing your brand’s “magic,” you should get a handle on why you have not done so thus far. This will help to know what pitfalls to look for that might derail you along the way. Here are the big ones:

  • You are busy. Understanding the deep-seated needs and problems of your audiences takes a tremendous amount of focus.

  •  It takes less time and energy to compare very apparent, surface-level product or service features than to routinely perform customer interviews, put together focus groups, and process survey data.
  •  Even experienced marketers fear making assumptions into the behavior and needs of their markets.

So, how can you rise above the noise, surpass your competition, and change the way your customers think about your product or service?

  1. Develop Personas. Have your team each give you 5 index cards with the name and role of a person who they have encountered in the market on one side, and a brief background of that person on the other side. Next, group the cards by role and name the persona. Examples include: “Doting Grandparent” or “Dan the Developer”. Have fun with this.

    At a web-based B2B software company, I developed personas which included names like “IT Ed”, “Director Denise”, and “Board Member Bob.” Each persona has characteristics and a mini-biography developed by the team both as a fun exercise to get buy-in and to personify the audiences that you are trying to impact.

  2. Get Out of the Office. Spend time with customers and non-customers representing each persona. This step begins with shutting down your computer and ends with sitting down for an in-person conversation. You can never have enough data about your market and your customer’s behavior, preferences, and true motivation. Document your discussions in as much detail as possible when you leave the interview.
  3. Dig Deep in Your Conversations. Ask your customers and non-customers open-ended questions like, why they do what they do, tell me about a good day, and walk me through a bad day. Probe further into details of their answer using phases such as, “That’s interesting. Tell me more.” The data you bring back to the office will reveal the emotional responses that your offering has the opportunity to draw out. Don’t forget to review your personas and update them, or round them out, if necessary after your in-depth interviews.
  4. Be Consistent. One of the most important elements of marketing the “magic” of your product or service often slips through our fingers. Your organization must be committed and vigilant in marketing the essence of your value proposition in all of your messages, campaigns, and interactions. If you mix features and functionality messages in with the messages that touch the root of what your customers value, you may be seen as pandering and brand identify may be muddled. Your marketing will fall flat.

    Making the shift to take advantage of your organization’s “magic” takes leadership. The execution of both your brand promise and the messages that come out of this approach cannot be spotty. Senior management must believe in the value proposition and its impact on your market in order to effectively change the conversation and reposition your organization in the eyes of your target audiences.

What Might This Look Like?

If you are selling B2B software, are you focusing on your new reporting engine?


Are you highlighting the emotions the VP feels when she is able to successfully deliver the report and presentation to the board of directors, or the emotional response of a manager when she can attend her kids soccer game rather than having to work on the weekends?

If you are marketing an association or not-for-profit organization, are you focusing on your member benefits or your parternship with your city?


Are you highlighting the feeling a family gets when they rescue a dog, the relief felt by a family in poverty that does not have to worry about finding their next meal, or the emotional response of an association member who finds success and recognition in their career through their affiliation with the organization?

How does your organization reach beyond features and functionality to tell the real story that your market will respond to?