Disney is Becoming Quite a Nudge… And Why I Love It

Nov 11

I recently had the pleasure of spending nearly a week at the Walt Disney World resort in Florida with my family.  With the major decisions of each day being which theme park to visit, which attraction to head for first, and how to strategically select THE ride to use our precious “Fast Pass” chits on, it was a wonderfully stress-free vacation.

True, I am a “Disney Person.” I love the creativity and magic that the company stands for.  As a marketer, I’m fascinated by how brilliantly Disney integrates marketing into everything it does, yet I don’t find it the least bit annoying.  How do they do that?  And true to Disney form, each time I visit their parks, I leave impressed by something else.   This time it was the Dining Plan.  Seriously.

I was aware of Disney’s announcement several years ago that it would no longer license is characters to food products with limited nutritional value. I also had seen on a previous trip that carrots and grapes had replaced fries in many of the kids’ meals at the park, and that fresh fruit was readily available at all of the snack stands.

I expected to see that continue on this trip, and it did.

I also got a pleasant surprise: waiters and waitresses at every restaurant we visited actively encouraged my kids to choose from the healthier options on the menus.  What an amazing experience that was!  At dinner after dinner, our servers suggested grilled chicken, grilled fish, veggies and fruit as part of the “complete kids meals.”  They joked with the kids about how much better they’d feel riding the next roller coaster if their bellies were filled with healthy food.  And they whispered questions to me about whether they should even mention that chocolate milk and chicken nuggets were options.  And I wasn’t even wearing my public health hat!

My kids didn’t choose the healthier option every single time, but most times they did.  And they ate more fruits and vegetables than I ever could have hoped for on a trip like that.

It was obvious that we didn’t just stumble upon seven different servers in seven different restaurants across four parks who were personally passionate about healthier eating.  I’m not good with statistics, but I know the odds of that happening randomly are pretty unlikely.  It was clear that their actions and encouragement were part of a broad corporate commitment.  They had been trained to promote the healthy stuff.  In essence, Disney was “nudging” us… making it easier – and even more fun – to choose the healthy option.  Wow.

I still would like to see Disney make some more changes. I wish they’d switch to skim milk from 1%.  And I wish they’d make the lunch options for kids even healthier.  Adults have plenty of opportunities to choose a salad, but most of the kids’ lunch meals still revolve around chicken nuggets, pizza, and hot dogs.  But at least those meals automatically come with carrots and grapes – you have to make a big point of asking for the fries instead – so that’s a step in the right direction.  I hope that I’ll see even more changes the next time I visit Walt Disney World.

Bravo Disney, for continuing to adjust your business model and put your influence to good use.  Imagine what could happen if more and more companies got into the nudge business?

This entry was posted on Thursday, November 11th, 2010 at 2:55 pm and is filed under Behavior Change, Policy, Public Health, Social Marketing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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