We were recently working with a client on a project that had, at its core, the idea of connectivity. We were working on taking the existing suite of services offered by our client and looking for ways to connect new ideas, creating a bridge of value between the new and the old. It was a challenging to create something that used that type of leverage to develop impact.
Perhaps no company in history has been more successful at this idea than The Disney Company. The brains and imagination behind the most successful acquisitions of the past 50 years has been Bob Iger. It would be safe to say that over the past decade Iger has spearheaded the greatest group of connected acquisitions in corporate history.
The challenge of any acquisition is finding the highest and best connection points so the both the parent company and the acquired company have the best chance to succeed. There need to be connections on balance sheets, within budgets, on the cultural front and the actual services and products provided.
Iger is a man of vision and his role in marrying Pixar Animation, Marvel Comics and LucasFilm demonstrates his genius in connectivity. It might make many of us think how can Darth Vader, Nemo and Iron Man find common ground with Mickey, but not only did they connect, they shared a creative spark unlike anything the business world has ever seen.
Disney has always been a master at connecting. Disney stories formed the heart of their theme parks and made seamless transitions to product lines. The number one rated ride at the Disney parks has long been Pirates of the Caribbean which then became a tent pole film franchise. The Lion King went from a smash at the movie theater to a revolutionary hit on Broadway and soon to follow The Jungle Book in becoming a live action film.
In 2006 Iger personally negotiated the purchase of Pixar from Steven Jobs. He focused on keeping the creative team together and cultivated the existing culture. Disney now had a new cadre of characters and a seemingly endless stream of computer-generated, Oscar-winning animated films. Next, he set his sights on Marvel Comics. In 2009, for a mere $4 billion Disney grabbed Marvel and brought with them over 400 heroes and villains. Their transition to the silver screen, in the Disney way, made The Avengers the third most profitable film in history. The caped good guys and bad guys just seem to keep coming. Then, in October of 2012, Disney scrounged around for another $4 billion plus and acquired LucasFilm and a data base that contain literally thousands of characters on 1000’s of planets spanning 20,000 years with a mythology as rich as that of the Greeks.
Now continue on the connected value journey and you will soon discover more connections than a DNA molecule. Movies, TV, toys and products, theme park rides and attractions are just the highly visible leverage found in these connections. Iger and Disney were able to see the value of an imaginary universe.
You need three things to create value-based connections:
- It has to be worthy. It must elevate and not damage your brand.
- It has to help you competitively. Does it continue to separate and differentiate you in your market?
- It has to endure. The better decisions you make on creating connections, the better your chance that all your effort will carry you into the future.
In 1985, when a very young ex-surfer had the idea to create a strategy based company around a series of unique and dynamic ideas, I was honored that my first client was The Disney Company.