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How a Day With So Much Potential for Fun Went So Wrong So Quickly
the good - the bad - the ugly - & the future
Leaving for the park on the morning of Sunday August 4, 2002, I completely expected to be spending the evening writing a positive report on a great Super Pin Sunday - tie it all together with the events of the day before and get it all to Doobie in time to run as my merchandise column. Instead - as evening rolled around and my friends and family were enjoying my birthday dinner at Brennans Jazz Kitchen - I could not have been more stunned - it looked so good on paper - a brand new venue - a cute little FREE map pin event hooked to a limited edition SoundStation pin release - a limited edition pin signing event and - a general pin release. How could something so simple go so badly so quickly? And how could I spin this mess into something anyone would want to read about?
This is my attempt to set it all up - this is my take on the August 4th Map event - SoundStation Pins - the SoundStation pin release - LE Tour Guide in Training signing event and Surprise Pin release - what went right (yes - some stuff went right) - what went wrong (OK - so - lots went wrong - but nothing that can't be fixed) - and what - I hope - the future holds (didn't know that my pin bag carried a crystal ball didya'?) Ive spent the month or so - between the event and writing this column kicking the event over with friends who were there - DLR pin traders whom I trust and who had a better view of the proceedings than I did - and asking a few questions of those resort cast members and managers who have learned that they can tell me the truth without injecting either spin control or reading directly from the Company line. - there are a brave few.
Now, before you read any further - you should know that I'm more than a bit biased when it comes to relating to special merchandise events at the DLR. You see - through my years with the NFFC and my stint on Disneyland's 2001 Creative Advisory Council - I've come to know and like and respect the people whose job it was to put this event together. I also understand that nothing that happens at the resort happens in a vacuum - and the Pin Mania weekends events - as with every other event run at the Disneyland Resort - is subject to the whims and demands of cast members and managers from other departments in other divisions having nothing to do with the event itself - such is the nature of "team" merchandising. A system doomed to create failure.
Martha Blanding and Michelle Harker are - quite simply - two of the most dedicated - hard working - and creative members of the DLR merchandise team. If the time stamps on my e-mail replies from them are any indication 14-hour days are the norm. I've said it before - and I'll say it again - merchandise is the toughest gig at the resort. The pressure of so many collector factions pulling from every direction - including up - would drive most marketing and merchandise managers into the relative safely of Old Navy. It takes a "feel" for the intensity of the fan base to put an average, run-of-the-mill 1-day merchandise special event together. Requiring that they - and their teams - coordinate as many as five other DLR divisions, merchants, artists, suppliers, crafts people, designers and a litany of others. This often begins 3 to 6 months out from the actual date of the event and is at the mercy of everything from attraction refurbishment schedules to fickle fan fads to weather.
It's an impossible job - and these two work tirelessly to "get it right".
Believe me - if they weren't completely dedicated to their jobs and to the marketplace - they would have run screaming from TDA two years ago when the whole pin trading initiative came to the DLR. And would have surely crumbled under the pressure - and, yes, its true that they created or facilitated almost all of the heat that the event generated - heaped upon them during Sunday's event. So - if you want to assign credit (there is plenty) - or lay blame (and, yeah, there is some of that too) then here's where it goes. But, that's not my job. As a collector I can appreciate their work when an event goes well and as a columnist I can be critical when they fall short of their goal.
The Pin Mania Weekend was their opportunity to put all of the trials of past events together and "finally" get it right - they failed - and in doing so managed to destroy whatever they had built in the way of "good will" between themselves and their market. Its almost as though there is some unwritten rule that makes it impossible for them to relate to their audience. I keep wondering if there isnt a copy of "Reverse Marketing: Theory and Practice" under some desk on the fourth floor of TDA - its my only explanation for why they keep missing the mark. Although the disconnect - when it comes to the continued pin promotion - between DLR merchandise and their market has its roots in the debacle of Mystery Pin #16 - they have never been addressed much less corrected. In completely capitulating to a very small faction of very vocal pin collectors and e-Bay marketers any hope of controlling their product was well and truly placed beyond their grasp. It was a mistake then and it continues to impact the events today - the balance of power is in the hands of the market and not under the control of the merchandisers.
The first rule of business - any business - is "Know YOUR Audience" - and its my feeling that they simply dont know their audience. None of them are collectors - on any level - theyre merchandisers - and while they know what a "collectable" is - they have not the slightest idea what a "collector" is. Its a clash of "mind-set" and not of wills that sets them apart. Hopefully adding Timm Lundeen as their new Pin Project Manager, Store Operations for the DLR will help to facilitate the flow of information and take up the slack in the actual progress of the events from planning to follow through. Timm reports directly to Cheryl Stockwell in Store Operations. Timm understands collectors - but is used to the rather polite crowds at the gallery and in Disneyana - I only hope that he was issued a pair of asbestos long johns when he took the job.
So - here I am - a long-time pin collector/trader/enthusiast - feeling a little schizophrenic when I see an event that should have been - very easily could have been - and had they only listened to their focus groups - would have been - a wonderful pin experience go so wrong so fast and generate so much bad will in the execution.