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Theme park branding gone wrong on Twitter – DePaoli on DeParks

by Jeff DePaoli

Although Twitter may not be the hippest of social media platforms out there, I’ve always found it to be a great resource for learning news and staying up-to-date on areas of interest. Granted, in the theme park world, it requires getting past a lot of negativity and controversy. But if you know the right accounts to follow, it can be helpful and informative. Of course, if you’re a theme park fan, you’re most likely following the official Disney Parks and Universal Studios accounts. They’re both usually quite good at staying on brand, but recently, something went sideways.

theme park

The primary purpose of these Twitter accounts is obviously to keep visitors informed about the parks and to advertise the latest and greatest offerings — but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have personality. The Disney brand in general is distinguished and proper, and therefore, their Twitter account typically reflects that. Universal parks, on the other hand, are perceived as more adventurous, perhaps more “dangerous;” if Universal were a kid in school, they’d probably be in detention on a regular basis. I think the best word to describe Universal’s Twitter accounts is “sassy.”

Universal takes jabs at its competition and sometimes makes shocking remarks, but it’s completely on-brand and exactly what I expect from the Universal Twitter accounts. I can honestly say that I think I laugh out loud more at the Universal parks Twitter accounts than I do any show on television. It feels relentless and random, yet once again, so on-brand that it simply works.

Disney, however, is very straight and to-the-point, sprinkled with pixie dust and magic… at least, that’s how they typically are. Something happened recently that I’m still not quite sure how to comprehend. The Disneyland Resort sent out a tweet quoting the OC Register (@ocregister) with a headline reading “Universal Studios Hollywood costs nearly 10 times more per ride than Disneyland.”

Obviously, Disneyland was very proud of this “achievement” of costing less per ride and wanted to share it with their followers. I’m not quite sure they got the response they were hoping for, because if you read the comments there are a lot of negative reactions.

@MikeRozek replied, “While Disney may have an edge on cost per ride, they have completely abdicated their customer experience position, and I’m beginning to have serious doubts about their strategy. There is an obvious reboot of the Disney customer relationship that many are losing tolerance for.”

@DLPWelcome replied “To say that Universal Hollywood is the most expensive park in the world with a simple calculation of the park ticket/number of rides proves an alarming amateurism […] Then Walt Disney Studios Paris is the worst/[most] expensive park in the world”

These two Twitter accounts make valid points, and there are far more other replies with similar sentiments. The overwhelming majority of the replies seem to have backlashed with negative response. Yet, over a week later, that initial tweet by Disneyland hasn’t been deleted. For a company that is typically extremely protective of their brand, that seems to have gone out the window a bit these days.

Perhaps the best argument in Disneyland’s favor is that some would say it’s hypocritical for fans to think it’s funny when Universal is sassy, but offensive or disappointing when Disney does it. I would argue that it all comes back to the brand. Disney is the squeaky-clean child that doesn’t want to upset anyone and wants to impress its best friend’s parents. Universal’s brand is the anti-Disney, the “troublemaker.” Therefore, this change in tone for Disney is a hard one to simply accept as it’s a drastic change and quite confusing.

The reality is that Disney was the leader in the theme park community for a very long time. Although there are certain things that still sets Disney apart (Walt Disney World’s size, for example) the competition of Universal is creeping in on them. Pretty soon, with the opening of Epic Universe, Universal Orlando will have only one less theme park than Walt Disney World, even with its drastically smaller amount of land available. (Sorry, Volcano Bay. I love you but you’re not a theme park.) And Universal has really kicked it up in the customer service area, where Disney used to lap them. Disney, on the other hand, seems to have more and more customer service issues each passing day, as disgruntled fans are beginning to turn their backs to a brand that is (or perhaps was) a lifestyle for many.

A simple tweet might seem like a trivial thing to make such a bold statement about. But the fact is that sort of persona would have never been presented by Disney in the past. The tide is changing. The question is, will the fans stick around for all of these changes? Only time will tell.

What do you think about this particular quote tweet? Do you find it jarring and off-brand, simply funny, or something else.? Leave a comment and let me know.

If you have any theme park topics you would like to hear my opinion on, let me know in the comments. You might just see it pop up in a future DePaoli on DeParks.


Jeff DePaoli is a producer and voiceover artist living in Los Angeles. He can be heard as the voice of Disney Trivia on Alexa as well as the host of “Dizney Coast to Coast,” the ultimate, unofficial Disney fan podcast. Get your FREE gifts of “America’s Hidden Mickeys,” “On the Rohde Again,” “Theme Park Comfort Kit” and more at DizneyCoastToCoast.comDePaoli’s opinions are his own and do not necessarily represent Attractions Magazine.

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