The Walt Disney Company is an American diversified multinational mass media corporation. It is the largest media conglomerate in the world in terms of revenue. It generated US$ 42. 278 billion in 2012. Disney was founded on October 16, 1923, by Walt and Roy Disney as the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio, and established itself as a leader in the American animation industry before diversifying into live-action film production, television, and travel.
The Walt Disney Company operates as five primary units and segments: The Walt Disney Studios or Studio Entertainment, which includes the company’s film, recording label, and theatrical divisions; Parks and Resorts, featuring the company’s theme parks, cruise line, and other travel-related assets; Disney Consumer Products, which produces toys, clothing, and other merchandising based upon Disney-owned properties, Media Networks includes the company’s television and Walt Disney Interactive Media Group, Internet, mobile, social media, virtual worlds and computer games operations.
Not only is Walt Disney diversified considering their services and products, but also have they setup their business in an international diversified way: The company has chosen to set up theme parks in several countries: US (California and Florida), Japan, France, HonkKong. When Disney theme parks were created, there were many problems of management, but with the arrival of Michael Eisner, through a young and creative management, the theme parks started to gain revenues.
Management Problems in Disneyland While setting up new Disneyland’s internationally, the management came across several cultural problems especially in France and Japan these were very severe. Here some examples of the problems, which occurred in Euro-Disneyland in Paris and Tokyo. Firstly, there was a lack of understanding and appreciation of cultural differences between the U. S. and the French working and management styles. The Americans tried to copy their Disneyland model as in the US, without making much effort to understand and implement the aspects of French culture.
For instance, the definition of personal space was different. That’s why Disney guests faced problems of people getting too close or pressing around those who left too much space between themselves and the person in front. Then, there was also a blockage concerning types of food. The Americans decided to serve American food, but it was adapted to French tastes (no Tex-Mex for instance). Also, in the beginning, alcohol was prohibited. Nevertheless in the French way of life, a glass of wine during the lunch is “God- given right”.
Additionally the design of EuroDisney Park was the exact same as in Florida or California without paying any attention to the different tastes and preferences, e. g. French people prefer Victorian style etc. , but all this was completely ignored. Moreover American management implemented a very strict appearance code for the Disneyland staff, which required a height, a weight, a length of hair, a way to dress and so on, such a code is completely unacceptable for French workers and was seen as “an attack of individual liberty”.
All in all we can see that the understanding of cultural differences was utterly neglected by Disneyland’s management. One of the major problems was that management positions were mainly filled by US expatriates and the teams consisted of very view native French people who could have helped in understanding the cultural differences. Finally, we can say that the Americans used cultural imperialism.
It refers to the creation and maintenance of unequal relationships between civilizations favoring the more powerful civilization. Therefore, it can be defined as the practice of promoting and imposing a culture, usually of politically powerful nations over less potent societies. Nevertheless, they tried to calm everyone in France by organizing charity events such as birthday parties for sick children with MickeyMouse. They observed that in France, public relations were really important.
Similar problems occurred in Disneyland Tokyo, where management didn’t even think about the height difference of Asians and Americans, resulting in too high public phones for Japanese guests. Concluding it is clear that the American company originally tried to implement a standardization strategy, when launching theme parks in other countries, without taking the local culture into consideration. Country specific procedures and regulations, and different local customer preferences forced Disney to adapt features of the US theme park business model to the local markets.
Lessons the company should have learned Through past experiences Disneyland and its management teams have most certainly learnt the importance of culture and national differences in working styles, consumer preferences, laws and public expectations and that before initiating any international project the studying of the host countries culture is the outmost priority. Having a person in its top management, which already knows the language, the culture and the way of life in the welcoming country can be helpful. Nevertheless, this is not sufficient.
To work in a cross-culture environment, the company has to be open to new suggestions and be prepared to learn from new foreign employees and consumers alike. Moreover, to satisfy the local customers, cultural differences should be included in major final decisions. For instance, the price politic should be adjusted to the local expectations. The same goes for food, where local tastes need to be respected. To conclude, everything is a communication question here. Things have to be said and to be understood, in order to succeed in a common agreement.