Disneyland 1955 Experience Shows How to Repackage an Aging Brand

The question for companies with long established brands is always how to keep a brand fresh for new consumers all the while keeping old consumers happy. That question is sometimes asked wrongly; sometimes it is better to keep a product fresh for current consumers who have grown tired of a product while providing an original experience for those who are seeing a product for the first time.

The latter idea is the answer that marketing folks at Disneyland have done. Take a look at the Disneyland website, and you will see that the exact same product, Disneyland, is marketed different ways. Fairy Tale Fantasy, Little Dreamers, Families With Kids, Families With Teens and 1955 Experience.

Because this is BrandlandUSA, we are fascinated by the Disney 1955 Experience. It is the Classic Coke and Tiffany Blue Box of promotions, and other destinations and products can use the trick. Quite simply, Disney took a look at the message boards and blogs, took a pulse of the American culture and saw that they still had some rides and assets that were of interest, yet getting a bit tired. So they freshened them up, did some archival research, and repackaged them for a new audience. Immediately, Small World, Mr. Toad, Autopia, Dumbo and Peter Pan’s Ride become new again, just simply by being re-marketed to 1955.

This trick is not just for theme parks, and it was not invented by theme parks. It was actually invented by historic preservationists. In Colonial Williamsburg, for example, architects Perry, Shaw & Hepburn and Williamsburg officials decided that Virginia’s colonial capital would be interpreted as Virginia around 1775 or so, on the eve of Revolution. Subsequent eras were removed. In hindsight, not all of those decisions were good, and in the process many interesting layers of history were lost. So for successive and future generations, if they are possibly interested in other eras (say Colonial Revival Williamsburg or Bicentennial Williamsburg), many of those changes have been removed. It is not an easy decision, and involves the careful weighing of eras. Whenever a historic property is opened to the public or a building is restored, curators and architects must also make the decision of what era to bring the building back to.

So what other products could use this approach?

  • Many consumer products are doing this today. “Classic” or “original” tastes of products are promoted. Original Tide, original Crest, original Colgate. Companies simply elect to keep an original version on the shelves, yet launch brand extensions to attract new consumers.
  • Car makers are also in this game. When the Ford Mustang, for instance, was redesigned, J. Mays and his team decided to relaunch the car with its 1970s groovin’ look, rather than its 1964 design. This was a conscious decision to attract the children of Baby Boomers. However, when Ford reintroduced the Thunderbird, it took the car back to the 1950s. This was a move that pleased the Baby Boomers. The price points of each of these cars and seating capacity reflected the audience.
  • Christmas is an excellent time to explore this idea. At this time, consumers are looking for both nostalgia and new experiences. Al Verrecchia, CEO at Hasbro, is brilliant at this game. Classic versions of Monopoly, Operation and Candyland are offered, all the while designing new versions of the game for different audiences.
  • Look to P&G. Always look to P&G. Its Folgers coffee brand (soon to be its own company) brings back its classic Peter “coming home” from college advertisement. The packaging and brand extensions might be different, but the advertisement is the same for short periods. These short periods are enough to punch that nostalgia button, but not too often. Punching the nostalgia button too often cheapens a brand.

Brandland USA Rule

Brands are not a zero-sum game. It is no longer an either/or proposition. It is flawed marketing to do what has been done to a brand like Burberry, where you scrap an old identity, and junk it up with trashy music and druggie looking models. This alienates the core, and the core wants to spend money elsewhere. If you want to do attract new audiences, keep the brand Burberry, but then launch a spin-off.

You go back to the archives, talk to customers, lurk on fan websites and find out what worked back then, and what products consumers still want. Dig those products up, and see if they have a market. And if you have an old product that is a bit tired, don’t recast the whole thing. Instead, remove the intrusions and changes that have creeped in over the years, and take the product back to its origins.


  • Garland Pollard

    J. Garland Pollard IV is editor/publisher of BrandlandUSA. Since 2006, the website BrandlandUSA.com has chronicled the history and business of America’s great brands.

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