Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The snowball effect.

It's easy to predict the upcoming success of Avengers II: The Age of Ultron but many tend to forget the first Iron Man movie was a risk by Marvel.

In early 2014 there were multiple stories about why Frozen was resonating with families and continuing to draw audiences in to watch, sing and enjoy. Yet, there is not one story in October of 2013, right before the release of the Disney movie, that predicted the overwhelming success it would have. This Christmas was inundated with Frozen-themed products but not so much in 2013 because it even caught Disney by surprise, along with the timing of the release.

And, go back in time in the early 90s when animators at Disney were clamoring to be part of the next installment they thought would be huge, Pocahontas. This meant that many junior animators were left to work on the secondary movie in production at the time, Lion King.

Companies, organizations, and even individuals spend an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out, even predict what will be the next "blockbuster" in their field. Yet, predicting the future is difficult, at best, to do -- impossible is more like it.

What Disney does so well is they plan for what I call the snowball effect. In essence, Disney rolls multiple snowballs down the hill and stand ready for the ones that begin to grow, waiting to take advantage of the opportunities (albeit sometimes slowly).

In 2014 Disney released Maleficient, Big Hero 6, and Into the Woods - each performed well at the box office. Also that year, they released Million Dollar Arm, Planes: Fire & Rescue, Muppets Most Wanted, and Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day -- each one opened and closed quickly at the box office. However, each served as a small snowball for Disney to roll down the hill and watch for momentum to kick in.

In 2015 Disney will release Avengers II and the next installment in the Star Wars franchise -- each, in my opinion, a snowball effect in that the success tied to these movies is based in large part on the small snowballs that were released at the top of the hill years ago.

However, can anyone right now predict the success of Disney's Tomorrowland movie releasing later this
year? Will it become the next Frozen? Disney is not sure either yet they have packed it up into a small snowball, and they will roll it down the hill and see if momentum grows it -- if it does, then they will kick into gear all of the other facets to take advantage of its success.

What can we learn from this? Yes, it is vital to spend time to determine which snowballs are worth releasing at the top of the hill but do you, as a company, have a plan to take advantage of the growth momentum of that snowball should it begin to gain speed and size?

Have you spent time on What if scenarios to extend the brand? To expand the distribution channel? To increase the awareness and revenue once the little snowball begins to grow?

It is difficult to predict which video will go viral, but it is not difficult to be ready for it should it gain momentum.

UPDATE: Since publishing this blog post this morning, a friend sent along this story from the Disney CFO that provides further evidence of what this post is all about: Disney CFO Outlines Movie Financing Strategy

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