The Synergy Connection

Properly incorporated into a business environment, synergy can skyrocket profits through the process of internal cross-communication.  If you don’t think that’s true, just look at The Walt Disney Company during the era of Michael Eisner and Frank Wells (1984-1994).  They were the Hollywood synergy masters that elevated Disney from a company that had been in a deep sleep since the death of the founder of the Mouse House, Walt Disney in 1966, to the number one entertainment organization in the world.  Synergy played a big part.

In fact, Eisner and Wells were fanatical about synergy.  They inspired it, cultivated it, promoted it, worked it, and made it an everyday part of the Disney lexicon.  I served as Director of Corporate Synergy for a decade during Eisner and Wells’ tenure and developed a marketing and communications process that was integrated across Disney’s then 60 independent business segments.  But not everyone believed in the “s” word, back then and especially today.  It was an is considered a business “buzzword” with no real power, a bark without a bite you might say.  At least that’s what most Hollywood and other executives in corporate America contended.

But we at Disney knew differently.  The “1 + 1 = 3” methodology  was as real as the ever-growing company profits that Disney enjoyed because of synergy’s power within the walls of the company.  But even today, using the word synergy is often derided, leading to such 21st century euphemisms as partnership marketing, franchise marketing, and business intelligence, among others. It’s still synergy, even if corporations can’t bring themselves to use the “s” word.

We always kept the synergy process at Disney close to our vest.  It was our secret formula to ignite projects, such as a big animated film or a theme park anniversary, to higher levels than they could ever reach on their own because almost every division in the company added a synergy component to their marketing plans.  So “The Lion King,” for instance, was no longer just a new Disney movie.  On opening day of the film, the theme parks premiered “The Lion King” Parade, the music division released the soundtrack, Consumer Products had thousands of licensed merchandise pieces launched at retail across the country, “Lion King” computer games were premiered, countless promotions with Disney corporate alliance partners such as Burger King, Payless Shoes, Sears, and so many more were also added to the mix.  And this was just the tip of the iceberg.  The final “Lion King” Synergy Recap Report included internal cross-promotions with almost every one of the corporation’s 60 divisions.  The final list required 30 single-spaced typewritten pages.  And all of this was just for the film opening.  Who knew at that time that “The Lion King” would end up on Broadway with productions circling the globe and still going strong on the Great White Way for over twenty years!

The synergy formula was in operation all the time for every high priority company project for every day of the ten years I spent in the role of Director of Corporate Synergy.  But exactly how did we make it work so seamlessly when other companies can’t seem to grasp it?  Without being blatantly promotional, but rather informational, the synergy process as applied to marketing across the Disney company is detailed for the first time in my recently released book, “Inside the Disney Marketing Machine – in the Era of Michael Eisner and Frank Wells” (  It explains how the program was devised, what materials were created, how the concept was fostered across all company divisions, and how it was woven into the very fabric of the company.  The process works and it can be incorporated into the marketing process at any company if handled correctly.

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