“Inside the Disney Marketing Machine” by Lorraine Santoli – Book Foreword by Sam Tuchman, Ph.D.

Foreword

I was Lorraine Santoli’s first boss and mentor. I am honored that she
asked me to write the foreword to this book, not only because we met
at the beginning of her career and have remained friends for so many
years, but because I feel my experience as a former NBC-TV Marketing,
Research, and Strategic Planning executive qualifies me to say that Inside
the Disney Marketing Machine: In the Era of Michael Eisner and Frank Wells
is an important business book.
It was 1968. I was manager of Marketing and Management Studies in the
NBC Research Department. Since NBC was owned at that time by RCA, our
office was located in NBC’s corporate headquarters in the RCA Building in
Rockefeller Center in midtown Manhattan. We had a prestigious address:
30 Rockefeller Plaza—made famous now by the TV series 30 Rock.
My main job was to develop new ways to segment network television
audiences for advertisers beyond the standard Nielsen ratings—in particular,
by the product and brand usage characteristics of these audiences.
While most people probably believe that NBC’s product is its programming,
in point of fact its product is the audience its programming garners. The
audience is then marketed to advertisers and their agencies.
I had arrived at NBC four years earlier after working for several years at
arguably the most iconic advertising agency of that “Mad Men” era: Doyle
Dane Bernbach. Just as Michael Eisner and Frank Wells were a perfect fit
in their era of running The Walt Disney Company, the same was true at
DDB: Ned Doyle ran account management, Maxwell Dane supervised the
business side, and Bill Bernbach was the creative genius. My more humble
job in DDB’s Research Department was to supervise strategic marketing
research for the agency’s fast-growing and diverse roster of clients, which
included Volkswagen, Polaroid, and American Airlines. Our analysis of one
client, Avis Rent-A-Car, led to the development of their famous slogan,
“We’re #2/We Try Harder”.
While working at Doyle Dane Bernbach, I also earned a Ph.D. in
Economics at New York University. Shortly after obtaining my Ph.D.,
I secured the position in the NBC Research Department that I described
previously. Against this background, in 1968 I needed a new secretary and
interviewed several applicants—one of whom was Lorraine Santoli. She
was barely out of her teens at that time. I don’t remember the interview
now. But inasmuch as I hired her, I obviously was impressed by her and
liked her as a person.
Who could have predicted back then that Lorraine over the next few
decades would not only advance from secretary at NBC to corporate
director at Disney, but, more importantly, that she would play a key role in
developing a major new tool of marketing management: internal corporate
marketing? Who knew?
I stayed at NBC for most of the remainder of my business career, moving
on to become director of Research Projects and a few years later assuming
the role of director of Economic Planning. I eventually retired from
NBC after 25 years of service, then worked for a few years in investment
banking, and finally packed it in permanently.
After Lorraine left NBC, moved to California, and began working at
Disney, we kept in touch, and I followed with pleasure her advancing career.
Then, when I fully retired, my wife, Cynthia, and I decided to move to
southern California ourselves. We ended up residing not far from Lorraine’s
location and became good personal friends. My connection with her had
moved full circle.
Why This Is a Must-Read Business Book
As I said in the opening of this foreword, Lorraine Santoli’s Inside the
Disney Marketing Machine: In the Era of Michael Eisner and Frank Wells is an
important business book.
Primarily, this book provides a unique behind-the-scenes account of
how The Walt Disney Company marketed its properties not only outside
the company to consumers (Part One: Marketing Outside the Company),
but in the mid-1980s launching and implementing an internal marketing
program (Part Two: Marketing Inside the Company).
While Marketing Outside the Company provides significant insight into
Disney’s approach, Marketing Inside the Company, was indeed unique to
the Disney company during the Eisner and Wells years. The purpose of this
program was to keep all divisions and business units of the vast Disney
organization informed about what was going on around the company,
and more importantly, to motivate cross-promotion of what they were
all doing. The ultimate goal was to achieve synergy, where the sum of all
these interactions by different divisions (in revenues and profits) would
be greater than each division could achieve on its own. As Michael Eisner
succinctly put it, with synergy “1+1=3”.
A prerequisite but no guarantee for achieving synergy within any large
corporation is the support of top management. Certainly, Disney’s effort
at attaining synergy had the full and enthusiastic support of CEO Michael
Eisner and his able partner, Frank Wells, who was president and chief
operating officer.
A Corporate Synergy Department, where Lorraine worked as a manager
and then director, was set up to implement the synergy program.
This entailed recruiting synergy representatives from all areas of Disney,
developing databases of these contacts, creating a slate of internal communications,
distributing calendars, building relationships across business
segments, and more, to keep all marketing and key company executives
aware of ongoing business activities throughout the company. She also
set up working groups at different levels of management, and scheduled
frequent meetings and events where participants could bond with each
other. In the mid-1990s, when the internet was still in its infancy, Disney’s
Corporate Synergy Department actually launched an intranet to communicate
with synergy representatives. Nearly 1,000 Disney marketing,
entertainment, and creative executives were in the synergy loop.
The challenging task that Disney’s Corporate Synergy Department faced
was to motivate people around the company to get on the synergy bandwagon,
when they of course did not report to Corporate Synergy. (This
will increasingly become the norm in American business and industry,
as organizational structures flatten and hierarchical chains-of-command
disappear. Successful managers will have to lead teams of people who don’t
report to them. Motivational and collegial skills—building relationships
—will be the key to success.)
Lorraine discovered unusual ways to motivate her synergy contacts,
one of which was through food. She had regular 9 am breakfast synergy
meetings. Before the meetings food would be available—but not just the
usual coffee and Danish pastries. She arranged lavish buffets of bagels
and lox, juices, muffins, cereals, etc. Not surprisingly, everybody got to
the meetings early and had a chance to bond with each other. They were
also in a very good mood (although perhaps a couple of pounds heavier)
when the meetings started. (This is the kind of practical lesson that you
are not likely to learn at even the most advanced marketing seminar at
the Harvard Business School.)
How much did the synergy program contribute to Disney’s bottom-line
during the Eisner/Wells era (1984-1994)? This was a golden period when
everything seemed to be going right for the company, and they made
enormous amounts of money. Probably, quite substantial shares of the
growth in revenues and profits can be attributed to the synergy program.
More important, perhaps, than monetary gains, the synergy program
fostered teamwork and the bonding of people across the many business
units of Disney.
Final Thoughts
Lorraine Santoli’s achievements are especially remarkable when you realize
that she entered the business world in 1968. While opportunities were
beginning to open up for women—especially in industries like advertising,
media, and entertainment—it was not likely that a woman who started
her career as a secretary would get much farther up the ladder. Almost
invariably, women in the same jobs as men were paid less. Barriers to
entry and advancement also blocked people from minority groups and
with different sexual orientations.
It is painful now to think of how many bright, creative, and talented
people with great potential never had the opportunity to realize that
potential—and what a waste that was for American business and the
entire economy.
In today’s increasingly competitive global economy—and with disruptive
new technologies and business models shaking up established industries—
companies need every competitive advantage they can get. We can
no longer afford to squander what economists call our “human capital”.
I’ve discussed previously the flattening of corporate organizational
structures, where successful managers will be working with teams of people
who don’t report to them. Motivational, relationship-building skills will
be the key to personal and business success. Women, in particular, are apt
to have these needed skills. It is more vital than ever that they have the
opportunity to realize their full potential. Lorraine rose to the occasion,
and with her book Inside the Disney Marketing Machine: In the Era of Michael
Eisner and Frank Wells, shares a marketing wisdom that should be required
reading for marketers everywhere.
Sam Tuchman, Ph.D.
June 2015

The book is available at http://amzn.to/1IpJGMK

Walt Disney was the first Hollywood executive to use synergy within a corporate structure as shown in this illustration from the Wall Street Journal in 1958!
Walt Disney was the first Hollywood executive to use synergy within a corporate structure as shown in this illustration from the Wall Street Journal in 1958!

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