3rd February 2016

Is Star Wars the Force Behind Disney’s Brand Strength?

Disney has now overtaken Lego as the world’s most powerful brand. That’s according to the findings of the latest Brand Finance 500 report, which found that the beloved children’s film maker now has a “brand strength” of 91.8, compared with Lego’s score of 91.6 and L’Oréal’s 91.5.

This is great news for Disney. Its brand strength score – calculated by studying the company’s marketing investment, brand equity and subsequent business performance – is an important barometer of the added value a brand can bring to a product or organisation, by helping to retain loyal consumers and attract new customers.

But what has contributed to Disney’s rise, and Lego’s fall?

Well, Disney has always enjoyed a strong brand, thanks to a heritage of consistently successful films and TV programmes. This is, of course, bolstered by a host of other feathers in its broad-brimmed cap, from its popular theme parks, to clever merchandising.

What has made a big difference this year though, is Star Wars. The recently released Star Wars: The Force Awakens has raked in more than $2 billion worldwide, making it Disney’s most successful film ever. As a result, the Star Wars brand is now thought to be worth more than $10 billion. This is more than double the $4 billion Disney forked out to acquire the franchise’s parent Lucasfilm back in 2012. It seems that, working together, these two well-established brands are a force to be reckoned with.

For Lego, on the other hand, the story over the last year has been rather different. Known and loved by consumers all over the world as a wholesome, family-friendly brand, the Danish toymaker has been embroiled in a few controversies recently. For example, it was fined by German regulators for trying to stop retailers offering discounts on its products, by threatening to cut or even withhold the supply of toys if shops tried to sell them at reduced prices. Lego has also been accused of colluding in censorship for attempting to prevent dissident Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei from using Lego bricks in his work.

These are not major scandals, by any means, but they have all served to erode Lego’s brand equity – the goodwill it has accumulated with consumers – and impacted on business performance. Nevertheless, Lego is hardly down and out. It is still in second place, with a brand identity that is the envy of brands big and small all over the world.

With such demonstrably strong brands as a springboard, both Disney and Lego are in a strong position to grow their businesses and grab a greater share of their respective markets in 2016.

To keep its position at the top of the pile though, Disney needs to continue to capitalise on the current consumer enthusiasm for Star Wars. Clever merchandising can help, as can communications campaigns to engage with fans in the digital spaces they spend most time in. Star Wars has a host of dedicated online forums that Disney can use to maintain relationships with existing fans, while Twitter and other more mainstream social media provide the ideal tools to reach out to Star Wars newcomers.

Lego, meanwhile, needs to examine its marketing if it wants to reinstate its brand at the top of next years’ chart. In addition to communications around new product launches and upcoming films, it needs to highlight the work it does in the community. Through the Lego Foundation, for example, the toymaker supports education programmes for disadvantaged in nine countries around the world. Communicating positive messages like this can help the brand rebuild its family-friendly image and, possibly, steal back the brand strength crown.

Whatever marketing route both companies decide to go down though, it will be interesting to see how Disney and Lego capitalise on their enormous brand power over the next year.

By Michael Wood, Senior B2B Copywriter