Disney’s CMO on gender stereotypes and moving beyond the ‘pink factor’

Walt Disney’s UK and Ireland CMO Anna Hill talks to Marketing Week about reflecting the changing needs of girls and how Frozen is an example of a new type of Disney hero.


Q: Girls are looking for brands to go beyond the ‘pink factor’ when marketing to them – is this something Disney recognises?

In terms of the pinkness, we don’t feel that all girls are the same. Some audiences may be looking for more traditional fairy tales but others are looking for strong, independent characters and we see that we can deliver on both through characters such as Elsa and Anna in Frozen.

Q: Do you feel that Disney creates role models that inspire or empower young girls?

Yes, absolutely. We are consistently looking at ways to demonstrate positive messages through our stories. We find kids have a magical, lifelong relationship with our characters. At the core of their stories, it is their inner qualities and bravery that always shines through and defines them, and we hope these characteristics will be an inspiration to kids and adults alike.

Q: Has there been a conscious shift towards stronger lead female roles in Disney films such as Frozen, Brave and Tangled?

Over the last 80 years we have evolved the Disney Princess franchise – staying true to the heritage of our ‘traditional’ princesses and representing broader character attributes that are relevant to today’s generation.

Frozen is a great example. It’s a modern interpretation of The Snow Queen, which tells the story of two sisters, Elsa and Anna, who also happen to be princesses. Together, they embody Disney’s heritage in princess storytelling but demonstrating more independent characteristics and great strength.

Q: In what ways does Disney keep up with behavioural trends of girls?

We speak to 50,000 children every year across Europe about their lifestyle, aspirations and needs across the media. Speaking directly to our audience and their caregivers, listening and asking the right questions is the key way that we keep up with behavioural trends.

Q: What trends are you seeing from your own research?

We find girls (and boys) are less defined by age, but more by stage, meaning that children go through different stages; being more confident, wanting to express themselves, play patterns, etc. but this can happen at different ages depending on the children. Therefore girls of 5 and girls of 8 can enjoy doing the same thing.

Hill was speaking to Marketing Week’s as part of our ‘Why brands are losing relevance with girls’ report. Read it in full here.

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