We recently had the chance to speak with Disney’s new head of Disney Consumer Products (DCP), Meagan Sanders. Meagan was recently appointed General Manager of DCP & Retail for Australia & New Zealand. She joins Disney with a distinguished list of accomplishments in building and managing successful teams and brands for several large corporations prior to arriving at Disney. Meagan is known as a strategic thinker and meticulous planner who now intends to apply her skills to taking DCP to new levels in both Australia & New Zealand. The Walt Disney Company is fortunate to have a broad portfolio featuring some of the world’s most dynamic brands – including Disney, Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm – which provides them with significant clout in the marketplace. However, with the recent consolidation of our mass retail market, there are many challenges that lie ahead.
We speak to Meagan about her plans for the Disney business and her perspective on the market and the upcoming year: Meagan first of all can you tell us a little bit about your vision for the business over the coming 12 months?
The team at Disney Consumer Products ANZ is passionate about bringing much-loved stories and characters to life through creative, innovative and engaging products and experiences, allowing the story to grow and live on for our fans. In the next 12 months, I am very focused on taking these same products and experiences to partners, and ultimately consumers, in exciting, new and unexpected ways.
As you take on this new corporate role we are most interested in your outlook for the next three years?
There has been a lot of change and uncertainty at retail. But the one thing that is a constant is the necessity to develop product that meets or anticipates a customer’s authentic needs, which then allows you to build a genuine connection. To that end, consumer engagement and insights will remain the bedrock of how we navigate the market.
You are well known for building and managing cohesive and high achieving teams around you. In general terms how do you see the structure of your team coming together and will you make adjustments to how they provide services to the market?
The focus is really about building the team from a place of strength. If everyone hones in on the value they individually bring, what we can achieve collectively is spectacular. In all of this, trust and relationship building, internally and externally, are paramount. Through open authentic dialogue, we will figure out if any adjustments are needed.
We have seen a significant consolidation of distribution options in this market. How do you intend to speak to the market and secure brand placement for consumers to have free access to Disney Intellectual Property?
I agree that there has been a lot of consolidation, but there has also been a lot of fragmentation. What we are starting to see are some interesting green shoots around new distribution opportunities. Critical to the franchise approach at Disney is investing in building brands that have tremendous elasticity. That elasticity often gives up greater permission to go into new and different directions. It’s definitely exciting times.
The online route to market has continued to become more savvy and accessible to the consumer. How do you see it working within your marketing mix?
It’s an enormous focus for us. Our digital ecosystem really is the life-force for how we maintain and deepen connections with our consumers. We will continue to explore digital as an opportunity for story-telling and story-selling in 2017 and beyond.
Amongst your tasks for 2017 will be the marketing and management of a significant movie slate. As we are all aware, movies require a unique and strategic marketing approach to maximise opportunity. With big films such as Beauty and the Beast to Cars 3 and Star Wars: The Last Jedi to name just a few, can you tell us where your priorities lie?
We are fortunate to have a portfolio of the biggest entertainment brands in the world, but through integrated planning, we are able to manage those big beats across the course of the year, meaning that we have something relevant to talk to our fans about every quarter. In the first half of the year, Beauty and the Beast, Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Cars 3 and the celebrations around the 40th anniversary of Star Wars are providing an incredibly well-rounded program for boys, girls and millennials. Moving to the back half of 2017, Spider-Man Homecoming looks incredible. We also have the latest epic installation in the Marvel universe, Thor Ragnarok; Pixar’s Coco; and an exciting new short for Frozen rounding out the year. And then of course, who can look past the eighth film in the Star Wars saga, Star Wars: The Last Jedi. With the incredible fan support we saw for Episode 7 and most recently, Rogue One, and early insights that we have from the upcoming film, we know it will be an equally incredible installation to the Stars Wars saga.
Being in possession of Disney, Marvel and Lucas portfolios, is a fortunate position to be in, how will you manage this to achieve maximum performance?
Customer and category insight and partnership are critical. We are focused on optimising every opportunity so that they are right-sized against the customer demand. We treat every franchise like it is our only franchise to ensure that we are cultivating brands that continue to evolve and maintain their relevance.
Meagan, how do you see the evolution of distribution in our market for brand owners and their partners likewise?
The real opportunity is to lean into the consumer and shopper. If you can find genuine connection points and build brands that hold a vital and meaningful role in customers’ lives, then you will naturally continue to evolve how and where you distribute.
One of the key trends contained within the recent second LIMA Licensing Survey was the move towards an Omni channel environment, with anytime, any channel engagement being key. Is this a priority for your business?
It is, as increasingly consumers do not distinguish between online and offline. A priority for the business is to simplify the way our consumers discover and buy all things Disney.
Meagan, where do you see the growth categories for The Walt Disney Company in 2017?
Disney will continue to have an incredibly strong boys and toys program in 2017. We also expect to see strong growth around the Disney original characters, Mickey and Friends, particularly in youth fashion.
What are your key priorities for Disney in 2017?
Our priorities are working with our partners and customers to navigate the current marketplace, and continuing to build epic franchises that engage and delight. Ultimately, it’s all about developing meaningful customer connections and bringing joy to our consumers.
Meagan, we really appreciate you taking the time to provide us with an insight into your plans for Disney over the coming months and years. We trust that 2017 will provide opportunity for licensing across our market and we look forward to following your business and brands as they launch to market.