I was driving down the freeway and couldn’t help but notice a large billboard bearing an advertisement for Toy Story 4. My eyes were full of excitement like a child stepping foot in Disneyland, and my heart was beaming with radiating joy. I would have been four or five when I first saw the movie and grew up with it ever since. So it was fair to say that the inner adult-child in me had an urge to see it, even if it meant having to weave through lines of families with children dropping their popcorn.
If there’s one set of words or images that will never cease to hit the soft spot, that is Toy Story. Disney’s latest and final version of the beloved franchise has received a lot of hype as it continues to grow up with the generation of twenty something’s who watched it during its humble beginnings. And that is what Disney has been capable of doing for almost a century. While I’m not a film reviewer, I do want to shed some light on Disney’s ability to poignantly grasp an audience for almost a quarter of a century with the film’s delicate themes and characters that we can all connect to in powerful some way. And what better way to describe this than the voice of Woody, Tom Hanks, who said, “You become the age that you were when you saw it first.”
The film, recently released in June, centres on Woody and the gang who are now in the hands of a new owner, Bonnie. She crafts a new character, Forky, from a pipe cleaner, popsicle stick and some clay. He struggles to come to grips with who he is, which is where we see Woody resurge his iconic role as a heroic sheriff the toys can always depend on, to guide Forky towards self-discovery. Then comes Bo Peep, who returns after a long hiatus from the franchise. The filmmakers have integrated a modern twist for a fierce female character with the replacement of her pink puffy dress for a blue corset and pants. While it adheres to the changing tides of standards and ideals to empower the next generation of young females, perhaps it is destroying the integrity of the character that we have followed for so long while growing up. Sometimes originality and character authenticity is more important.
Vicky Roach, a movie reviewer for The Sunday Telegraph, had a different take on the series. She blatantly denoted that perhaps it is time for the Pixar masterminds to put a rest to the franchise once and for all, and to ‘grow up and move on.’ Being a film reviewer, perhaps she had to find some grounds for criticism.
But if there’s a leaf that brands can take out of Disney’s book, it is to connect with your audience on an emotional level by harnessing the power of storytelling. It is about not being afraid to hinge on nostalgia which may at times make us feel vulnerable for just a brief moment. Storytelling is something that speaks volumes at The Interpreters and is deeply espoused in our core values and work. Much like what Woody is to Buzz, stories are to numbers – the perfect companion to achieve balance and support when things look flat. While they’re not exactly the stories that resemble a film script from a Disney blockbuster movie, they do help shape a clear perspective for brands on what goes on in the minds of their customers and finding that deeper connection.
So, whether it be in your marketing communications or branding, integrating elements such as emotion, character and nostalgia within consumer touchpoints will I promise you resonate well with any audience, young or old. It is a step towards shaping your brand to be genuine and real…to infinity and beyond.
By Barbara Potiriadis