Helping small business owners develop extraordinary businesses that really work for their customers, their employees, themselves and their families

“Uncle Walt” and Personal Branding

On October 27, 1954, the Disneyland television series debuted on the ABC television network.

Every week, families gathered around the (black and white) television to enjoy great programming, hosted by Walt Disney himself.

Walt’s appearance on the show formed a deep emotional bond with American families — especially with children. To us, he was “Uncle Walt” who came to visit us in our homes every week.

The inspiration and purpose for the show is in the original title of the show, “Disneyland”. Walt wanted to showcase his amusement park and invite families to come. The ABC Television Network was an investor to help finance building Disneyland and was later bought out by Walt Disney Productions. Their one-third interest for an original investment of $500,000 was bought out for $7,500,000 in 1960 as a settlement for the Disney television show, renamed “Walt Disney Presents The Wonderful World of Color”, to move to NBC, .

The Disney television show also served as a way to promote Disney’s movie productions and, later, Walt Disney World while being “paid for the pitch”!

Walt was very mindful of the “character” he was portraying. He wouldn’t appear with a cigarette, drink alcohol or use “questionable language” on his television show. He was portraying the “role model” of family entertainment.

When she was in elementary school, Walt’s daughter, Diane, confronted him.  “Are you Walt Disney?”

Needless to say, American families began their pilgrimages to Disneyland and flocked to Disney movies.

After Walt’s death on December 15, 1966, the Disney television show lost a lot of its energy. The last version of the show,” The Magical World of Disney”, concluded on August 26, 1990.

When Michael Eisner was CEO of Disney, he briefly resumed the practice of appearing as host of Disney special programming. His successors haven’t continued the practice.

Bob Iger revived some of Disney’s energy by strategic acquisitions of Pixar, Lucasfilms and Marvel Entertainment — originally all Personal Brand businesses (Steve Jobs, George Lucas and Stan Lee.)

Walt would be stunned to see how The Walt Disney Company has grown to be a media monolith! “It all started with a mouse!”

Disney fans still have a strong emotional connection with the company, particularly with the parks. They regard them as “theirs”, and are very sensitive (and vocal!) about how they are priced and managed. When rabid Disney fans visit the parks, they say they’re “going home!” The parks discourage the practice of scattering ashes of deceased family members at the parks — yet there is a message in their desire to do so.

Many believe Disney has “lost its way”. It’s hard to argue with its success. Today, it appears to be largely driven by pleasing its shareholder rather than the “guests”.

Businesses can still look to Walt’s example of “personal branding”. People like to do business with other people, not with institutions.

Personal branding is a type of Unique Selling Proposition. An individual is always unique!

We see it today in many media formats, including podcasting, bloggers, social media influencers, radio personalities, television talk shows, email newsletters and many more.

Should your business distinguish itself with a “personal brand”?

If yes, what are the “character traits” to be portrayed and what media will you use to “broadcast” that brand?

To schedule an initial consultation about brainstorming personal branding ideas, send me an email at

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Helping small business owners develop extraordinary businesses that really work for their customers, their employees, themselves and their families