Inside Out: How Disney Uses Neuroscience as a Marketing Tool

Disney/Pixar’s latest movie Inside Out, writers delved into a conceptualized idea of how emotions affect and influence our reactions, our memories, and even our personalities. Imagined as the inner workings of a pre-adolescent girl–Riley–­Inside Out has raked in nearly $500 million at the time of publication.

How is it that Disney and Pixar manage to knock it out of the park and post earnings that other production companies can only dream about, time and time again? We think it boils down to neuroscience. Disney understands the way the human brain works and uses that as a marketing tactic to get audiences in their seats and dabbing at their eyes. Understanding just how Disney does it offers an enlightening view on neurolearning on the whole and might even help you rethink the way you structure eLearning.

Experts of Emotion

Though the movies cause you to laugh, cry, smile, and frown, make no mistake: Disney is in the business of making money. By using audience emotions, Disney can predict a winner long before the scripts are written. That’s because Disney has built a business on capitalizing on human emotion and reaction and calibrates movies accordingly.

By utilizing specific tactics, Disney knows that not only will the public come in droves to see their latest, but the reviews will be excellent, and commercial merchandising opportunities will mean even more cash for the franchise. It’s more than just cute, huggable characters: Disney uses these tactics to light up different parts of your brain so you’re willing to spend money on tickets.

  • Connecting the message to personal experiences. Disney/Pixar excels at choosing storylines that appeal to broad audiences in a very personal way. Take Toy Story 3, for example. Parents and kids alike connect to the idea of growing up and moving on, making the movie an emotional smash hit. By connecting the audience to the material, it becomes “real” to them, a strategy which could help learners see themselves as the beneficiaries of eLearning.
  • Relentless focus on characters. Any Disney character has a backstory, even if it doesn’t make the final cut. From historical background to personality quirks, Disney knows that it’s not just about a great story, but excellent characters to which audiences can connect.
  • Balancing visuals with the narrative. No one can deny that Disney/Pixar movies are visually stimulating. Top-notch animation paired with color and action means audiences are glued to the screen from the opening credits. It proves that even the best story in the world (or the most important information) still requires a visual component for the brain to become stimulated and engaged.
  • Boosting mood. We know that mood is definitely connected to learning. That is, if you’re in a positive mood, you’re more likely to absorb information. By incorporating humor into all of its movies, Disney manages to ensure that audiences leave in a happy mood, which increases overall satisfaction.
  • Increasing trust. Say what you will about their marketing tactics: Disney is one of the most trusted companies in the world. By building trust via wholesome messages, high-quality products, and the idea that any Disney movie is a good movie keeps moviegoers handing over their hard-earned cash. In short, when viewers feel confident that they’ll benefit from an experience, they’re more likely to engage.

You might not have the resources available to you that Disney does. Each script, character, and plot goes through rigorous marketing research to ensure it’s a winner. Still, by adopting the Disney sensibility of excellent storytelling, compelling characters, and a positive outcome, it’s possible to make your eLearning a total blockbuster.