We’re sitting on the top deck of the Disney Wonder overlooking the port of Los Angeles. “This boat is seriously amazing,” I tell Hong, our host for today.

We met Hong Liem, the CMO at the Walt Disney Company in Amsterdam, some years ago and we stayed in touch via Facebook. This morning he invited us to meet him on the Disney Wonder.

Hong Liem - The Mouse Became a Tiger - CoolBrands - Around the World in 80 Brands - Disney
Hong Liem – The Mouse Became a Tiger – CoolBrands – Around the World in 80 Brands – Disney

“We started with cruises some years ago,” Hong explains. “It is all part of the entertainment industry’s transmedia approach. The four pillars of the Disney company are working together to build and reinforce what we call ‘franchises’; subbrands like Mickey, Cars and Disney Princess. In doing so, we’re using the strength of each medium to convey the message.”

Hong takes out his iPad and shows us an image with the four Disney pillars.

“Let me explain by way of an example,” he continues. “You remember when Toy Story 3 hit the movie theatres? After a global marketing campaign, the movie opened and took $1 billion at the box office, more than any other film that year and any other animated film in history. But that was just the film.”

Hong puts up his index to stress his next words. “Our Consumer Products division had prepared the sale of action figures, clothing, books, magazines, collectibles. And every one of them featured the movie’s popular characters.”

I see the characters pop up in my mind. “Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Mr Potato Head, and…..what’s the name of Woody’s horse again?” I think to myself.

Hong continues. “Two months later, Toy Story Playland in Disneyland Paris was ready – a new attraction that was years in the making but opened the same summer the hit movie was released. Walt Disney World already had a Toy Story Mania! Attraction but revamped the ride’s 3-D experience to include one of the new characters.”

“In the meantime,” Hong says, lowering his voice as if he’s sharing a secret “Our interactive division had created video games for Nintendo, Xbox, PlayStation, and PC. It also produced apps for iPad and mobile phones.” I lean forward over the table and, in the same secretive tone of voice say: “I have Woody’s Wild Adventure on my tablet.”

Hong smiles, but he’s not put off his story. “Next we generated additional buzz on TV through our own channels ABC, Disney XD and Disney Channel. This also provided a platform for cross-promotion on cable and the Disney Stores. That comes in very handy when you’re talking about a global franchise.”

“Bullseye!” I shout out loud. Hong and Anouk are looking at me enquiringly, as if I’ve gone mad. “Woody’s horse is called Bullseye,” I say. “Sorry, I just remembered.”

Both raise their eyebrows but Hong continues his story as if nothing happened. “So there we have film, dvd’s, parks, consumer goods, TV buzzmaking. Add to this the knowledge of our audience around the world and you end up with a company that knows at which price Japanese consumers will buy Buzz Lightyear figurines and how to efficiently distribute a Toy-Story-themed-English-learning kit in China. We’re kind of clued in in that way!”

“Last year we bought Marvel, the comic-book giant, so we now own the rights to Spider-Man, Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk, and lots of other franchise characters. And we will produce some cool things with those heroes in our portfolio.”

“Is it better to be feared or respected?” Hong says, changing his voice. “And is it too much to ask for both?”

“Give me a minute”, I say. “I know… Tony Stark in Iron Man! Now it’s my turn… ‘With great power, there must also come great responsibility.’”

“That’s easy”, Hong says, “that’s Peter Parker in Spiderman.”

Anouk is looking at us, as if we both lost the plot. “I can’t come up with a Snow White quote right away”, she says. “But thanks for the story. We can see the mouse is becoming a tiger.”

“The mouse became a tiger long time ago”, Hong replies. ”To be continued…”

© 2012 CoolBrands – Around the World in 80 Brands


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