Business, Politics & Society

Anticipating What Consumers Want

Bob Iger

Lesson time 9:10 min

Bob gives his perspective on consumer data and why he believes you sometimes have to push it aside and go with your gut. He uses the films Black Panther and Captain Marvel to illustrate his point.

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Bob Iger
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- You get to decide what kind of King you are going to be. [MUSIC PLAYING] - The movies that we make, the stories that we tell are far more effective, are far more popular, have much more appeal when they best reflect the audience that we're trying to reach. And that means infusing the stories with not only diversity of characters, but a diversity of storytelling. Storytelling that has some relevance, that is relatable to people all over the world. And I think one of the strongest brand attributes of Disney is that the storytelling of ours is universal in appeal. It works for everyone. That was purposeful in Walt's day, and it's still purposeful and obvious today-- maybe even more so because the world that we are reaching, thanks to modern technology, is far more broad, far more diverse. And because of the power of technology and the ability for us to tell our stories to people just about every place in the world, it's very, very important that when we tell those stories, there is relevance in those stories to people in different places and of different cultures and different religions. And in order to do so, the pictures and the storytelling and the characters that we infuse in our stories, again, need to best reflect the world that exists today. [MUSIC PLAYING] When we studied the possibility of buying Marvel, one of the early things we discovered was that they had thousands of characters. There had been thousands of stories told about thousands of different superheroes. That led us to conclude that because the Marvel storytelling possibilities seemed almost limitless given the thousands of characters, that we should consider more diversity when it came to Marvel films and Marvel storytelling. And the discussion that arose was a discussion about films where the lead was a female superhero and the possibility of doing a film that featured all black superheroes. And we had a discussion immediately about "Black Panther" and a discussion about possibly doing "Captain Marvel." There was an assumption among many that a woman superhero as the lead of a Marvel film could not possibly be as successful as a film that had a male superhero as its lead. And there were examples of films over the years that were female-led that were not as successful as films with a male character. I think there was a reason for that, and that is that just maybe coincidentally the films that had been produced with women superheroes in the lead just weren't as good. I don't really believe that there was a lack of appeal. So it was our goal to make a Marvel film with a woman as the lead, but to make a great one. [MUSIC PLAYING] The same was true with a black superhero. There was a concern that a film comprised of black superheroes or black characters-- at least Marvel characters-- wouldn't necessarily travel well around the world and the investment wouldn't necessarily be wise. Because we'd be spending as much to make a fi...


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Comments

DRXFAM5

One of the challenges with data is that the questions you ask often determine the answers you get - it was the Qui-Gon Jinn quote from an earlier segment, " Your focus determines your reality." The data-informed approach suggests filming in order of comic book popularity and adjusting as you go. For those who ding Marvel for not filming Black Panther or Captain Marvel earlier, or that it was only done in response to a fevered uproar, I would review corporate finance 101: if the expected IRR on movie A is X, and movie B is 2X, you make movie B. Would either have grossed $1B+ if released before Captain America The First Avenger, or did those movies become the 2X option because of the collective appetite for more that resulted from the "Chum" of 17 increasingly popular movies that preceded Black Panther? Probably not.

A fellow student

Bob's comments around not relying solely on data are quite interesting, the evidence-informed approach that many businesses rely so heavily on can be limiting and realistically data should be used as another tool in the belt. Aligning this with the other elements that have been mentioned by Iger around brand and values you can see how having a true north of what your story or end goal may be, would assist in not jumping at shadows or being misinformed by data.

jason

I think point #2 'Don't rely on data' is a bit misplaced. Data is critical for businesses of any size and scale. However, I think what Bob may be getting at is the difference between being 'data driven' and 'data informed.' The former taking an approach of letting data drive the business and the later taking an approach where data is one important piece in a larger equation that is used to drive the business. I fear many will take his advice to mean that we minimize the use of data, which i think is misguided and dangerous.

Marcus M.

I remember reading or hearing similar sentiments from Steve Jobs. Before the iPhone, consumers did not want the iPhone, because there was no iPhone. After the iPhone, the cell phone landscape changed forever. I also like Bob's approach to not relying on data. While it can be helpful, it often causes more harm (or unnecessary results) than needed. I spent much of last year trying to figure out the best times to post to social media. I tried different software programs and apps that calculated the best times that my followers were online. Throughout the year, I kept reading and hearing some of my favorite influencers saying just post whenever you feel like posting. I started to adopt that philosophy; posting when I want, not based on any data, but when I have something ready to share with the word. Although I briefly met Bob once last year, I hope to meet him again and have a more meaningful connection...

James B.

He talks about Captain Marvel and Black Panther as an inevitable choice and how they wanted to buy Marvel for diversity sake. They didn't produce either a black superhero or a female superhero until public outcry reached a certain pitch. So, acting like he had the foresight of this and calling Captain Marvel the best female superhero (or words to that effect) is also a little disingenuous considering the first Captain Marvel's were male and Marvel has created stronger female superheroes than Marvel. It sounds like he's just taking credit for the successes without acknowledging that they had to find these superheroes after a series of white male superhero films. I would respect your lesson much more if you were honest and not treating this like an Oprah Winfrey interview.

Andrew L.

The comments in this thread as so insightful and appreciated so much. I really appreciated how Bob spoke about experience AND data. I've been in organizations that are data driven but in doing that you can really miss things. Data has the limitations in the marketplace - decisions need to be based on the confidence level in the creative entity. This was so insightful and so counter to what is in the marketplace buzz. I love it. This helps me so much in realizing data can have value but can't be the final destination.

A fellow student

I think it’s interesting that Bob made a distinction between experience and data when they’re both two sides of the same empirical coin. Thanks to the Internet, you can (and should) start with gut instinct, but reading online comments and posts on discussion forums is the most powerful tool to reflect an audience than creators have ever had before. The idea that female-led or all-black superhero movies wouldn’t do well just isn’t in the data/experience that really matters: what consumers are asking for online.

Betsy

Liked the suggestion to get to know your audience on a deeper level and to not just rely on data.

Melanie R.

I really feel like I need to go out and see, touch and experience the market that I am working to secure so that I really understand my target public. I deal with a smaller local market and global market at the same time. Sometimes I find it is difficult to hit both. I can see now that I have been focusing on the small issues and not getting out enought. This reoriented my thought to a broader direction.