What happens when you take a Shakespearean tragedy, turn it into an animated feature with lions and a few Elton John songs and then turn that movie into a Broadway musical? You get Disney’s “The Lion King,” a hit show that’s been running in New York City for nearly 20 years. Today, audiences can see “The Lion King” all around the world: in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Spain, Germany and more.
In my humble opinion, “The Lion King” is one of the greatest shows out there; I’ve seen the U.S. national tour twice, and I visited the musical’s 15th anniversary pop-up museum in New York City the day it opened. But as a public relations major, I’ve always been curious about promoting the musical internationally.
Enter Greg Josken, Disney Theatrical Group digital marketing & social media manager. Greg shared a behind-the-scenes look into some of the social media strategies and tools he uses to help make “The Lion King” a global hit.
Pros In Each Market
First, Greg made it clear that he is not in charge of creating content for every “Lion King” market; Disney Theatrical Group has offices in the U.K. and Australia, two of the more active markets, and it uses Stage Entertainment to help develop additional content. These marketing pros do collaborate, though.
“If I’m creating something for the U.S. that also could apply to the U.K. or Australia, I will definitely share those messages with them because it’s still ‘The Lion King’ no matter where you go,” Greg said. “There are some messages that can jump between markets, but no, I am not creating the content calendar for those other pages.”
Creating New Content
But creating new and engaging content is the most challenging part of marketing a global show, Greg said.
“How do we keep an engaged audience by putting a new twist on something that’s been the same for over a decade now?” Greg asks.
His solution is by tweaking content people all ready love: the songs. For example, the cast of “The Lion King” performed stripped-down, acoustic versions of the musical’s songs in Playlist Sessions at New York’s 54 Below. One of my favorite videos is a mash-up between American Authors’ “Best Day of My Life” and “Hakuna Matata.”
Facebook Is King
While “The Lion King” can be found on a variety of social media channels, Facebook is the most sophisticated platform that caters to global brands, Greg said, and the folks at Disney have been using it to its full potential. If you find its page on Facebook, “The Lion King” has more than 2.4 million fans, and those fans come from all over the world. But the page you see in America isn’t the same page you’ll see in the U.K.; Facebook allows Disney to have different parent-child pages housed under one account, and the content you see is based on your IP address.
“That allows us to speak to that specific audience and talk to them the way they want to be talked to as opposed to having a message in the U.S. that maybe doesn’t translate over to another country,” Greg said. “That means we get to be very authentic to the people we speak to instead of having one blanket message to our entire 2.4 million fans.”
While global marketing can be a challenge, it has also helped skyrocket the show to international fame, attracting audiences from all nationalities and backgrounds.
“It’s great to see how the show has evolved, yet stayed true to its original vision when it debuted in 1997,” Greg said. “It’s pretty amazing to see the impact and how people have connected with it all over the world.”
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