“During Walt Disney’s first New York trip, when he was pushing Mickey and facing rejection, one distributor picked up a package of Life Saver candies. ‘The public knows Life Savers,’ he told Walt, ‘they don’t know you. They don’t know your mouse.’ That made an impression on Walt. As he recalled it years later, he said to himself, ‘From now on they’re going to know, if they liked the picture, they’re going to know what his name is.’ So on this trip he had decided to stage a full-scale assault on the animation industry and establish ‘Walt Disney’ as its undisputed leader — the Life Savers of animation.
“At the beginning no effort to catapult Mickey Mouse into stardom was too small. Walt would even have friends call theaters asking what time the Mickey Mouse cartoon would show, and if they were told that there was no Mickey, Walt instructed them to ask why.”
— Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination, by Neal Gabler, pages 130 and 139
There are a lot of life lessons and communication lessons to take from this. I think to name three is playing it safe. The three lessons are these:
- With everything we do and everything we create, we should always be checking in with Walt Disney and asking ourselves, Is this Life Saver-worthy?
- We should never forget how effective guerrilla tactics are.
- When it comes to something new (like a singing and dancing cartoon mouse), people don’t always know what they want. Sometimes they need to be told in an indirect way what they want.