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Corporate Restrictions Imposed on Others: Trends, Uses, Case Studies

Corporations are the objects of worldwide scrutiny. It makes sense, therefore, that to protect their brand, their shareholders, and their loyal customers, they sometimes have to engage in certain forms of censorship. One notable example of this is Chrysler’s over-reactive firing of its PR agency after an erroneous tweet making fun of drivers in Detroit. However, corporations don’t just engage in censorship of their employees when something wrong is said. There are several notable examples of corporations that have very strict guidelines on what employees can or cannot say about their companies.


…Oops. The best example of this is the Walt Disney World Company. Coming into my training as a College Program participant at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, FL, my peers and I were handed a 50-page book on the “Disney Look” – appearance guidelines for employees who work at any Disney location.


The main rules of this book included that employees must have a “natural-looking” hair color, fingernails not over a certain length, no visible piercings or tattoos other than in the ears (and only girls could have these). My glasses were examined at length for their appearance, and one of my roommates, a girl with dirty blonde hair, was asked to dye her hair completely blonde or brown – her choice – to look more “natural.” We were instructed during Disney’s “Traditions” orientation course for new employees to never say, on social media or to any guest who asks, that there was no such thing as Mickey Mouse. If guests asked us about seeing Mickey at several theme parks in a matter of hours, we were to reply that Mickey was magical and there is only one. Employees can only write in black ink, characters and princesses have to learn how to sign their names so that signatures are consistent across the board, and every employee is required to wear a “costume,” or uniform, that is unique to the location in which they work. We also had to learn “The Disney Point.” And if you don’t conform to these rules, you’re fired, no questions asked.


You may think that all of these rules seem a little excessive. On the contrary, this kind of consistency has led to Disney being able to maintain its image as “The Happiest Place on Earth,” and give guests an unparalleled customer service experience. Other theme parks have tried and failed to replicate this system, and only through Disney’s absolute devotion to these ideals does every employee eventually become “sprinkled with pixie dust” (aka, brainwashed) into believing that Disney’s way is the right way.

Taking all this into account, are corporate restrictions really a bad thing? In today’s world, social media has the power to make or break a brand. Even as far as Disney is concerned, former employees only say negative things about the company through anonymous handles; for example, Cast Member Confidential on Twitter tells the “naughty” side of working as a photographer in Magic Kingdom. If you owned a corporation and were responsible for maintaining an international brand, would you consider censoring consumers and firing employees for social media efforts? And is it really so hard to understand that corporations react so strongly to those who dare try to tarnish their brands?


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