Often, large corporations do things that cause you to wonder whether or not there's any common sense behind their actions. Take, for example, the case of a parents' group at a school in Berkeley, California, that hosted a fundraising event for students and screened a copy of the 2019 version of The Lion King. According to Berkeleyside, a local news site, the school was sent a notice of a $250 fine from Disney's licensing agency for showing the film without permission.

The story made its way to the top of The New York Times' most-read list, bringing attention to the fact that a massive media conglomerate was haggling a small organization over a few hundred dollars. To be fair, it's absolutely reasonable for content creators to expect others to respect their copyright, and technically, DVD's purchased at Best Buy (as this one reportedly was) are meant for personal viewings only. Still, sometimes you can do the right thing for your audience, and just let that be enough.

In this case, Disney's CEO, Bob Iger, found out about the situation and issued a public apology to the school on Twitter. Not only that, but he committed to personally contributing to the school's fundraiser.

First of all, Iger's move cost him and the company almost nothing. And it was absolutely the right thing to do from the perspective of being a good human being. That said, it was also a brilliant way to show corporate humility, and turn a potential embarrassment into a win for everyone involved. 

The PTA group said it had raised $800 at the event, which means that paying a $250 fine would be a real cost for the school. To Disney, on the other hand, that's less than what you'd pay for a ticket and some snacks at its DisneyWorld parks. That's not a good look for any company, but especially one like Disney.

Disney's brand is families. It exists to create magical experiences through the stories it tells. There was nothing magical about this story. Instead, Disney was pretty much the big bad villain that audiences everywhere are used to cheering against. And it was the bad guy in a story about a school raising money for its students. These days, schools across the country find themselves raising funds for everything from basic supplies to needed upgrades.

But with a little common sense, and a simple tweet, Iger was able to change the story completely. By doing so, he reaffirmed Disney's commitment to its family-friendly brand and loyal customers. As a result, he created a win for both his company and the school group. Instead of being right, he decided to do the right thing, which is something we should all do more often.

There's a moral to this story for all of us, and it's really quite simple: Never be the villain in anyone's story.

Published on: Feb 6, 2020
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