Disney has had about as rough a time as any company during the pandemic. Its theme park business has been shuttered since March, resulting in the 100,000 employees being laid off or furloughed. Then, there are the film and television studios, which have been devastated as productions completely stopped while most Americans are still under some form of stay-at-home orders.
We finally found out exactly how bad the current crisis is for Disney on Monday, when the company reported its quarterly results. As you might expect, it wasn't good. Actually, it was pretty terrible. The coronavirus outbreak and resulting impact on our lives created a more than $1.4 billion loss for the company.
That's staggering when you consider that the effect of the pandemic wasn't even felt in the U.S. in a major way until the middle of March--meaning it only hit Disney's business in the final few weeks of the quarter. Still, it didn't take long to turn the Magic Kingdom into something more like a nightmare.
The company's best performing business, its Disney+ streaming service, still lost over $800 million despite a subscriber base that now tops 54 million. For context, the service has more than doubled its subscribers this quarter, and it now has roughly a quarter of the number of Netflix's users. Not bad, considering Netflix has had a 10-year head start.
Still, maybe the most important part of the call wasn't about the numbers. After all, while Disney is a huge media company with a long history of success, for most people Disney is about something else altogether.
"People want good news," said Bob Iger, the former CEO who stepped aside in February. "They want to experience joy and a feeling of togetherness."
More than just a happy message, that's actually an important lesson for every business. We could all use good news, that's for sure. And, yes, people historically look to companies like Disney to experience "joy and togetherness," but there's something more here and it's about how to lead during a crisis.
It's hard to know how many people will want to crowd into Disney's theme parks, or sit in a packed theater to watch the next Pixar or Marvel movie, or board a Mickey-themed cruise ship, but Disney does have something that puts it in a strong position.
"People find comfort in our messages of hope and optimism," Iger said. "They miss doing the things that bring them joy."
I wrote last year that almost half of people surveyed said they would sign up for Disney+ simply because the films remind them of their childhood. That's a powerful brand connection, and it's one that every business should try to emulate.
After all, once we find our way to what becomes of this world we share after Covid-19, I suspect we're all going to be looking for some hope and optimism. I think we could all use a little joy.
Your job is to think about how you can best connect with your customers and find ways to delight them now more than ever. As Iger said, that's how we get through this. As a leader, everyone is counting on you to help us get there.