Disney Bends to Social Media Grassroots Opposition

Here in Arizona, we can’t help but find Disney’s efforts to trademark the holiday Dia de los Muertos surprising and, well, just weird. But what we find even more fascinating is how a grassroots effort via social media to stop Disney’s plan spread like a gasoline-fueled wildfire on a 100-plus-degree windy day. 

The heat Disney took from massive online ridicule resulted in an announcement today that the corporation will cease its effort to trademark the November holiday, which for Latinos everywhere is a day of honoring their beloved deceased. Disney was interested in trade marking the holiday in an effort to promote an upcoming film, related snack food items and Christmas ornaments.

When the news hit that Disney made the May 1 request to trademark the holiday, posts and tweets began to pop up in spades, criticizing the company for a major cultural fail. To say people were outraged is an understatement. What started out as a news story became, within less than an hour, a substantial social media push to stop Disney’s trademark move. Petitions were created and shared, boycotts were planned and online ridicule abounded.

In fact, according to Elainne Ramos, vice chair of LATISM, a nonprofit Latino social media group, the trademark debacle became a hotter issue than immigration among Latinos on Twitter.

The enormous industry that is Disney could not ignore what was happening. In what likely started out as a positive idea—to celebrate and teach others about the holiday—Disney instead alienated the very people it was trying to reach. But in Disney’s defense, it listened and responded.

It’s clearly a cautionary tale in cultural confusion—one that was quickly thwarted through the awe-inspiring power that is social media. As society continues to understand how it can effect change through Facebook, Twitter and other platforms, we in the social media and public relations business can only continue to learn, listen, watch, tread cautiously and be amazed.

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