5 Marketing Lessons We Can All Learn From Pixar

Pixar Animation Studios is home to some of the best storytellers in the world. The company’s ability to appeal to adults and children creates a virtually unmatched, fiercely loyal fan base—one that lasts a lifetime. 

I’m one of those loyal fans.

I was about six years old when my brother and I saw first saw Toy Story. Fast forward almost two decades, and I’m still lining up outside the theaters to see Pixar’s latest flick Inside Out.

One of my favorite things about Pixar, a wholly owned subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company, is its ability to tap into real emotions that most people experience at one point in their lives. I remember bawling my eyes out when Andy gives away his toys before heading to college in Toy Story 3, for instance, because I could relate to that feeling of leaving childhood behind and entering adulthood.

These emotions resonate with viewers long after they leave the theater, and they also teach moviegoers valuable lessons, like the importance of family, friendship, and facing your fears.

It turns out that companies can learn a few things from Pixar’s animated films, too. Here are five lessons marketers can take away from the film studio’s beloved movies.

Inside Out

Inside Out is an absolute must-see if your kids haven’t dragged you to it yet. In the film, a young girl named Riley undergoes some major life changes (like moving to a new city, joining a new school) and her emotions—who are the main characters in the story—try to help her deal with her new surroundings. Although they don’t always agree on how to handle every situation, the emotions—Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust, and Sadness—realize that they all need each other and that every feeling is valid and plays a crucial role in Riley’s life.

Each emotion adds a different value to Riley’s psyche, but it’s when they’re balanced that she truly thrives. Marketing channels work the same way. Email, social, direct mail, etc. all provide different benefits; however it’s when they’re completely in sync and create an omnichannel experience that both marketers and consumers profit—and avoid any meltdowns.

Monsters, Inc.

Fear of the unknown is a common theme in marketing, and it’s also a reoccurring idea in the 2001 classic Monsters, Inc.

Although monsters are the ones usually doing the scaring, Monsters, Inc turns the tables and shows how monsters are actually afraid of humans—particularly one adorable little girl named Boo who makes her way into the monsters’ world. And while main monsters Mike and Sulley are afraid of Boo in the beginning, they end up befriending the little girl and go from scaring children to entertaining them.

Data and technology are two of marketers’ most monstrous challenges. And while the overwhelming amount of data and technology options may cause them to cower back in fear and retreat to doing “what they’ve always done,” it’s only because they don’t truly understand how to harness the value each one brings. So, it’s important to face big data and new technology head on and to push those fears and doubts back under the bed.

Toy Story

Woody and Buzz Lightyear weren’t always the famous friends Hollywood knows them as today. In the original Toy Story, cowboy doll Woody becomes jealous of Buzz when the space ranger becomes their owner Andy’s new favorite toy. But after escaping an alien-infested claw machine and the house of naughty neighbor Sid, Woody and Buzz become friends.

Woody and Buzz’s relationship is similar to that of a CMO and CIO. There can be power struggles between the two leaders. But when they set their differences aside and work together, they can generate results that are anything but child’s play.


WALL•E is an adorable film about a robot named WALL•E who is left on Earth after all humans have vacated the planet to clean up their waste. Although he is only a machine, WALL•E has his own unique personality and proves that he is capable of love when he meets a new robot named EVE.

One of my favorite things about this movie is that there is hardly any dialogue between the robots; however, Pixar still manages to clearly convey each robot’s personality and emotions through other modes of storytelling, such as their behaviors and body—or hardware—language.

Marketers are constantly looking for innovative ways to convey their brands’ messages, and I think WALL•E reinforces an important lesson they should all keep in mind: It’s not the technology that tells the story; it’s the story you tell through the technology.

Finding Nemo

I couldn’t compile a Pixar list without including this aquatic tale. In Finding Nemo, an overly protective clownfish named Marlin goes looking for his missing son Nemo who was captured by divers. With help from his newfound blue tang friend Dory, Marlin overcomes a series of challenges in the ocean—like nearly being eaten by sharks and jelly fish stings—and reunites with his son.

Like Marlin, all marketers face challenges. The important thing is how they handle them. Sure, they could feel like giving up when a campaign delivers less than stellar results or be tempted to throw in the towel when their budgets are cut. The important thing, however, is to keep trying, testing, and optimizing. Or as Dory would say, “Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming.”

Image Source: All images are from Disney/Pixar

Related Posts