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Disney and Uber - Using Trends To Great Success

Adam Hartung
Post Date:
December 15, 2020
Last Update:
January 14, 2021
Disney, Uber, Business Pivots, COVID-19 Coronvirus Pandemic, Food Delivery

In February, Disney appointed a new CEO from inside the company. I was not a fan. He came from the traditional,old Disney businesses – studio movies and theme parks. Both of those businesses are historical artifacts, not growing, and clobbered by the acceleration of trends due to the pandemic. But…… after crashing almost 50% shortly after changing CEOs (and the pandemic hitting the USA) the stock just reached a new all time high – recovering all those losses and pushing ahead an additional 16%.

A lot of companies are complaining about how bad the pandemic has affected them. They were tied to their historical value delivery system, and working hard to keep optimizing that business model. They weren’t following trends, so when the pandemic accelerated trends to more mobile, more asynchronous work, greater use of gig resources and ever greater expectations for AI (artificial intelligence) they simply were not prepared.

But smart companies moved really fast to implement their plans for new business based on trends. For example, while everyone thought of Uber as an alternative to taxis, leadership had already been looking at changes in package distribution. They could see problems in the post office, limitations (and pricing) to UPS and Fedex, and the “last mile” delivery problem everyone local had — as well as alternatives being tested by So when demand for local deliveries picked up, Uber was ready to change. In a year demand for taxi type services fell 45%, but deliveries rose 100%!! And even though it was small, freight jumped 35%. The net was that in an extremely fast changing marketplace, gross bookings for the first 3 quarters of 2020 were $40.7M vs. $46.8M in 2019. In a terrible year, Uber was ready (and able) to move fast to implement changes to keep revenues moving forward.

And Disney is another great example. Theme parks and studio entertainment seemed to be relics of a bygone era, and in 2020, demand was hit hard. Theme parks fell 37% and studio movies fell 13%. I thought Disney would go into cost cutting mode exclusively and start down the road to irrelevancy.

But I was wrong. Yes, Disney did cut employment in those two divisions. Extensively. But that was an acceleration of something bound to happen. Those businesses were shrinking and outdated. However, simultaneously, Disney poured resources into Media Networks and Direct-to-Customer, two business units highly aligned with trends! Basically, Disney went from that old-line movie and parks company to a very well positioned e-commerce vendor and competitor to Netflix!! In just 9 months. Already, Disney has 80M subscribers for Disney+, compared to Netflix 200M, and is targeting 260M by 2024!!! Disney has demonstrated it is ready to launch first run movies, at much higher prices, on its network – building out new pricing schemes as well as new business models for streaming content!

The lesson here is to be prepared for change! Don’t build your plans just on the past – past products and customers. Instead, look hard at trends and build scenarios for the future based on trends. Be ready for those trends to accelerate. And then TAKE ACTION. Don’t wait. Don’t stall. Go to the future by implementing those plans.

If you are planning based on trends you will be prepared for big changes in your “base” or “core” business. And you’ll develop plans for new solutions that meet emerging trends. So when the opportunity presents itself, like in a pandemic – or something a lot less dramatic – you’ll be ready to implement a new business. You can shift your value delivery system quickly to continue meeting the Value Proposition that you offer your customers.

Congratulations to Uber and Disney for doing good trend planning and being ready. Are you properly planning? Are you ready for change?