I've been asked by iMediaConnection to author a series of short articles on movie marketing and how marketers can and should be utilizing interactive technologies. Before I get into that, though, a brief introduction of myself. I've been writing a column, and then a blog, called "Movie Marketing Madness", which is one of only two blogs or sites on the net devoted solely to movie marketing campaigns. In addition to my PR/marketing education and experience, I'm also an avid movie fan, so Movie Marketing Madness is a mashup of two of my biggest passions and interests.
One of the biggest issues I've been focusing on in the last year is how movie studios can or have (or have not) optimally leveraged new media opportunities like blogs, podcasts and RSS. If you're not using these techniques, you are missing a vital opportunity to stay in touch with your audience, as well as a vast resource of useful consumer research and feedback. In this series of articles, I'm going to tackle one topic at a time and try to explain how these technologies can best be used by movie studios and their marketing agents to both monitor and have a voice in the conversations going on about their products.
For this first piece, I'd like to focus on something that I've been thinking about a lot lately and that, in my opinion, needs to be front-of-mind in marketing folks who have movie projects to work on-- the idea that each movie in and of itself is a brand.
Most brands, when you think of the term, have more than one product associated with them. Lysol, for instance, has a number of scents and styles of air-fresheners that are sold under that name. Movies are different, though. They come out and are both a product and stand-alone brand name. That means that every interaction the consumer has with the movie -- be it direct or not-so-direct -- will impact that brand.
Take the Star Wars saga for example. The final entry in the series, "Revenge of the Sith," was both a product of the Star Wars brand and a stand-alone brand name. The campaign, in its initial teaser phase, worked very hard to integrate it into the overall Star Wars brand. The teaser trailer spent the first 30 seconds on clips from the previous five movies, in order to foster the strong emotional connection that fans had with the series. So to that extent, the movie was being sold as a brand-extension product. Once it moved past the teasers, though, it became clear the marketing team focused on selling it as "Revenge of the Sith," not as "Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith." From that point on, the campaign developed its own unique flavor and feel, which was separate from the rest of the Star Wars universe. So the marketers achieved both goals of positioning the movie as a product and a brand.
So when movie studios and marketers are launching a film and its attendant marketing campaign they need to go into it with the mindset of creating, nurturing and monitoring a brand to make sure it retains its value. The posters, the trailers, the websites, the news stories-- they all should be created with the idea of "how does this impact the brand that is the movie?" in mind.
The campaign for "The Fantastic Four" is one that I think missed the mark in this regard. The initial poster -- with the four main characters in silhouette -- was fine as a teaser. But after that the wheels came off the tracks. I felt the trailer was a mess of quickly edited visuals and overly aggressive music; the posters were a mish-mash of photograghs and drawings. And the website was a horrible example of form over function. It was graphics- and video-intensive to the point where it took forever to load, even on a broadband connection. I actually gave up halfway through my exploration of the site when I reviewed it because I couldn't get to half the content. Each element looked as if it had been created by different teams that weren't talking to each other. No one, it seems, was looking out for the brand.
The reason it's important that the mindset be one of branding is because that's how it's being treated by consumers. A movie is not just a product. It's not something that you use and then discard. It's something that the consumer forms a relationship with, has a bond with and has strong feelings about. They discuss it with their friends, either in person or online. They remember their time with it and mark their lives to some extent by their interactions with it. People don't look back with strong emotions to using a roll of toilet paper. But they do look back at movies, and cars and other personal experiences, because they were pulled into the brand experience.
If there's one thing I've found since I started writing Movie Marketing Madness, it's that the best campaigns are created by people who understand the concept of the brand experience. The push for something like "Batman Begins" has this mentality in spades. It's clear to me that the posters, trailers and other promotional materials were created by a team with a strategic vision of how each element would impact and influence the perception of the brand. Each and every element of the campaign had a uniform look, with the rust-looking orangish brown backgrounds and the multitude of bats coming toward the camera. All six or seven posters were created by a team that mapped out how they wanted them to look when viewed side by side. And that same visual feel was carried over into the website and the trailers, creating what I think was one of the most unified campaigns I've come across.
I make a big deal about this idea of branding and how it differs from product marketing because without that attitude, all the rest of the steps in the chain (especially with all the new media technology that exists) has a greater potential to be mishandled. Blogging, podcasting and all the other media formats that can be utilized by studios -- and already are being utilized by consumers -- all lend themselves to brand and reputation mangagement. They make such management easier, but more time consuming. In the coming weeks I'll dive deeper into each one of these technologies, and show how they can best be used and monitored.
Chris Thilk has been writing about movie marketing since May 2004. Read full bio.