The Movie Industry: Doing Marketing Right

It’s Oscar night tonight and, while I haven’t watched many of the movies that have been nominated, it’s reminded me of something I’ve been thinking about.

Out of all the industries that depend on marketing, the movie industry seems to do it completely right.

If we go back to Al and Laura Ries’ flow chart of how to build a brand we can see that it should be built by PR and maintained by advertising.

Which is exactly what the best movies do.

  • Show film to critics
  • Chop up film into advert
  • Wait for reviews to be published
  • Overlay positive, third party endorsement over advert and add high energy music
  • Pray the opening weekend goes as well as the reviews
  • Rinse and repeat

As with all industries however, the “marketing” is only as good as the product – a pig is still a pig no matter how much lipstick you put on her.

My advice to the movie industry would be that to minimize the risk of the opening weekend going badly and not living up to the reviews (I’m looking at you MI:3), I’d open somewhere other than the U.S.

My A-level economics is a little rusty but I can remember the “perfect economy” depends on both perfect knowledge and being able to price according to supply and demand.

Therefore, for the movie industry to maximise its economics, they should go where the money for that movie is.

Don’t tie yourselves to the “most”, find the best market for your product. Add another facet to your story – the story of the “sleeper” hit that makes it big somewhere apart from the U.S. before it get’s released into the self-styled “biggest movie market in the world (TM)”.


And save a thought for the poor publicists working extra hard tonight. Guiding their clients through the perils of the red carpet, emailing the on-air talent who’s wearing their clients and making sure their clients’ sponsorship get the right photo op.

One Response to The Movie Industry: Doing Marketing Right

  1. Colin McKay says:

    Unfortunately, Ed, for a mass market movie the money IS in the United States.

    Without a big opening box office and half decent word of mouth, DVD sales will have a hard time making up for heavy upfront costs (which can add up to over $200M for marketing and prints on big summer releases).

    Many sleeper hits are the product of very detailed and nuanced PR campaigns – that do not follow the formula you prescribed.

    They may be produced for a small market audience, but once they pass through the Sundance filter or get optioned by Lion’s Gate or the Weinstein’s, they have to meet growing expectations – and need big marketing bucks behind them.

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