Hollywood 101 for Marketers

#UsBlogs week 4 theme: “What we learn from the movies”

To understand what we can learn from the movies, we need to first break down a movie into its constituent elements;

  1. An idea – All good stories start with ideas and a movie is no exception, the screenplay is everything.
  2. Cast, crew & production – Getting the right skillet on board can help in ways that you couldn’t even start to imagine.
  3. Marketing – Finally you need to get the word out, to get those proverbial ‘bums on seats’.
  4. Distribution – Sure it starts in the cinema, but after that there is still DVD, TV and all the licensing.

So let’s look at what we can learn from these pieces and how they can help us in our brand, marketing and communications challenges.

1. The idea

There aren’t multiple story types, only different ways of bringing them to life; and this is no different in marketing plans, the key lies in execution, execution, and execution. It’s no longer enough to have a big idea, these are a dime a dozen – but knowing how to use the tools available and bring them to life, this is where success really lies. The combination of an idea and how it is brought to life using media channels and technology is the killer app, this is where brands can pull ahead of the pack and create a real difference.

Sequels too are about how to stretch an idea and give it even more executions – exactly as we sometimes try to take a TV spot and make it into a microsite, well done it can be a success and badly done it is simply brochureware.

Humour is a global currency, crossing languages, cultures and borders, making people laugh is the way to their hearts.

2. Cast, crew and production

This is where we get down to resources and how we execute on the ground – just as in the movies, big budgets don’t equal success – but they can help – it is more about thinking carefully about objectives and target groups. Check out my post on Synchronisation and Convergence to see how it isn’t just about plastering a key visual on every spot of available media.

Similarly, big names can drive sales even without content (most of the time) – Get a cool enough celebrity or an awarded actor and you’ll be sure to have a good opening weekend, but only with a great idea (and execution) and a good back-up team (supporting actor) can you maintain the hype over time.

3. Marketing & PR

The movies press conference circuit is harsh – if you’ve seen Sofia Coppola’s latest movie Somewhere you’ll see just what the actors get dragged through to get the press, and therefore the public, excited before the release.

A teaser really has to tease; making trailers in the movie business is a fine art – giving away enough to hook you, but leaving you frustrated to fill in the gaps (think about The Blair Witch Project). Brands are often uncomfortable about teasers (or even virals) and want to add in their logo, the product visual, the brand message and even the product benefits because they think they’re losing valuable consumer facetime – sometimes less is more.

4. Distribution

Just because the film is out, it doesn’t end there – this is really only the start of something that can be used and reused in multiple ways – creating content is the first step and how that content is leveraged in different ways across multiple platforms, that is where the business model lies.

Those movie guys know their stuff, and have made a business out of it too!



By Lex Bradshaw-Zanger

A digital native and integrated brand marketer with a passion for marketing-communications and product design, Lex has a truly international outlook and experience, having worked both in major marketing agencies and client-side brands across Europe, the US and the Middle East.


  1. Thanks for using language I know to help me understand marketing better.

    Did you hear that L Di Caprio took a pay cut to invest in the “intellectual property of the film”? I thought that was an interesting merging of savvy acting/business thinking.

    I’m also reminded of IDEO’s 10 Faces of Innovation–especially the roles of the “set designer,” “the cross-pollinator,” and the “experience architect”

    The part that still confuses me is how to promote without annoying (in films as in anything we want to share or sell).

    Your thoughts?

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