What Marketers Can Learn From the Film Industry About Connecting With Their Audience

Consumers’ interests—not their wallets—need to be targeted

Take a note from filmmakers and captivate your audience rather than trying to sell to them.
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In our current world of media clutter and competing content platforms it’s a daunting task for the average moviegoer to find content they’re going to feel passionate about. To inspire this group, you don’t need to sell to them: You need to captivate them. The aim is to increase cultural buzz beyond the expected story, not just awareness of the film, and watch success blossom from there.

I believe it’s a dated concept that a single piece of communication can convey the totality and texture of a motion picture. A film is multi-dimensional and will mean different things in different regions to different people in different situations with different values. Here are five key steps marketers as a whole can take to establish cultural urgency in any field.

Pinpoint the unique DNA

Identify then amplify whatever the unique piece of your film or product is with your biggest fans. What equities, culturally relevant plots or tensions might be amplified? We often seen this done in error in opposite fashion, forcing the unique DNA into an audience. The key is to acknowledge and celebrate the world that your fans already live in and speak in a way that suits them. This generation demands more customer-driven, personalized marketing and responds to communications that reflect the world they live in and how your film or product fits into that.

Find the cultural differentiator

Look closely at the films or products with similar profiles and competing entertainment in the category to define what’s different. Now more than ever, as news and entertainment become more intertwined, consumers want to engage with film campaigns that understand what they think is culturally cool and relevant.

Crown the passion populations 

Identify with the groups that align with those key themes and cultural triggers and do everything you can to invest in those groups or fans. Retaining loyalty is a constant process. If you are building a franchise, you must invest in building the fan relationship versus marketing the individual films. Collaborate with your audience, be where they are, celebrate and honor them. Millennials want to feel like your content was created with their interests (not their wallets) in mind.

Crystalize the lightning rod

Craft the positioning that roots the film or product in the passion populations and gives it energy. This is a key step that only true craftsmanship in the marketing and communications space can achieve. It has to be spot-on and communicated effectively across mediums and languages, and there is no one-fit solution. The key here is to be creative and test, test, test to ensure potency.

Elevate the cultural conversation

Link the film (or product) to consumer behaviors to stimulate their curiosity and acknowledge the world they live in. This all begins with talking to your audience, not at them, and around conversations tied to cultural relevancy. Younger audiences value authenticity over everything else. They’re more likely to listen to a fellow movie-goer as opposed to a piece of promotional copy. The hard sell has become something of a piece of satire in the eyes of millennials. They don’t respond to the marketing that goes around screaming about how great the movie or product is. The hard sell is gone, and you need to let your audience make the decision to enjoy the film and continue the conversation.

When done right, a film can become a cultural force with powerful advocates that turn what could have been a $15 sale into a cult classic with superfans celebrating it as a timeless relic.