5 Marketing Lessons Hollywood Teaches Us About “Going Viral”

Image by: minnemom
By Michael Sterling

Marketers today are changing the rules on a daily basis, especially when it comes to promoting brands and products. It’s becoming more and more difficult for consumers to remember anything which is why it’s always a good idea to go directly to the source of entertainment: Hollywood. Here are a few ways they’re changing the rules:

#1) Find Would-Be Customers 

In traditional marketing strategies, it’s typical to expand to more and more markets by word of mouth. Publicity ultimately propels your business forward, but in the age of social media, platforms like Facebook and Twitter can be used as a tool not just for outreach, but for you to figure out where an interest exists in the first place. This gives you a better idea on how to strategize.

Let’s take Paramount’s Paranormal Activity as an example. The film was made for less than $15K and went on to gross over $150 million. The studio extensively used Facebook to promote the film to get would-be fans to request a screening of the film in their area. The goal was to get a million requests to enter wide release, which they did.

Giving users a taste of what your products do first will give your brand a following before you release it to sell. Not only will this look good to investors, but it will also be a springboard towards reeling in loyal customers.

#2) Do It Once & Do It BIG

When something is done right and done big, it’s impossible not to create buzz. This is, after all, the tradition of Apple and it hasn’t seemed to hold them down.

Nothing should be done for the sake of being big, but rather it needs to be BIG because the product demands it so. What is its charm? What are its functions? How does it help? What emotion do you want it to give your customers? Use these ideas to create buzz on a grand scale.

The recent Lego Movie did just that. In the United Kingdom, the movie actually bought an entire commercial break and filled with well-known commercials re-made entirely with Lego characters. It made people laugh, was attractive to both kids and adults, created the emotions they wanted to convey and, most importantly, greeted buzz.

#3) Shock Value 

Here’s the thing about shock value. If it has nothing to do with your brand or product, and only done for the shock of it alone, it’s never going to work. You might get a few good onlookers, but it won’t benefit you in the long run.

Shock value requires you to think of your product in an inside-out way and it doesn’t necessarily need to be scary. It can be awkward, emotionally-charged, or spirit-lifting. The number one rule, however, is to draw people’s attention and get a reaction.

One of my favorite examples is the infamous telekinetic coffee shop video created by the marketers of the movie Carrie. Actors are hired, strings are attached to flying trapeze artists, and moveable furniture is implemented. Needless to say, it shocked quite a few customers.

Another example which took a different turn is the “Free Hug” campaign. The goal was simply to lift people’s spirit and grab people’s attention – it totally worked. Now there are countless of “Free Hug” copycats around the world.

#4) Cross-Promoting 

This has been a pretty substantial method in recent years, but Hollywood has taken it to a whole other level by implementing their films as real people and promoting imaginary themes in real world circumstances. Strategies like this never go unnoticed.

For example, the recent film Anchorman 2 brought in Ben & Jerry’s ice cream on board to create a flavor called “Ron Burgundy Scotch” which they sell in stores. Will Ferrell also interviewed celebrities such as Peyton Manning for ESPN to give off the idea that Burgundy is a real person. Obviously this kind of marketing scheme gets people’s attention.

Cross-promoting has evolved from simply having a stack of flyers on the cashier’s counter. If your business has a “mascot,” you have a great opportunity to cross-promote via public appearances or recognition. Think outside the box.

#5) Technological Implementation 

Technology is so sophisticated nowadays and people love to watch videos or visual simulations of gadgets that gain reaction. Whether it’s through computer animation (like Disney’s Frozen) or intense makeup (like SyFy’s Face Off).

One example we all can learn from is the Devil Baby Attack launched in January this year featuring a devil baby that would scare people on the street while its inventors filmed their reaction. The video was to promote the film Devils Due and it worked tremendously.

Not all technology implementation needs to be taken to the streets. There are great businesses who choose to plant sophisticated gadgets in their stores as a draw-in for passers-by, i.e. Ripley’s Believe It or Not’s mechanic animals. It’s always a good idea to tie in technology with your product because you’re almost guaranteed to attract all sorts of markets – that’s an investment worth making.