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Movie Promotion:
A Marketing Attitude for Digital Cinema (Part 4 of 4)

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A career-shaping lesson about promoting “giant donuts” made a lasting impression on my marketing attitude. If your story – your features, benefits and applications -- can be applied to a giant donut, it’s not specific enough. Promotion is about differentiating your movie, your stars, your offer from everyone else’s basket of goodies.

Today’s movie industry spends roughly as much on marketing as it does on production. And for some reason, people in the biz think that’s too much. What they don’t realize is that is the recipe for business in most other market segments is 50% for production -- 50% for marketing.

A marketing attitude, however, can improve effectiveness and savings for a savvy entertainment company. A tractor company just doesn’t own the same sexy sizzle or reap the same media buzz that a movie star or a comic book hero delivers.

Promotion is a powerful marketing tool for the digital entertainer with a marketing ‘tude. Not only during the premier of a new product, but throughout its lifecycle. Different messages for different folk.

Producers create the end-product for the consumer, but they seldom market that product directly to the consumer. They market their story to investors and distributors. Distributors market to exhibitors, retailers and sub-distributors. The theater exhibitors, retailers, store clerks, and Internet strategists market to the end consumers. And then, to top off this complex stew, some consumers even market to other consumers – their family, friends and co-workers.

Everyone needs the right story to tell their prospects. That’s promotion.

Promotion is basically about storytelling. One to one – that’s sales. Media – that’s public relations. Printed materials – that’s sales promotion and direct mail and advertising. And relationships – that’s exhibition and sponsorships.

Give ‘em something to talk about. Messages are about the movie’s story, its stars, its photography, its's revenue potential. The punchline of the right story is tailored to the reward sought by next person in the food chain who really wants to buy into your movie-marketing opportunity -- IF the story is appealing enough!

Hollow, tired messages don’t cut it for more than a few seconds. Remember the giant donut? If your story can be applied to that giant know the rest! But stories with credibity, with heart and emotion, with cutting edge wonder – those stories get attention and grab the entire marketing chain by the… by the earlobes.

Everyone is a storyteller. Sales people tell the story of benefits and prestige and possibilities. Advertisers tell the story of appealing highlights and availability (place). Exhibitors tell the story of what’s coming up next and who will love it.

Storytelling is as much about what is “left out” as what is included. Which trailers will be shown? What length? Juxtaposed with which features? For which audiences? On which days? For how long? Will collectibles such as toys and t-shirts tell the story? Will posters grab attention? Will a song send chills up spines? Will media giveaways be hot story hooks and memorable collectibles?

The promotion mix is standard marketing fare. A menu of established channels between producers and publics. Here are a few of my takes on a truly effervescent marketing ‘tude.

Personal Selling

Every idea, every plan, every product starts with personal selling. The writer sells the logline. The producer sells the marketability of the project. The director sells his vision and the fun of being on his set. Not to be outdone, the distributor sells the size of the market and the dream of a love affair with the genre or star. The exhibitor sells the sizzle of popcorn and the close encounter around the digital campfire.

Personal selling involves knowing the heart and soul of your product and your customer…and matchmaking these two elements of the marketing mix with the magic of alchemy.


A marketing plan that includes market size, genre appeal, star power, and story power will help sell your project every step down the line.

Sales Promotion

“The offer” is the meat and pilaf of this menu item. Without an appealing offer of value for the cost – no amount of selling will empty your shelves or fill your seats. Exclusivity, short runs, bundled deals, see a star, or bring a friend – these offers make people feel special, like they are getting a deal that not everyone else can have. It gives them a unique -- or at least rare -- story to tell!


A dynamic trailer is the hottest sales tool in today’s movie marketplace.

Public Relations

Who are your publics? Make a list…and that’s an order. Actually it’s a matter of order. There is a certain order in which your story will grow, and when that organic process is broken – just like in the garden – the bumper crop of a harvest just doesn’t happen.

In the entertainment industry the order is this:

  • Personal contacts: Projects attract buzz as insiders hear about new, hush-hush projects that are looking for a home and team.
  • Industry pundits: Projects are announced through the trade media to amass vendors and investment to take the next step toward implementation.
  • Fans and In-house lists: Current customers are told about upcoming projects that are well rooted with funding and attachments.
  • Consumer media: The well-oiled calendar of consumer communications brings together consumers and advertisers who need a story to talk about! Hence sponsorships about the glitzy and glamour of that is more interesting than deep fried foods and nondescript wine bottled by the millions.
  • Lifelong community: belonging to a group of enthusiasts who share a passion, an interest, a benefit builds the in-house list for ongoing storytelling.


Public relations with the media requires a quality press kit, an EPK (electronic press kit that includes a trailer), and quality production photos. A movie web-site is also a given in today’s Internet marketing climate.

Direct Mail

Direct mailings can be as small as 2 and as large as 2 million. Getting attention with something tangible is still a very effective sales tool. Email can create buzz with its ease of sneezing to thousands of a storyteller’s closest buddies, but a tangible flier, poster, ticket, invitation or sample DVD is, well, direct. Direct to the eyes. Direct to the touch. Direct to the heart because it’s there. This is actually a strong element of “place” marketing.


Nothing is as powerful in marketing as something tangible to hold in one’s hand. That can be a postcard, a flier, a photo, or a DVD. Early sales will benefit from tangible leave-behinds.

Trade Fairs and Exhibitions

Entertainment markets, festivals and expos are like watering holes. Refreshing oases in the desert of massive populations who don’t share an individual’s interests. Many marketeers attend to get face time with their vendors as much or more than they intent to sell their wares. Market time is relationship building time. Show and tell time. Storytelling time for insiders.


Get involved. Stay involved. Relationships get phone calls returned. Knowledge of who’s doing what, when and where refines your marketing strategy.


P&A – prints and advertising is a movie distributors’ largest expense. Digital technologies for production and distribution are creating a dramatic shift in this element of marketing. Hurrah! But with every advance, there is change to assimilate, fractured market channels and new people to meet and greet. Internet advertising, cell phone advertising, affiliate programs…these are just some of the opportunities that can be explored with a creative marketing ‘tude.


Product placement is probably the most newsworthy application of sponsorship in entertainment. By matchmaking manufacturers’ products with genre audiences and positive placement with stars, plotlines and camera angles – sponsorships bring many creative marketing opportunities in which the onset worlds are created with the everyday brands that flourish in our homes, offices and playgrounds. The demise of the spot ad is probably overrated – but weaving products, brands and functionalities into stories is just one more adventure in the art of storytelling. That’s marketing ‘tude with a capital T.


Define your “story”. Write a 10 second, 30 second and three minute pitch that can define your messages in posters, trailers, ads and personal conversations to promote your movie.

Develop the standard tools for industry promotion: press kit, electronic press kit, web site, trailer(s) and in-house mailing list.

Encourage other people to tell your story – and give them the tools to tell it well! For example: insider screenings, postcards, trailers, business cards, and most of all, your enthusiasm with a hook to their specific interest.

For a basic look at product marketing strategies, take a look at the Cliff Allen's marketing content website: Marketing Articles

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