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The Movie as Product:
A Marketing Attitude for Digital Cinema (Part 1 of 4)

Success in digital cinema is built upon several critical ingredients: content, technology and people. The people factor is where marketing comes in. Finding their itch and supplying a solution is the process of market-ing. This central business function includes product selection and refinement, promotion, and communication through message making and distribution. In the movie biz, it's usually relegated to creating "buzz" -- but the smart movie mogul knows its more than that.

Marketing is an enigma to most business people. It's puzzling, ambiguous, and even perplexing. In the next four installments of this column on Digital Story Marketing, we will explore the traditional approach to marketing through the 4Ps, and how to apply some of that time-tested technique to movie business.

The 4Ps of marketing are: product, price, place and promotion. We will look at the "marketing attitude" behind each of these critical elements of engaging people in the exchange of entertainment and enlightenment for the greenback.

PRODUCT

Have you ever had a hand in developing a product that was engineered for efficiency. Tested for performance. Packaged for shipping. And had it sit on the shelf?

Today's marketing 'tude is about design as much as it is about product life cycle. A marketing attitude of connecting people with people through a product and/or service is at the heart of every decision and process in business. An attitude of identifying the audience/customers. An attitude of giving them more bang for their buck. An attitude of getting their attention in a world of media clutter. An attitude of building value for your company through smart business negotiations. All those choices and skills are elements of marketing.

A movie product consists of intellectual property than can be ported to a variety of deliverables: theatrical exhibit, non-theatrical exhibit, video tapes, DVDs, CDs of the soundtrack, collectible editions, television and cable broadcast, Internet-served, and then there is the split dimensions of domestic, foreign, and niche markets. Not to mention ancillary products such as clothing, toys, games, posters and even restaurants for successful franchises. Oh--and then there's the franchise rights, endorsements, product placements--and a host of offshoots that are bought and sold, leased and rented.

The digital cinema product is also a service. It's a product that can be a valued collectible or a gift. It's also entertainment opportunities in a theater or in someone's home. The movie biz is one of the most complex in the communications industry because of its creativity, its diversity and its continual explosions of technological delivery options.

Production value is a nice global term in product marketing of movies. Included in this catch-all basket are:

  • Strength of the story
  • Star power -- promotional quality of actor, director and maybe, director of photography
  • Visual quality
  • Sound and Music quality
  • Deliverability: quality, on-budget, on-time and marketing materials
Marketing a movie involved a roll-out calendar that first reaches out to industry channels: distributors, theatrical exhibitors, sales reps, producers reps, and the industry media. Pre-production and development stage marketing consists of research to identify the best niche markets, genre and cross-over strategies, product placements, star recruitment, and of course -- a refined, marketable script.

During production, marketing activities include on-set activities including the taking of production still photography for upcoming packaging, posters and media illustrations, as well as set visits and promotion for the media who work way ahead of the release of the film to get the story out to the industry and the ultimate consumers.

Post production isn't left in the marketing dust. During the last couple months of editing, there are private screenings that test for audience feedback to hone the story into its finest, most marketable form. Length, cover shots, story elements and even color correction can be refined for greater marketability.

Launch of a film is considered the high point of marketing, but it is really a culmination of months of behind the scenes marketing work. The message has been crafted, the visuals assembled, the stars put into the public spotlight, and the distribution channel negotiated into a seamless flow of product flowing into the various channels that take the product into the service and product markets.

MARKETING TO-DO

Producers with a marketing 'tude create a marketing calendar that parallels the production calendar. By planning for the launch and lifelong marketing needs of a movie it is possible to save big bucks on marketing photography, testing for audience reaction that will create a satisfying experience and valuable word of mouth advertising.

Distributors like to get into the product marketing picture early so they can work with the producer in getting adequate coverage shots for their various niche markets, make sure they have quality images and stories for their marketing materials, and have adequate time to distribute the promotional energy throughout their market niches.

Even creative and technical teams can think with a marketing 'tude. By building quality production values into a project with astounding lighting, well-paced editing, emotionally gripping sound, and on-time delivery, the marketability of a project is heightened.

Marketing teams consist of strategists, negotiators, publicists, photographers, graphic designers, sales reps, writers, media producers and announcers, editors, and many more specialists who move the product from a script through the industry system into the consumer system.

A marketing 'tude is a collaboration that recognizes the complexity of the storytelling system and the need to provide quality content and communications every step along the life cycle of the project. Quality marketing is as essential to success as quality production value.

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

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