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Sunday, May 24, 2009

How Your Film is Like the Palm Pre, But Not Like the iPhone

This story in today's NY Times about movie marketing got me thinking... in particular, there's one great quote at the end that I'll share in a second.

Most people making a movie imagine that they're like Steve Jobs and the iPhone. When they're done, they're going to exit the editing suite, unveil their wonderful film, and have the world suddenly care about it: film festivals will want to be the first to premiere it, theaters will be falling all over themselves to show it, and eventually, cable networks will want the rights to play it and consumers will be lining up to buy the DVD.

Isn't that how things always work for Steve Jobs and Apple? The merest hint that they're going to release a new product brings the entire media world scurrying to the company's doorstep.

But it just doesn't work that way for most filmmakers.

Instead, you ought to look at what Palm is doing with its new smartphone, the Pre (it'll go on sale next month.)

Palm started building up anticipation for the phone in January, with some very limited demos at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that led to glowing reviews. It has been building up anticipation: software developers say it's easy to create apps for the Pre, and tech publications have been evaluating its features and wondering how it will compare to the iPhone. Essentially, this is a product that has had six months of steady build up in advance of its release -- and a lot of marketing work on Palm's part.

That's the kind of work many indie filmmakers (and some studios, too) fail to do for a new movie. People ought to know it's coming, have a sense for what it's about, be excited about it, and have had opportunities to get involved with it ... all well before the release date.

Here's the quote from today's NY Times story:

    “One of the biggest differences between movie marketers and consumer brand marketers involves timing,” said Richard Ingber, president of marketing at Alcon Entertainment. “Films have a very narrow window in which to succeed,” he said. “Products are designed to gain momentum while they live on the shelf.”

That's a great insight. Products like the Pre, even with all their advance hype, don't have a week or two to succeed. They'll sit in phone stores for months or years waiting for consumers to discover them. That's not true of films -- and it's why a pre-release marketing strategy is incredibly important.

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