10 Digital Marketing Lessons We Learned From The Movies
If your business needs to scale up its digital marketing strategy and you’re looking for some tips and pointers, there are plenty of free resources available to help push you in the right direction.
But sometimes, you can find inspiration where you least expect it: you may not have realized it, but even some of cinema’s most revered movie classics can offer valuable lessons that no digital marketer should overlook.
From Gotham City to Amity Island, here are 10 essential tips we learned from some of our favorite Hollywood movies about digital marketing.
1. Know Your Audience (Monsters, Inc.)
At Monsters, Incorporated, they have a very clear target audience: easily-spooked kids, snoozing away in their duvets after bedtime.
But when master scarers Sulley and Mike disprove the long-held theories that children are toxic and that their screams hold the key to powering Monstropolis, we discover why Monsters, Inc. is a failing enterprise: they never knew their audience.
Whether or not you’re in the 'scaring' business, you don’t want to make the same mistakes. As a digital marketer, knowing your target audience is step one of designing a successful campaign strategy.
If you don’t have at least a basic understanding of who they are and what makes them tick, it’s your acquisition and engagement metrics that might look a little frightening.
2. Make Sure You’ve Got The Right Tools (Jaws)
When Chief Brody uttered that immortal (supposedly ad-libbed) line after catching a first closeup glimpse of the Orca crew’s toothy tormentor (you know, the one about the inadequately-sized boat), it became clear the trio were ill-equipped to deal with a three-ton threat.
What’s more, the big fish makes pretty short work of Hooper’s apparently ‘shark-proof’ cage.
The lesson here? You’re not going to get far if you haven't got the adequate tools for the job. Rickety fishing boats and ineffective harpoon guns aside, an insufficient email marketing platform or a slapdash design tool is only going to result in your digital marketing strategy sinking faster than Quint’s vessel.
3. Keep Your Branding Consistent (Batman Begins)
When Christian Bale’s soon-to-be Caped Crusader is searching for an appropriate alter-ego to strike fear into Gotham’s criminal underbelly, he tells trusty Butler Alfred that he needs to adopt a 'symbol', one which is both elemental and incorruptible.
It’s here where the Dark Knight’s branding is key: that bat-shaped symbol emblazoned across the night sky is soon as recognizable to the city’s law-breakers as it is to its twitchy citizens.
Brand Batman encompasses every part of his brooding persona: from costume to car, every element is adorned with his signature color palette and visual aesthetic.
The identity you’re going for is probably a little less vengeful vigilante, but by maintaining consistent branding across your digital content (from your social posts to your email campaigns) you can start to build that all-important brand recognition.
4. Get Inside Your Customer’s Head (Inception)
In Christopher Nolan’s mind-bending sci-fi epic (one of three Nolan-directed entries on this list), Leo DiCaprio’s Dom Cobb infiltrates the subconscious minds of his targets using dream-sharing technology to extract (or in this case, implant) information.
Your techniques might not be quite so dubiously invasive (thankfully), but since 72% of consumers will only engage with personalized messaging, understanding their wants, their desires and their pain points is crucial.
AI and machine learning technologies (like Personalize, for instance) allow marketers to tailor their campaign content to each customer’s specific interests and motivations, potentially increasing response rates by up to 50%.
In an increasingly crowded marketplace, understanding your customer on a deeper level (and creating a highly personalized experience) can be the differentiator.
5. Focus On Search (Finding Nemo)
Tenuous? Maybe. But since it’s principally a film about searching for something (in the case of this Pixar classic, a clown fish searching for his missing son) it feels like an appropriate segway into SEO.
And while you may not be dodging hungry anglerfish or navigating through jellyfish forests like Marlin and his companion Dory, the choppy waters of SEO can be equally challenging to navigate your way through.
An effective SEO strategy demands not only relevant, keyword-optimized content, but an understanding of off-page and technical SEO to build authority and trust in your brand.
Using a tool like Ahrefs, for example, you can mine keywords and build links to ensure search engines place high value on your pages (making them easier for users to locate than misplaced clown fish).
6. Leverage The Power Of Data (Moneyball)
Drawing on the true story of baseball pioneer Billy Beane, this is one analogy we don’t need to stretch very far (since it’s literally about leveraging data to outmanoeuver the competition).
As general manager of the Oakland Athletics, Beane shakes up the status quo by initiating a data-based system for recruiting talent, seeing his team rise from no-hopers to American League West title winners.
The lesson here is pretty clear: don’t underestimate the power of data when it comes to digital marketing.
Using a leading customer data platform like Segment, you can measure your customers’ interactions across all platforms and channels, then create tailored solutions that align with their needs and address their pain points.
7. Don’t Overlook The Fundamentals (Jurassic Park)
John Hammond might have stumbled on a lightning-in-a-bottle concept (a menagerie of cloned dinosaurs in an exotic island backdrop) but why did his prehistoric Disneyworld ultimately come crashing down?
Because, while his product offering was a killer, he overlooked some of the more fundamental elements; for one thing, his security operation left something to be desired.
While you might not be preoccupied with T-Rex-proof perimeter fences, your strategy will quickly become extinct if you overlook elementary aspects like cybersecurity. It’s no good having a flashy website with captivating, SEO-rich content if that site isn’t hosted on a secure platform.
Investing in a managed ecommerce hosting solution (something like Cloudways, for example) will give you business-grade security without requiring your time and effort, meaning you can avoid your digital marketing strategy going the way of Isla Nublar.
8. Make An Offer They Can’t Refuse (The Godfather)
When Marlon Brando’s Vito Corleone delivers that iconic line in response to his godson’s request for help in securing a movie part, he follows up by delivering the freshly severed head of a racehorse to the film’s producer.
And while we’re not advocating equine decapitation-based blackmail as a motivation technique, Vito’s oft-repeated quote does align with one fundamental part of a successful digital marketing strategy.
Prospective customers aren’t likely to buy into your brand unless you incentivize them. Whether your goal is lead generation or conversion, shoppers expect (neigh, demand) tangible and generous rewards in exchange for their engagement or their hard-earned cash.
Use a loyalty program like Smile.io to incentivize prospects and reward your customers’ ongoing loyalty.
9. Don’t Be Afraid To Try Anything New (Forrest Gump)
As Forrest Alexander Gump recounts tales of his barely-believable life to strangers at a Georgia bus stop, one thing is abundantly clear: this is not a man who is afraid to dive head-first into unfamiliar challenges.
Either side of a stint in the US army, Forrest turns his hand to pursuits such as American football, ping pong and shrimp fishing to name just a few (there’s cross-country running, too, of course).
If digital marketers can learn anything from Tom Hanks’s good-natured dimwit, it’s to not be deterred from trying new things.
While there’s merit in persisting with tried-and-tested techniques, you may be overlooking untapped potential if you’re not prepared to think differently every now and then. Remain risk-averse and you’ll likely find the competition running laps around you.
10. Work Backwards (Memento)
Flipping the traditional Hollywood narrative on its head, Christopher Nolan’s convoluted revenge drama hinges on a slick and skilfully executed premise: it starts at the end, with events gradually unfolding in reverse order as the memory-afflicted Leonard Shelby tries to unpick the riddle of his wife’s murder.
While there’s no need to be tattooing digital marketing buzzwords to your own body (just one of Leonard’s quirky recollection techniques), digital marketers could benefit from leaning on Nolan’s novel approach to narrative when designing campaign strategies: think about the end goal first, then design your strategy in reverse order.
By the time you get back to step one, you’ll have considered all touchpoints along the way.
So, next time you take your seat at the cinema or you’re working your way through your Netflix watchlist, see for yourself whether there are any key digital marketing lessons hiding among the far-flung worlds and fantastical narratives of your favourite movies.