The other day I had the distinct pleasure of meeting for the first time Joseph Jaffe, marketing guru, blogger and book author. He was in Chicago and we were able chat a bit over breakfast and I have to say that as bright a guy in person as he is in print or on his podcast.
I won’t bore you with the details of everything we talked about but one part of the conversation did seem pertinent enough that I wanted to mention it. He asked me what dollar amount would constitute a successful movie. Immediately in my mind I discounted huge big-budget releases. The budgets on those are out of control and the grosses just haven’t measured up in recent years. Instead I thought of the smaller releases that dominated this year’s Academy Awards and specifically of Capote. So I threw out the number $40 million as being a good benchmark for success.
The reason I chose Capote is that it is, financially, an unqualified success. The budget, according to the IMDb, was $7 million and it made as of March 12th, $27 million. That’s a return of almost four times on investment. So I took it up to $40 million just to have a nice round number to play with and I’m not the strongest math mind on the planet.
Here’s where Jaffe went with that. $40 million at an average $8 a ticket means 5,000,000 people actually entered the theater. Then figure half those people weren’t the primary decision makers in choosing to see that movie but were taken by someone else. That means 2,500,000 chose to see the movie. Now take into account the idea of what Malcolm Gladwell calls Salesmen or what are more commonly referred to as “influencers.” Influencers account for about one out of every ten people and are high motivators in their particular groups. So if you take one out of ten from that 2,500,000 that leaves 250,000
So now the marketing equation has changed. Studios don’t need to reach an audience of 5,000,000 in order to make a movie that cost $10 million a success on the order of Capote. They need now only focus on reaching 250,000. How different is that and what strategies are going to best reach that select group of influencers?
TV commercials and expensive online ad purchases on the major portals such as Yahoo! are very good at reaching a large number of eyeballs in a short amount of time. The problem with doing so is that you’ve reached, say 3 million people inside of 12 hours. But how many of those are actually going to be motivated enough to see the movie? 1 percent or less? The marketing team has now spent a lot of money to reach 30,000 or fewer people. What’s the return on investment there? Not good.
So change the thinking. Instead of going for reach target the campaign at those influencers. Find some widely read blogs, forums and other sites that cater to people who are discussing films both specific and general. The amount of dollars spent on a campaign that is highly targeted like this will be less than buying a series of commercial spots and the people reached will be much more likely to take what’s being said seriously. It won’t just fade into the clutter of other marketing messages for them.
Marketers can spend a lot of money either reaching a broad group of untargeted people and influence a small percentage of that group or they can spend less money reaching a targeted group who are not only interested themselves but who will influence others.
[P.S.: CNN has a story about how the future of movies lies in the niches and not in the broad audiences that dovetails nicely with my thoughts.]
movie marketing, joseph jaffe