What Can Hollywood Teach Brands About Content Marketing?

Dave Wischnowsky
Jan 14, 2016 · 5 min read

As Oscar season begins, marketers can learn a lot from the folks in Tinsel Town.

The Golden Globes are over (Leo won!). The Oscar nominations are out (can Leo finally win?!). And with its annual cavalcade of films, Hollywood is well known around the world as a content producer.

But as a brand, the valuable, relevant and consistent films that Hollywood creates with the design of attracting — and retaining — fans makes it quite the content marketer too.

In honor of the start of Oscar season, our team at AE Marketing Group has been busy thinking about the valuable lessons about content marketing that brands can learn from the creative folks out in Hollywood.

We picked trilogy of them. And here they are:

1 . Repurpose What Works

What do Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Jurassic World, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Furious 7, Minions, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2, Cinderella, Spectre, Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation and Pitch Perfect 2 all have in common?

Well, for one thing, they’re 10 of the Top 12 highest-grossing films of 2015. But for another, each is also either a sequel, a spinoff or a reboot of a previous film — and that’s what’s intriguing from a brand perspective.

It’s a common complaint among filmgoers today that Hollywood has no new ideas, and as a result everything in theaters is now either a remake or a sequel.

In any industry, innovative brands should always be trying to think of new ideas. But at the same time, savvy ones also know that not every new idea has to be truly “new.” Through analytics, brands today can easily gauge what content is performing best among their audience. Once that’s identified, the next step is brainstorm ways to extend its lifespan and value.

That might be as simple as breaking up a well-read blog into smaller bits to be shared via social media. Perhaps a post about a hot topic can be spun forward into a new post examining what’s next. Or maybe a successful podcast can then generate a popular video recap, which can then be adapted into a sharply written thought leadership summary.

Once your brand identifies content that’s truly clicking with your audience, think about how it can be used to create “sequels,” “spinoffs” or “reboots.”

You know, just like Hollywood does.

2. Quality Trumps Quantity

Now, not every sequel works.

Ever seen Batman & Robin?

And the fact is, too much of a “good” thing can actually end up breaking bad — a reality that applies for both brands and movie franchises.

Surveying the annual box office scene, Hollywood basically generates three types of films: 1) Blockbusters, 2) Bombs and 3) Critically Acclaimed.

The third category includes movies such as Aaron Sorkin’s 2015 biopic Steve Jobs, which didn’t fare well at the box— earning only $28.1 million on a budget of $31 million — but is now garnering awards with star Kate Winslet winning the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture.

The second category of “Bombs” would include all the financial flops that are best left forgotten — you know, Gigli and the like.

Then there are the “Blockbusters,” a category that is considerably more complex, as it includes the 10 aforementioned sequels, spinoffs and reboots, which have all earned at least $184 million and likely have successfully furthered their respective film franchises. At the same time, however, the “Blockbuster” category would also have to include flicks such as the also aforementioned Batman & Robin. It was undeniably a financial success back in 1997, having raked in $238 million, but the film was also so widely panned by critics — and fans — that it effectively killed the Batman brand until Christopher Nolan finally resurrected it in 2005 with Batman Begins.

Even a piece that generates a lot of views and engagement (or ticket sales in the case of Batman & Robin) can ultimately be a destructive dud if its poor quality reflects negatively on your brand.

Focus on creating — and sharing — content for your brand and consumers that’s truly valuable, and not just voluble.

3. Authenticity is Everything

Last month, a journalist buddy and I struck up a conversation about the movie industry over drinks at a bar. He shared a story of a writer pal of his living out in Los Angeles who had worked on the upcoming film, Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. He said that his role in the movie-making process was so precise that all it entailed was the development an entire origin story for a secondary character just to help flesh out that character’s personality.

When casting for the assigned role changed, the writer’s first origin story was scrapped and an entirely fresh one was commissioned befitting the new actor — a lot of work considering that little, if any, of the details from either background story was ever even intended to be used in the movie.

That second-hand peek behind Hollywood’s movie-making curtains serves as a fascinating example of the attention to detail — and emphasis on authenticity — that studios can adhere to in order to ensure strong storytelling.

Similar lessons should apply to your brand: Rather than just churning out mediocre content, spend the time and thought to develop high-quality pieces and authentic communications that truly connect with your audience and provide them with tangible value. Because if your content and brand don’t feel real and provide desired details and insights, consumers will dismiss it.

And if they dismiss your brand, then you’ve likely lost them.

And they won’t be back.

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Dave Wischnowsky

Written by

Chicago Sports & News Columnist. Copy & Content Marketing at @ThisIsPlanB. Alum of @ChicagoTribune, @CBSChicago & @News_Gazette.