To lend on a well worn analogy, a movie release is like the classic race between a tortoise and the hare.
The Hare's approach is to put up a standalone website two weeks before the movie release, send tonnes of paid advertising traffic to the website and hope it makes it to the finish line. Increasing the marketing spend is akin to putting him (her) on steroids, they might blow up but they just might make it. They will be unpredictable but it will be one wild ride.
We are not advocating for the tortoise approach which does sound serene but won't cut the mustard.
Let's settle on a racehorse approach; start fast but with stamina and a great kick at the finish.
What does the racehorse approach look like?
Assumptions and high level goals:
We are assuming quite a long cycle here but it should illustrate the steps rather than the set duration.
The goals are to;
Create a clear, strong and sustaining release strategy
Powered by movie-related assets
Drip fed to fans to gain momentum
Ensure each marketing action leads to your promotional site where the assets are housed (great for SEO)
And there is an opportunity for fans to register their interest in a fun and engaging way
Momentum will lead to increased search engine visibility and organic traffic flow
Then turn on the marketing for the release cycle
Tell your movie-related fanbase tickets are on sale in their area
The fanbase generated can also be used for your next release so your long term direct to consumer strategy kicks into gear. See you later short term thinking!
Back to the Optimum Racehorse approach...
A word to the wise (production partner): Gather as many assets as possible during production
From a marketing the movie perspective, think of the production as the training phase; the more content we can create, the better prepared we are for the race. So if you have the ear of your production partners, make sure they film/record as much content during the production process as possible: interviews with the crew and cast, making of content and anything else really. This will fuel the year long race to the finish line.
12 months out...Create the movie page on your website
The first thing to do is to make sure the movie is on your website with a synopsis, cast info and whatever is set in stone at this stage. We are assuming the movie is still in production or post production.
11 months out...Start dropping original content
Over the next 11 months, drop content onto the page periodically to engage fans, encourage page visits, improve SEO and to capture fan data. Remember what might be mundane to the (post) production crew is enthralling to fans. Anything like challenges of editing in the Covid era to reshooting a scene are a nightmarce to the team but fascinating to fans. Use it and turn that frown upside down.
9 months out...Launch some sort of gamification honeypot to capture fan data
From a multiple choice quiz, to a fun 'how well do you know' topic/genre game, to a money can't buy prize competition, launch something on your website to encourage fans to get involved (and leave you their email address/preference data).
8 months out...Teaser trailer drop
It's time to super-charge the traffic and SEO.
You will likely drop the first teaser trailer in lots of places which is fine - but, instead of losing this traffic to the Youtube/ Facebook advertising annals of history (where these companies only benefit), make it clear that fans can go your website to find out more and take part in your gamification campaign dropped last month. If your trailer draws 100m views and 10% go to your website and 25% take part in the game, you have garnered 2.5m email addresses. Amp up a prize and you could increase the click through from 10% to 30% and you now have 7.5m email addresses. That's 7.5m fans you can communicate with over the long term.
6 months out...Launch a Making Of video or star interviews
Google is ranking your site nicely and you have a fanbase built up. Continue with High Value Content drops. Alert the fans via email and encourage repeat visits or in-email video engagement.
4-2 months out...The movie brand is ready to fly (release it and time it with a trailer drop and official assets launch...and new competition)
It's time to turn your movie caterpillar (movie page on your website with corporate branding) into a butterfly (movie branded page with vanity URLs).
Word to the wise again: Don't do lots of international sites which split traffic. Have the one microsite with automated local language options and geo-located movie information. Splitting the traffic is akin to taking one leg off the horse. Be nice to our sweet little racehorse! Keep her strong!!
Make sure all the asset and trailer drop related marketing and PR point to the new domain URL or URLs for international markets. Make this is another seminal moment in the release so think about powering a premiere tickets related competition to amplify engagement and fanbase growth.
6 weeks out...keep the goodies coming
Games, teaser information, movie related videos, still shots...you name it...they will all continue to increase traffic, SEO ranking and fanbase growth.
Word to the wise again: Share some headline data with your theatrical sales teams about the groundswell of demand for your upcoming release...if theaters have not already decided to do pre-sales, let the data do the talking for you.
4-2 weeks out...get tickets on sale, go direct-to-consumer and let's crank up the marketing
With your fanbase from this movie and relevant previous campaigns, let your fans know when tickets go on sale in their local markets. Kick off the marketing campaigns and lead all this traffic back to your website where fans can find local listings.
If you work with the lovely folk in usheru, we can power your own direct-to-consumer ticketing so you can measure conversions against associated marketing campaigns.
Word to the wise again: Share this attribution data with your marketing agencies so in real time, they cut out wasteful marketing and re-direct it to the best performing campaigns.
Share pre-sales data with anyone who will listen; theaters, press, the stars, international markets to build up anticipation. Encourage your stars also to send traffic to your website. If you hold influence, be sure to bake this into their contracts.
Launch day...now get all eCommerce and laser focused
This is the final home straight. You have done your training, the jockey knows what he has to do, so lets get clinical and putting those conversion blinkers on.
Thank fans who pre-bought tickets. They deserve your love and adoration In return let's hope they become beautiful bees who share that sweet pollinating word of mouth nectar. usheru's system will court reviews 30 minutes after the show happens which they can socially share. We can together encourage and make pollination simple.
Remind fans who have signed up but yet to purchase tickets that NOW is their moment to shine. Add an option for them to declare if they have 'Already Seen It'. Capture this information and try get some review data. This will be valuable going forward.
Re-target fans who have visited your website recently but didn't convert during the pre-sale window.
Continue advertising and iterating the spend based on engagement.
Convert the distracted. Re-target fans feverishly who abandoned their shopping carts. This is your most cost effective and high value marketing effort imaginable.
Hopefully the pollinators have done their job and the word of mouth maximized your theatrical release window. However, don't see this as the end of the cycle...your home entertainment marketing team have some work left to do. One unified platform and audience database will help make their jobs easier.
TVOD launch day...sweep up the rest
For those who didn't purchase theatrically, alert them they can now watch the movie at home. usheru can help you track these engagements through purchase.
For those who bought a ticket and gave it a 4/5 star review; let them know it's available to watch at home. Perhaps a streaming partner can organize a discount code so they can watch it at a discount...great to foster that loyalty!
SVOD launch day...email the stragglers
At this point, the deals are done but we want fans to watch your movies. More engagement will influence future bargaining power. Alert the non-purchasers of availability. Track who clicks on what platforms to understand more about your audience.
No prize winning horse trainer finishes a race and doesn't assess the performance. To continually improve performance and eschew best practice behavior, learn from the mistakes and what we done right to influence a better next release.
usheru have inbuilt campaign tracking in everything we do but be sure to reflect on;
were your marketing goals smart and correct? How can you improve these next time?
were all your marketing campaigns tracked? Or what percentage weren't? You need to improve this metric every time.
what percentage of my sales could I attribute to a marketing campaign? How can we grow this percentage? A direct-to-consumer fanbase will help
were all my images, videos and related content tagged correctly? Build out a SEO improvement plan for your website