For years filmmakers have suggested that story is more important than media, platform or business. Last week I read a report about large retail and corporate businesses that compete with similar products, at matching price points, and in the same marketplace. The ads and marketing campaigns are so similar that the only marketing tool left to sway the consumer’s decision is called “story.”
The hundreds of pages of survey data boiled down to the fact that consumers now make purchases based on the company’s presented story. Consumers no longer consider price, as expectations suggest all items are similarly priced. Nor do they consider quality of product, as all products can be manufactured at equal levels.
The beverage industry, which was monopolized by two companies for decades, learned about the importance of story when Nantucket Nectars captured significant market share. Placing short brand stories on each bottle enhanced the campaign. The marketing ploy was successful and caused other companies to distinguish their brands by using storytelling techniques.
Blockbusters, sports, horror and Christian films are no longer unique within the industry. Filmmakers are now forced to find deliberate ways to distinguish their film from similar stories. The Fast and Furious franchise used the sense of belonging and family to distinguish each sequel from the numerous race car knock off films created by competitive studios.
A film’s uniqueness is what separates the quality film from the “me also” films. Many times a corporation will attach a spokesperson to its campaign to help create a deliberate separation between similar products. However, maintaining a celebrity spokesperson can be costly, forcing companies to create new distinguishing and promotable story lines.
Without the delineation, the latest sports film can sound just like the last one. When the Major League Baseball film 42 released, there was little to distinguish it from The Express, Remember the Titans and Glory Road.
Even the trailer of those films suggest it was just another sports film:
- Hero predicts his future greatness
- Hotheaded coach shouts that the only thing that matters is how you play ball
- Nice guy warns future hero about how his kind isn’t accepted by the team
- Nice guy embraces hero as true friend and foretells his greatness
The key to breaking a film out of a tie situation with its “me also” films is designing a marketing story that is unique and highlights parts of the story that are significantly different than anything else. Without helping the audience to discern the specific differences prior to watching the film, the release will just look like all other like-minded releases and will generate about the same dollars at the box office. In other words, the film will tie with all others in its sub-genre.
The differences reflected in the marketing story can be about the above line talent, story, visuals, etc. But it’s important that only the film’s uniqueness’s are promoted – After all, how many slasher films can you watch?
What are your thoughts about differentiating films? Are all apocalyptic films the same? What about time travel films? Or, Jesus films?