Posted by gfiorelli1
I was not always a web marketer.
I spent almost 15 years of my professional life in the TV and Entertainment Industry in Italy, where I obtained some decent recognitions as Head of Programming at a movie channel. The years spent in that industry have a strong influence in how I think about web marketing now. Much of what I know and share about personas, audience analysis, content strategy and planning, branding, relationship marketing, cross-media marketing, on-off marketing, and engagement is the product of what I learned during those years in the entertainment industry.
The passion I have for the TV and motion picture industry is such that I continue to follow its “inside news,” even after I reinvented myself as an SEO. But it is not just passion that drives my interest. I've always considered the entertainment industry one of the best places to detect the future use of new marketing concepts that will eventually become mainstream. I also believe that there are no better storytelling teachers than the best Hollywood screen players like, for instance, Andrew Stanton.
Let’s face it: the entertainment industry and its players (actors, directors, singers, etc.) continue to have an impactful influence on our own society and ourselves: culturally, economically, and politically, in a process that feeds itself back. I wrote this post for all of those reasons, and I am going to describe a very peculiar facet of the "Hollywood influence," which can teach us many things about branding and the use of web marketing and storytelling.
Without further ado, let me narrate the story of how a dress in Hollywood can influence the life of many different people and industries.
Take a close look at the photo below. Here is an actress on a red carpet, dressed in an haute couture gown and surrounded by a crowd of photographers and fans. These are the protagonists of our story, a film that we will call Beauty and the Brand.
Imagine yourself beginning to watch the film. The lights of the theater turn off, the screen lights up, the spectators are silent, and a music starts playing. The film begins:
"Heaven / I'm in heaven / And my heart beats / So that I can hardly speak / And I seem to find / The happiness I seek / When we're out together / Dancing cheek to cheek…"
[Interiors, daylight. Medium shot. The music continues in the background.]
Oscar night is approaching, and the Brand is looking for a new face for its promotion. During the year, Brand studied the popularity of trends throughout all the young actresses in Hollywood. They collected data by using the StarMeter by IMDB Pro (aka: Amazon), monitoring social networks and the blogosphere, and they finally made their final decision: Beauty must be the new face for Brand's testimonial.
Beauty is a great choice to represent Brand's target persona: young, famous, beautiful but not unattainable, and real rather than imitated. Brand contacted the young star through her agent (or, perhaps, through her stylist) and offered to dress her for the Academy Awards. It is a risky moment because other brands are tempting the young actress, and she always has the option to choose an unknown fashion designer, as others have done in the past. But today is a lucky day for Brand; Beauty, delighted, accepted its offer immediately.
[Interiors, daytime. Medium to close shots. No music, just ambient sound.]
John, Michael, Eva, and the other members of the XYZ Magazine are worried. The revenues from traditional advertising are falling because they had to cut gross profit for every ad format offered in the newspaper, and people simply are not buying printed press as before. To make matters worse, the online version of XYZ Magazine is not working as well as they’d desire. It's still not clear how to correctly monetize the site (paywall or not?), and the CPM ads model needs a boost as it is also declining.
John, Michael, Eva, and the other members on the board of directors are looking to Marshall to save the day. He is an SEO, who worked at the New York Times, and he is giving the worried board members a bit of reilef with his suggestions. Covering both celebs and movies in their news could be a win-win tactic.
In fact, news highlighting celebs and movies accounts for as much as 10% of the site’s search traffic in the weeks leading up to and after a major movie industry event. With the Red Carpet season getting closer, it's important to focus on both categories.
For this reason, the SEO team has started prioritizing keyword research, archiving the previous year’s content off of the main page, and moving the conversation about fashion and buzz worthy films/actors to the main stage. More traffic means more pageviews, and an impressions ads revenue boost is needed.
The Red Carpet is now XYZ Magazine's major focus.
[Exteriors, morning. Dolly shot.]
Linda and Kimberly are walking to class, and they are talking about their favorite actresses. Linda loves how Jessica Alba is so close to her fans, and she adores following her on Pinterest and Twitter. And that video with her doing a "staring competition" for Ibeatyou.com - how cool is that?! Linda even convinced her mother to buy the organic baby products from The Honest Company for her little twin brothers, which is the startup Jessica Alba co-founded. Oh, how Linda would love to be like her.
Kimberly likes Jessica, too, as well as many other celebrities. Kimberly and Linda both spend a lot of time talking about their favorite celebs, from the products they love to their movies and what brands they wear to what they promote. Kimberly has even made a donation to the World Food Programme and Feeding America after seeing “The Hunger Games” cast supporting it online. If her favorite stars promote a charity, she feels more compelled to do it, too.
Although Kimberly and Linda may not be aware of it, their celebrity role models inspire everything in their lives.
[Exterior, night. Slow zoom in and then “spaghetti western” close shots.
Soundtrack by Hans Zimmer mixed with ambient sound.]
The night has arrived.
It’s the first time Beauty has been invited to the Academy Awards. She knows that the minutes she will walk on the Red Carpet are a big occasion for her. She is already popular, but she wants more; she wants that recognition, which may lead to contracts with fashion and beauty brands. The career of an actress is very short if you are not doing it right, and bigger contracts may offer her the opportunity to be more independent and start choosing the projects she really wants. Did any other actresses choose the same attire? She hopes that the dress Brand offered her will help her stand out from the crowd and make the impression she wants.
Brand looks nervous. Beauty is wearing its dress, and it's time to see how the reporters will judge it.
The XYZ Magazine reporters are also nervous; they are surrounded by competitors and know that practically every news site is live streaming the Red Carpet on Twitter, YouTube, web, and mobile. They must take the best photo, obtain the best quote from the actors, and secure enough buzz from the night to engage their readers the most in order to gain their desired pageviews and ads clicks.
Beauty is nervous, but when the flashes start firing and the reporters shout her name with rows of fans behind them, Beauty stops, smiles, and poses. She then takes out her phone and starts photographing the photographers, who roar with joy. She knows the night is hers.
At home, Linda and Kimberly are following the Red Carpet in their rooms from their tablets, while chatting together on Facebook or Twitter. Their conversation looks like this:
“I'd die for @Beauty’s dress she's wearing at the #Oscars!”
“It’s a Brand’s gown”
“I want it”
“It may cost a fortune”
“I don’t care, I will buy something of @Brand at Walmart anyway”
"@Linda @Kimberly we at @Brands would love to see a photo of you wearing our pret-a-porter new collection shirts!"
"@Brand Awww! Sure!! :D"
Brand smiles again. The objective of putting Beauty in that dress has been achieved, but for how long?
Can a small business having success and gain traction from having a celebrity endorse it? Like all marketing, it depends. Surely the small business can contact the actress' agents or publicists, but that process is similar to an outdated cold call and is likely to have a B&W TV testimonial "As seen on TV" flavour.
Small businesses may be better off selecting an easier way. For example, contracting a celebrity on Adly provides an easy way to get a Twitter endorsement from a celeb, but it not cheap. You're looking at a $25,000 minimum per tweet, and it's likely that small businesses won't have that type of cash lying aorund.
A third option is to use others' money to endorse your business. For example, check out this tweet:
Note that Jessica Alba is retweeting an advertisement tweet (#adv). Even though this is a retweet of an ad, the tweet is credible and true, which is emphasized by the photo attached. #Smallbizsat is the hashtag of the Small Business Saturday, the shopping event American Express (the brand behind @ShopSmall) is promoting in order to help small, local shops gain traction and customers on the Saturday between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. (Small Business Saturday was the 24th of November this year).
Another example is this old-style commercial with Fernando Torres promoting the barber shop of a "friend."
This video generated quite a buzz in Spain. Was the message totally genuine? We came to find out that it was not. In fact, this video was the "teaser" viral campaign of a bank, but the barber shop was real and even operates a (not so good) Facebook page. The shop does not have a website, so Gessbra did not gain huge benefits from this marketing action. However, you can't put a price on having a football star endorse you thanks to Google SERPs blended verticals.
The last option is being able to befriend a celeb, which is hard to do but not impossible. Celebrities aren't human beings made flesh and blood, just like us. There are even "how to" guides that highlight how to get a celebrity to follow you on Twitter (horrible title, I know). At the base of all of these tips, don't forget about relationship marketing, hustle, the six degrees of separation (in social media, the degrees are even less), tools like Followerwonk, and a large amount of patience, honesty, and respect.
I have to be honest; while I was preparing this post, I was listing Do's and Don'ts about how a startup should try to find the endorsement of a celebrity.
Do you have any other thoughts on how web marketing and the entertainment industry can learn from one another? Leave them in the comments below.
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