Is Your Marketing as Good as a Movie Trailer?

Jul 25, 2014 | Marketing

"Is your marketing this good?" on movie screen

I love movie trailers. I go to movie theaters for the 30 minutes’ worth of trailers. The film is a bonus. I love trailers and movies so much that my master’s degree concentration is screenwriting. Talk about awesome: I had to watch three to five movies/TV shows per week and critique them. I had to—for homework. It was required!

But even without school as an excuse, I enjoy studying how a trailer is cut to showcase a movie, all while enticing viewers to not only come see the film, but spread the word. Many a conversation has included the line, “Have you seen the trailer for (insert movie title) yet?”

Essentially, a trailer is a two-minute call-to-action (CTA). Its purpose is to get audiences to come see the film. So what can we learn from movie trailers about marketing your business? Here are four lessons:

1. It’s your first impression.

A trailer introduces the movie. It’s an audience’s first experience, a sampling of something far more grand (we hope). Likewise, your marketing must always take into account that this will be someone’s first impression of your business or product. How do you want to be portrayed?

2. Less is more.

Movie trailers come in many styles, such as: straightforward (i.e. showing you what to expect); effective (perhaps it’s haunting—making you think about it, want to see the film, and re-watch the trailer); misleading (if the movie is nothing like the trailer); and “too much” (tells you everything, so watching the movie is redundant.). Of course, there are lots of other formats and subcategories. But the one that ticks me off the most is the “too much” trailer.

One of my writing mentors always drills “show, don’t tell.” When a trailer shows too much, the appeal is gone. When it doesn’t show enough, the appeal is gone. When you show just enough (and it usually has something to do with the conflict), the appeal is heightened. In your marketing, address the problem you can answer (the conflict), and give just enough information to build interest.

Less is more doesn’t just mean how much information is provided, but how much is involved. I love the trailers that just have a few lines of dialogue or a powerful use of silence. Evaluate whether your marketing is overwhelming (e.g. too many details, words, images, or colors). Catch attention by leaving the right things out.

3. You can’t do it on your own.

Movie makers know they aren’t the best ones to make the best trailer. You would think they would be since they know the film so intimately. But that’s the problem—they are too close to it. And once you’re that close, you can’t distance yourself again. So, they hire someone who is a pro at cutting movie trailers. The fresh eyes and the empathy/first-time-viewer reaction (along with lots of training and experienced insight) help create a product that will attract the right audience. So let the pros help you! Trust your marketing department, or hire a marketing firm. Enlist experts to showcase your business in a way you can’t because you’re too close—free yourself up to do what you do best. 

4. It’s not once-and-done.

Professionals go through 10 to 30 versions of a trailer. The first try is never the end product. Brace yourself, understanding that it’s going to take revision. And remember it’s a collaborative process. Similarly, marketing should be a joint effort in your business, or between you and a marketing firm.

More marketing lessons can be learned from movie trailers, but that’s another blog post for another time. In the meantime, what are your favorite movie trailers and why? How can you use that in your marketing strategy?

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