Blockbuster Digital: How to win marketing Oscars through remakes and sequels

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Next year Marvel will release Spiderman Homecoming – the third attempt at the Spiderman franchise in the last 15 years. Batman too is currently on his third cinematic version or fourth if you count the classic 1966 film.

Paul Risebury-Crisp, account director, NMPi

Numerous films over the last few years have been remakes, reboots, or sequels, frequently outperforming new original films. Just look at films like Godzilla, Mad Max: Fury Road, X-men: Days of Future Past, Star Wars: the Force Awakens, and Jurassic World. The list goes on and on.

Why is this? The simple fact is that audiences evolve. Previous interests and reactions change, and what has worked previously doesn’t necessarily keep on working. There is a constant progression in new technologies, such as 3D movies or even virtual reality, creating more impressive results. However, the fundamentals of what worked before, should work again. A story-line always has a conflict, build-up of tension, climatic moment, consequences, and a resolution. It just needs a re-boot.

“But I’m a digital marketer, why is this relevant to me?”

Imagine instead of talking about films’ success at resonating with their audiences we were talking about how successful your digital strategy was.

The strategy that earned you record results in 2014 likely did not achieve the same results in 2015, and will definitely not perform as well in 2016, but can form a foundation on which to evolve your digital strategy.

Like with films, an audience’s requirements change. How audiences interact with digital overall changes massively, and how they purchase and/or interact with your brand and products will change simply as a factor of this.

Layer on top of this how your competitors change their strategies, and the entire real-world context in which your audiences exist changes dramatically.

Your old strategy is not going to work as your current strategy. Your existing channels cannot afford to be your only channels. But they’re a good starting point.

Every marketer and brand exists somewhere on the spectrum of traditional to cutting-edge and there is no excuse for any strategy to not be continually pushing further down that spectrum to include more emerging channels.

Ask yourselves these questions:

  • Are you maximising social media activity?
  • Is your core audience now more engaged on Pinterest than they are on Twitter?
  • Do they communicate more through Snapchat than through email?
  • Do you have the right ad-formats and placements to reach your audience?
  • Even on a base level; are your adcopy and content still as appealing as they used to be?
  • Does your tone of voice still resonate and are your calls to action still relevant?

No digital marketer can afford to stand still. Evolution, continued testing and learning should form the core of any digital strategy.

Not everything will work every time. For instance, going back to our movie analogy, the remake of Point Break was an unmitigated disaster. Nobody asked for it. Nobody wanted it. Marvel’s Fantastic Four recently had a reboot that went horribly wrong because they did not listen to their audience, and did not give them what they wanted, how they wanted it.

So find out about your audiences. What are they doing and where are they doing it? How do they look for things now, and what influences them during the buying cycle?

Make sure to limit your risk. Before the digital marketing equivalent of signing a multi-sequel deal, make a low-budget original first. Show test screenings to your core audience segments before bringing in script-consultants. Adapt to buzz. Then go big, safe in the knowledge that you’re giving the audience what they want.

Ultimately, if you use the strategy that has worked, but are bold enough to adapt it to what your audience, your customers, want and need now, then you could have a blockbuster on your hands.

Paul Risebury-Crisp account director at NMPi.

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