Lessons Influencer Marketers Can Learn from Hollywood.
Published on Feb 24
Several years ago, I worked for a Hollywood movie studio. Like many established companies, at times, it was lumbering and outdated in the way it approached marketing. To be fair, the business isn’t one that’s built for growth but rather profitability. Consider: film studios are under immense pressure to make dozens of films per year and release them at a breakneck pace. They don’t have the luxury to experiment or try newfangled forms of marketing. The marketing teams within these organizations have to be well-oiled machines — built for efficiency rather than inventiveness. So, if the trailers, advertisements, and campaigns for films look somewhat formulaic well, it’s because they are.
While marketers within this industry have been slow to hop on to hype train that is influencer marketing, the irony is that even if they haven’t been doing much influencer marketing in its current incarnation, they’ve been unwittingly conducting a form of influencer marketing for a long, long time and the practices they’ve cultivated in doing so is something that modern influencer marketers would do well to observe.
The reality of making films and marketing them is that the two often happen hand-in-hand. In other words, the marketing of a film happens at the same time the film is being made. In film, the talent is baked into the product itself. Thus, getting actors and directors to buy-in to the commercial success of the film happens from the get-go. Even though talent is technically hired by a studio, the fact is the people at the studio — executives, producers, and marketers — do an incredible job of involving talent like partners. This mindset is ingrained in the culture. It is customary for the studio to sell the actors on the awesomeness of a particular project. This entails things like pitching the actors the vision of the movie with props from the set department, showing them sizzle reels or exploratory video content, and sharing creative ideas from the marketing campaign to demonstrate how the film will penetrate into the mainstream. In many cases, actors are consulted on nearly everything that is released to the public — be it photos, trailers, or key art–to ensure that it is not only good for the film but good their personal brand. When talent works hand-in-hand with the marketing department, amazing campaigns ensue.
See where I’m going with this?
In today’s influencer landscape, too often brands treat mega-influencers like hired guns. The relationship is transactional. Creators are media channels that is purchased. Even though well-informed marketers understand the value of authentic relationships, it becomes merely lip service in practice when all they seek are overlapping audiences and content that’s “on-brand”. Is it any surprise when an influencer’s video falls flat if the creator was hurriedly given a brand deal a few days before an upload date? Until marketers start to perceive influencers as Hollywood does its talent, mediocre results and uninspired content will pervade the social space and the industry as a whole will suffer. So what’s a marketer to do?
Be a buyer and a seller.
Banish the thought that you are simply buying services from creators. To work with them, you must also sell. We are all lovers of stories and influencers are no different. Tell the story of your brand and demonstrate how a partnership can enhance both your brand and that of the creator. As in all relationships, there needs to be sense of commitment and understanding between both parties in order for a true partnership to work
Involve your talent.
Hollywood has the distinct advantage of putting its “influencers” literally into its products. However, this shouldn’t limit brands from other industries from trying to do the same. There are numerous examples, like Jay-Z and Puma, of an influential figure serving as a Creative Director for a fashion brand. On a lesser scale, you can involve creators as product testers or advocates. Explore ways which allow creators to contribute and speak about your brand.
Go from beginning to end.
In film, the talent is the marketing. Before a film is finalized, announcing to the public who’s starring or who’s directing puts the production on the map. As the film is being shot, still photos from set are drip-fed to the public. When the film is set to release, news outlets interview the talent to discuss the project. The talent is an integral part of the brand throughout the entire life cycle of the product. Working with creators is similar. Don’t work with them on a single piece of content and call it quits. Have them participate from an early stage all the way until the product launches and beyond.
“The talent is an integral part of the brand throughout the entire life cycle of the product. Working with creators is similar. ”
Pay your partners.
Most A-list celebrities won’t work for free. The same holds true for influencers. Creators understand their endorsement power has value. Brands should rightly try to garner as much PR as possible but if they want to guarantee coverage and earn the buy-in of creators, they need to provide value or compensate them like the partners that they are. Payment doesn’t always have to be in the form of cash compensation but in cases where an advertiser wants to work with a creator of substantial fame, it almost certainly will. There are ways to get creative with this. In Hollywood, participations i.e. revenue sharing has been a way to tie the success of a film with the personal compensation of the talent. Although this may not be enough on its own, it’s an avenue that more and more creators are open to exploring.
Today, the mega-social influencer has achieved a level of celebrity on par with the biggest musical artists, pro athletes, and film stars. They are among the most recognized brands on the planet. Influencer marketeers would do well to realize that for both an advertiser and influencer to benefit, they need to approach creators as Hollywood does its most celebrated luminaries — as partners and not as vendors.