Three lessons for brand leaders from the film world


What do you get when you mix a parody of the Rob Ford scandal, an inspiring teen drama about a cancer-fighting figure skater, and…Wolfcop?

A tough decision.

That’s what I was faced with as a judge for the “Tweak my Plan” event, a part of the Playback Marketing Summit which was held on October 29 in Toronto.

Three film producers were selected to participate in the event, presenting the marketing plans they’d developed for their soon-to-be-released film projects to a panel of three judges: Grip Limited partner Randy Stein, digital consultant Veronica Holmes, and me. Our task: to provide recommendations and advice for upping their marketing effectiveness, while ultimately choosing a ‘winner’ whom we would support in bringing this plan to life.

While the original intent was for the judges to expand the thinking of the producers, I feel fortunate to have learned some valuable lessons from them. I’ve condensed these into three key takeaways:

1. Leverage your brand “artifacts”: I love this term, coined by Wolfcop 2 producer J. Joly. While his brand’s artifacts are more physical than others (think: signed memorabilia, fan- created artwork and opportunities to meet characters at conventions), every  brand — from consumer packaged goods to B2B services — has different attributes and assets that can be leveraged to engage super-fans in your brand, and amplify this to your broader target audience.

2. Make sure there’s steak, not just sizzle: Sean Cisterna is producing a film called “Kiss and Cry” that will tell the inspirational true story of Carley Allison, a promising 18-year-old figure skater and singer who made medical history in her fight against a rare form of cancer. Sean shared many of the ideas he was pursuing to promote the film, from partnering with the Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation to incorporating skating brands and associations.. There is so much potential for this film, but my feedback to him was to make sure he remains focused on the endeavours that will drive his ultimate objectives: viewership and ticket sales.


3. Capitalize on context and controversy, but don’t rely on this alone: Brothers Matt King and Andy King shared their plans to promote their film/digi-series “Filth City,” a dark comedy/crime drama inspired by true events in an alternate version of Toronto. It features an all-star, ensemble cast, the members of which they hope will help to drive viewership, among their other promotion ideas. The PR opportunist in me started thinking of the possibilities for Filth City to capitalize on real-life news and sentiment towards our city’s former Mayor, Rob Ford, in order to attract viewers. Then, my inner PR realist kicked in noting the risks associated with hinging a strategy on such an erratic newsmaker. If the King brothers were to pursue this strategy, they’d have to be sure they had the pieces in place to manage the risk, alongside the upside potential.

In the end, my fellow judges and I awarded J. Joly (Wolfcop 2) the winning score, but he generously passed his prize along to Cisterna (Kiss and Cry), with whom we will be working to bring his marketing plan to life.


Final insights: While at the Playback Summit I was privileged to catch a talk by Mark Bishop, co-CEO and executive producer at marblemedia. He spoke about his company’s teen-targeted TV series Open Heart and how they “built into the DNA of this property, the digital and screen content.”  In essence, they built an app and other digital elements that worked hand-in-hand with the series, allowing fans to access clues and delve deeper ito the storyline while watching the show. The creativity with which they did so—and possibilities this presents for other brands in today’s media landscape—blew me away. This left me with my biggest takeaway of the day for business leaders: think content-first; embed this into the DNA of your brands.

Photos courtesy of Playback

Posted on: November 5th, 2015 by

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