Hollywood’s clear lesson for brands

Mohammed Bin Tarjim

By Mohammed Bin Tarjim

Communications Expert

IN the old days, Hollywood’s movies held little bearing to our lives and had even fewer lessons. Savvy Hollywood observers have noted how hot topics in society are now where most Hollywood movies are set.

This lesson is loud and clear that context is everything.

Is climate change a concern for you? San Andreas might interest you more. Impressed by Elon Musk’s efforts? Any movie with rockets in it might attract you. Did you follow the Black Lives Matter movement? Maybe you are not surprised to see the Black Panther is so popular. You could even see the difference between The Big Short and the original Wall Street movie given the different contexts those movies sit in.

In terms of marketing, when your job was making people aware of your brand it was you who decided, as marketing manager, what the brand meant.

That is no longer the case. Marketers no longer define the brand. The user does because they have more access to information now. And they use it. Even brand names with legendary reputations such as Procter & Gamble or Unilever have to sure that as a company they are walking their marketing talk. It is nothing these days for customers and non-customers to thoroughly read a company’s policies published on-line and cross-reference against the companies real-time actions.

Consumers are empowered.

Who are we marketing to? Who is your target audience? You should say it is anyone whom you want to have share of wallet.

This now means millennials. What is completely different about them is important to restate. They grew up as digital natives. So, they can and they do research and check on-line quickly. They also are rather impervious to traditional media, especially advertising. They can ignore it or accept it faster than other generations. They can google, ask Siri or talk to Alexa. They won’t visit a cinema or turn on a TV if they can watch Netflix on-line as they wish.

The only way to reach this generation is to be more like Hollywood. You have to be contextual. You must maintain a contextual response to their questions and concerns, their interests and their values. You have to contextualize your brand and where it sits within their universe.

For a brand’s marketing team, you can’t any longer do a printed brochure. You can’t do a batch and blast email. Your brochure will be binned unseen. And your email will be caught in many filters and deleted unseen.

What we now see is much more personalisation in marketing, sometimes utilising AI, to bring the brand as much as possible to an individual relationship level. That’s what millennials are now responding to. They are individuals. If you want their attention, their time, their support, their money and possibly brand-endorsement, you better get to know them; one by one.

In this sense, even marketers much-loved segmentation efforts are losing out against context. The realization here is that an individual’s context is more important to know than the brand’s context.

To know the consumers context is where things are becoming very interesting or marketers. Interesting and tricky. To know the consumers context now requires marketer to collect as much information as possible. You have to look at as many touch points as possible for a consumer to have a chance at knowing their context and potentially responding to it.

Gathering context, synthesizing it and trying to individualise it is the key while trying to not seem too creepy seeming to digitally stalk by reacting too fast or too aggressively without finesse.

Hollywood is obviously brilliant at figuring out what movies to make. They have to make big calculations based on who will actually attend a movie. They don’t make movies for the fun of it or as artistic indulgence. They know what is on people’s minds. They know what is the zeitgeist.

Look at the resurgence of the Star Wars movie franchise. Hollywood knew the average age of people who saw the original Star Wars movies in the 1970’s. They knew that a large proportion of those people would come back to see the new movies. And they would bring their children, introducing them directly to the characters, concepts, stories and ideas. This direct referral is normally a marketer’s dream.

What is the Star Wars context? Entrepreneur Elon Musk is featured regularly in breaking world news sending re-usable rockets into space. He also talks about flying to colonise Mars.

Meanwhile Google launches driverless cars, Amazon is delivering books and groceries by drones, and the US navy has unveiled a laser cannon on a modern warship.

Technology has emerged in the modern day in ways we could almost never imagine. But, the questions of convenience versus privacy are now debated. So too we see advancements in technology now debated in the context of whose controls it all? Good versus evil intentions are playing out in politics, economics and society. And Hollywood starts rolling out movies that ‘resonate’ and which ‘reflect’ real life.

Hollywood’s movies are often still familiar stories but their context is highly crafted to the consumer’s context. The world is changing. The consumer, especially Millennials are different, they are powerful and can still avoid you if you don’t really know them. This is what Hollywood is getting right. And this is what brand managers need to know about their role. In many ways the audience owns your brand. So you had better know them as much as you can.

Hollywood knows content is king, but context is everything.