FEST 2016 speaker Ben Johnson is the CEO of Gruvi, a technology based media agency that helps film distributors reach and engage online audiences. Winning Your Audiences. Movie Marketing in the Connected World is an e-book recently published by Gruvi, which discusses why it’s so important to understand your audiences. This will help you to figure out how to meaningfully reach and communicate to them and what to measure so you have a clear picture of how your campaigns are performing.
The book is packed full of case studies and useful insights into creative, communication, targeting, and which channels to use and when. Winning Your Audiences. Movie Marketing in the Connected World is available as a free download on the Gruvi website.
Below you can read an excerpt from the book:
We often hear independent filmmakers and distributors expressing fears that the audience for their films is ‘too small’. While it is true that some movies appeal to a niche audience, it doesn’t have to be seen as a disadvantage. That, combined with a limited release, can go a long way in creating a buzz about the film.
The good news is that we are in an age where you can run your own research to identify your audience, test their reactions, make necessary adjustments, then retest very cheaply. The process is careful and iterative, allowing us to orientate and correct mistakes on the fly. There are a plethora of tools out there that allow you to do your analysis and testing prior to the movie launch which I will describe later in this chapter.
In this section I am going to talk about the importance of developing an Inference Hypothesis which is a statement about a pool of selected audience that have an inferred similarity in interest. This is a method of analysis where you:
Here is the breakdown of what the most important components of an Inference Hypothesis are:
“If I could approach (description of the audience pool) with the message that (specific message tailored to that pool) they would find that information interesting and that could be used as a lever to get them to (define actions that you would like the audience to do).”
Before any film marketing campaign, we receive a brief from the client. Typically these are quite limited, as the distributor often lacks the resources to engage any statistical testing to define their marketing hypotheses. This often leads to distributors choosing a target audience based on general ideas in the industry regarding a specific genre or subject matter. But as we established in the first part, part of what makes indies interesting is that they deviate from the norm.
We had a first hand experience with the effects of going on industry assumption when we worked on marketing the art-house horror film It Follows (2014, David Robert Mitchell) in Denmark. Based on industry assumptions we prepared a campaign to market this movie to male teenagers and young adults- experience dictates that they are the core audience for horror films. Furthermore, the main characters of It Follows have this age and the film deals with a sexually transmitted scary supernatural force that hunts them- a subject that, we felt safe to assume, would appeal to this demographic. This appeared to be an easy Inference Hypothesis to formulate and apply:
“If I could approach 15-24 year olds who like horror movies with the message that It Follows is a horror film about a sexually transmitted hunting spirit they would find that information interesting and that could be used as a lever to get them to get them to see the trailer.”
We also took into account other similar movies to formulate additional hypotheses, such as:
“If I could approach 15-24 year olds who like horror movies with the message that It Follows is a horror film similar to Paranormal Activity they would find that information interesting and that could be used as a lever to get them to purchase a ticket to watch the movie in the cinema.”
We started the campaign based on this hypotheses and we were soon very successful, but not quite as we would have expected. Our targeted audience was heavily interacting with the ads and posts, but they were doing so to complain about how they hated the film and how it’s a waste of time and money. It was soon very clear that this was by no means the typical horror film. We had great, engaging creative, but delivering it to the wrong audience was not helping- quite the contrary. With a drive-in special screening of the film being prepared by the distributor and closely approaching, we thought it was best to hit the breaks and re-think our strategy. We will discuss more about the steps we took to turn around this campaign later on in the paper (see Test, test and retest).
The power of an Inference Hypothesis is that it sets your target, your strategy and what you then would like the audience member to do once you have engaged them. It is also very important that you build and test several Inference Hypotheses to hedge your risk and maximise the opportunity that you will encounter a Hypothesis that works.
When we worked on The Iron Lady (2011, directed by Phyllida Loyd) we saw the movie and did our initial background research. Here you had a film about a contentious, strong, powerful woman in politics. A natural urge would be to investigate themes of female empowerment. After all, the film had a fairly divisive subject matter- Thatcher’s name still evokes deep hatred in many parts of Scotland and Northern England.
Inference Hypothesis 1
“If I could approach women who are interested in emancipation and feminism that this is a film about a woman in power of a male establishment they would find that information interesting and that could be used as a lever to ... “
But we didn’t just stop there; we created several more hypotheses:
Inference Hypothesis 2
“If I could approach women who are interested in particular female icons such as local Scandinavian female politicians that this is a film about a woman in power of a male establishment they would find that information interesting and that could be used as a lever to...”
Inference Hypothesis 3
“If I could approach women that like Meryl Streep that this is an interesting movie she is starring in that could be used as a lever to...”
As it transpired, finding women interested in feminism and female emancipation yielded too small numbers in our research to be interesting to target. This is relevant because it proves that beliefs are hard to directly assimilate into targeting research. What would have been better was to target specific behaviors such as films and books they had liked, groups they had joined, etc. as action defines intention and intention is rooted in belief. Targeting followers of female politicians in Scandinavia and other strong female leaders was extremely expensive and the click through rate was low. However, going after Meryl Streep fans was incredibly successful with low costs, high levels of engagement, and a massive pool of people across Scandinavia to target. What was also interesting was that, when we added other strong female ‘heroes’ to our targeting list, our potential audience pool did not grow in size. This demonstrated that women who had an interest in strong characters in culture were already fans of Meryl Streep.
The above example highlights the importance of having multiple Inference Hypotheses to test so that you can discard the ones that don’t work.
Click here to get a free copy of Winning Your Audiences. Movie Marketing in the Connected World.