Buzz Marketing for Movies

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Business Horizons (2007) 50, 395–403

Buzz marketing for movies
Iris Mohr
Tobin College of Business, St. John's University, 8000 Utopia Parkways, Jamaica, NY 11439, USA

Motion pictures; Movies; Marketing; Promotion; Buzz marketing

Abstract In today's dynamic entertainment environment, movies are struggling to stay afloat and remain profitable. Challenges such as piracy, digital theft, competition, overlapping movie campaigns, media fragmentation, and audience saturation are forcing marketers to stretch their film budgets and make every dollar as effective as possible. With more and more entertainment options crowding peoples' lives, marketers must search for innovative ways to reach movie audiences. By breaking through the daily clutter and noise, and capturing peoples' attention to the point that talking about a movie becomes an enjoyable experience to share, buzz marketing is one such promotional posture that drives audiences to theaters. In order to achieve success with buzz marketing, however, marketers must recognize the role it plays in the context of movie differentiation strategies to support the company's overall approach. To that end, this article analyzes buzz marketing as it pertains to six movie differentiation strategies (differentiation with cosmetic movie features, differentiation to reach market segments, growing a movie segment, positioning to support the movie image, positioning to extend the movie image, and differentiation via non-traditional channels) and offers steps for its successful implementation. © 2007 Kelley School of Business, Indiana University. All rights reserved.

1. The marketing challenge
Today's movie marketers confront a difficult reality: the game plan by which they've played for years is being challenged and there is a call for new, innovative ways to drive box office sales. Under the historically used traditional model, corporate marketers spend marketing dollars on messages aimed at a target audience. The marketing team creates a message, purchases media, and sees that the message is delivered to personal and business customers. Given the fragmentation of media today, however, it is becoming increasingly difficult for E-mail address:

marketers to promote movies using the traditional model. In the United States, for example, what was once a handful of television stations has now proliferated into more than 1600 broadcast and cable outlets; similar trends are underway in Europe, as well. Cable fragments the broadcast audience, TiVo users are zapping through 30-second commercial spots, and online advertising is on the rise. This sort of fragmentation makes it more difficult to generate an impact, accumulate sufficient reach and awareness, and plan promotional campaigns in general. Added to this fractured landscape, multitasking has become increasingly common across the board. While surfing the Web, the typical US teenager engages in an average of two other activities, one of

0007-6813/$ - see front matter © 2007 Kelley School of Business, Indiana University. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.bushor.2007.04.001

396 which is often homework. Reportedly, some 80% of business people also multitask while performing workrelated duties (Greenspan, 2004). In concert with this, there is an increasing trend for consumers to “switch off”; they are ever more selective about what they watch and the advertising messages they trust. As Court (2004, p. 2) cites, according to Yankelovich Partners, 65% of consumers feel “constantly bombarded with too much advertising,” 69% are “interested in products and services that would help skip or block marketing,” and 54% “avoid buying products that overwhelm with advertising and marketing.” To add, television and movie lovers are witnessing a revolution in digital home entertainment. With it, a growing number of people are turning away from neighborhood cinemas in order to stay...
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