We worked hard on our campaign for Believe Me, and we’re really proud of the results. But, there are always some lessons to be learned. Here are 5 marketing mistakes we made on Believe Me.
1. We Played Goliath When We Were David
Obviously, we want Believe Me to reach as many people as possible. So, we asked ourselves, which movies have the largest audiences? The answer: big budget studio films with mega-million dollar advertising budgets and wide theatrical releases. Our logic was, if we model our brand after those types of films, we will clue people in that this movie is a big deal, and everyone needs to see it.
We succeeded, at least on some scale, in developing that perception. The problem is, when you look like a big budget Hollywood film, you compete against the big budget Hollywood films. Maybe some people see you as a heavyweight, but they’d rather cheer for an underdog.
The underdog factor in our story was actually an advantage, but we downplayed it. From conversations since the release, we’ve gleaned that some of our most faithful fans didn’t feel we needed their support as much, now that we were “big time.”
Hopefully, next time our story is, “in spite of the odds, we (including you) all succeeded together.” Rather than looking to the biggest campaigns as an example, it’s best to look to those that successfully targeted the specific people you’re hoping to reach, no matter the size.
Luckily, we have a good opportunity coming up to put this lesson into action. Our next big push for Believe Me is the DVD release in stores (Wal-Mart, Target, Amazon) March 3. It’s awesome our DVDs are getting such a wide release, but they won’t buy themselves. We need our followers (including you) to plan on showing your support by buying a DVD.
2. We Lost Touch With Our Audience
Alex, Will, and I had the amazing opportunity on the Beware of Christians tour to interact personally with our audience. We got to hear your story as well as why you enjoyed ours. For a while, we kept in touch. But, after the tour, it felt like there was nothing to share. The days around the office full of reviewing legal documents, editing screenplay drafts, and scheduling investor meetings didn’t seem like exciting news to us.
So, for about a year we kept silent, looking forward to the day we could reveal the title, cast, brand, and production videos from the Believe Me shoot. The problem was that by the time the Believe Me production rolled around, people hardly remembered us and the news we revealed didn’t mean much to our fans because there was no segue from our previous work.
We proceeded to repeat this same mistake when the release of the movie approached. Rather than updating our fans about the post production and distribution planning process, we went silent again, anticipating the summer before the theatrical release.
It’s better to keep in touch with friends, even if you don’t have exciting news for them every time you talk. That way, when the exciting news does come along, your friends will be happier to celebrate with you. And, when you need someone to call for help, you know they’ll be there for you.
3. We Started Too Early
The first big campaign we ran for Believe Me was the teaser trailer release. We had a bigger team than ever before, including a squad of ten wonderful interns, pumping that trailer the week it came out. Honestly, we crushed it. I can’t say how many people commented that we “took over the internet” for a few days. The problem? This happened three months before the movie came out.
Our plan was to use lots of firepower at the beginning, but leave plenty of time for the movie’s momentum to snowball into the release. The awareness did grow, but it was difficult to keep that snowball rolling for three months straight. By the time the movie released in theaters, people were aware of it, but their excitement had died down.
Word travels fast these days. You don’t have to give something much time to get out there. Especially, if you’re going after a younger, social-media-friendly crowd, it seems better to run a marketing sprint just before your product release than a marathon. Otherwise, people can feel like your product is a trend that’s come and gone before they’ve even tried it.
4. We Focused on Selling Instead of Storytelling
People don’t want to buy your product if they don’t feel compelled by your story. I’m not talking about the story in Believe Me, though that’s part of it. I’m talking about the story of Believe Me: the filmmakers, the actors, the challenges in production, the meaning behind the project.
Our message, especially surrounding our release date in theaters, was too often, “Watch the movie here!” or “Buy it now!” rather than “Here’s why you should want to watch the movie.” The former message can easily become white noise especially online where hard sell ads are everywhere. At the same time, the other message, when communicated effectively, makes the audience ask, “Where can I watch this?” Only when they ask that question will your sell be effective.
It’s vital to provide original, thoughtful, relevant content with commentary throughout your campaign. The content should inspire interaction from your audience. Once they engage, they become a part of your brand and are drawn to experience your product. A compelling narrative around the project never has to make a hard sell. Given, there is a time to close, but not before you’ve acquainted the audience with your product.
5. We Resisted the Christian Market
We never wanted to label Believe Me a “Christian film,” for a number of reasons, one of which was that we didn’t want to alienate non-Christians. We have high hopes that the film will provide common ground for both sides of the fence to have a dialogue about faith. At the end of the day, the “Christian” label was inevitable and fighting against fitting into that box actually kept some people from seeing it.
The Christians who thought of Believe Me as a mainstream movie had little interest, assuming it would make fun of them or harm the image of Christianity. The non religious crowd may have been intrigued. But, to be frank, they were more interested in going to watch Denzel shoot people in The Equalizer.
Now that Believe Me has gotten out there, Christians love it, especially when they see it as a well-done “Christian film.” Afterwards, they tend to share it with many of their non-Christian friends, who also end up enjoying it because it’s not the normal religious trope they were expecting.
Whether or not you’re marketing a “Christian” product, you need to fit into a familiar box. For the creative-minded person, this will sting. What you should realize is that the box does not define your creativity or limit how people can experience it. It’s merely an easy access point for your audience.
People don’t understand your product like you do. So, you need to give them a familiar framework within which they can encounter it. Once they experience the product, the box may become irrelevant. But, when you’re getting started in growing an audience, it may be the most important factor.
Learn From Us
Of course, no matter how perfectly your campaign runs, there will always be areas of improvement. I hope our lessons learned are helpful to you, whether in marketing your own product or relating to people in daily life.
What common marketing pitfalls have you experienced? Got any commentary on the Believe Me marketing campaign? Comment below. We’d love to hear your thoughts.