Sunday, August 03, 2008

No Joking

Let’s turn to the not-so-ordinary-people category. There are probably a few (hundred) CMOs and Sales VPs shaking their heads right now about the boodle being generated by “The Dark Knight.” The actors’ names alone seem to be key drivers.

Why can’t you spend six months or so creating a product; hype it for six months or a year, and then generate $314 million in just a couple of weeks…wouldn’t that be one spectacular sales trophy to hang on your mantelpiece?

Writing in the current Entertainment Weekly, Mark Harris is pretty certain that, despite the exceptional magnetic performance of Heath Ledger as The Joker, the latest Batman installment may be top of the world right now. But it will never beat “Titanic” for long-lasting financial performance:

People kept going. And going back. And then more people went. The movie, which opened at No. 1, stayed there not for weeks but for months…In the decade since “Titanic,” studios have just about perfected their ability to get masses of people into theatres for the first weekend or two of a movie’s release…But staying power? A three-month run at the top? That’s so 1998.

This is no movie review – it’s a review of marketing performance. As far as its stakeholders are concerned, “The Dark Knight” has quite a limited record so far. As Harris notes, in a decade “Titanic” has earned $1.8 billion…no other film’s coming close to that number so far. And “The Dark Knight” has a lot of stakeholders.

There isn’t a marketer that wouldn’t like a slice of “The Dark Knight” magic for his or her product/service. One option: Since your stakeholders aren’t always the most patient of souls, use short-term marketing feedback and/or sales performance as a benchmark, a set of early indicators.

Then think about what impacts this early performance (good or bad) will have on the returns you’ll get from a long-term marketing run. Staying the course may not always be the right answer…but you could end up with “Titanic” gains in the end.

The Heath Ledger/Joker photograph is copyrighted like you wouldn’t believe. I acknowledge its ownership by Warner Bros. Pictures, Legendary Films, DC Comics and Syncopy – all rights are reserved and likely engraved on steel plates.

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