A Digital Marketing Case Study
Like any dynamic art form, film is forever changing. New digital media have placed unknown independent artists on the same playing field as their more established, commercially-backed counterparts. Moreover, as access to cyberspace has become more universal, reaching the right audience has never been so easy.
Why is this? Because of “The Long Tail.” Originally an abstract concept introduced in a WIRED Magazine article from 2006, The Long Tail is now a mantra of digital marketing. Applied to marketing in film, the pre-Long Tail mentality was to conceptualize an artistic work with a specific target in mind, and then develop it to invite as big an audience as possible. Marketers would then direct their resources toward the audience within distribution range.
The goal was to make the next big summer blockbuster. But according to Chris Anderson, the author of the article, “hit-driven economics is a creation of an age without enough room to carry everything for everybody.” In other words, a new day has come.
In a post-Long Tail awakened world, we’ve found that most people’s taste in film goes beyond just mainstream appeal. With the recent onset of a limitless distribution range, the audience dynamic is changing. An American producer whose film deals with even the most esoteric subject matter now has its niche audience at arm’s length. Using the right digital marketing tactics, the filmmaker can draw those people in without burning through resources they way they might have during the pre-Long Tail era.
Filmmakers, now freed from the shackles of heavy distribution burdens, can finally create that masterpiece that was once deemed implausible. And with a continued stream of artists looking for exposure, the film festival industry now has the scale to reach far and wide…and find willing consumers around every corner. This is why, according to Anderson, the “cultural benefit of all of this is much more diversity, reversing the blanding effects of a century of distribution scarcity and ending the tyranny of the hit.”
Step-by-step: How to market a film festival to a Long Tail audience.
1) Create a home for your festival on the net.
Give your contestants a platform on which they can share a trailer of the film they plan to promote at your festival. Allow visitors to vote on the trailers, with a thumbs-up/thumbs-down or one-to-five-stars approach. This allows the best ones to rise to the top, creating a channel of the highest quality content, which can be used to draw in a large audience. This widens the timeline for audience engagement, and gives you a vehicle to convey supporting messages related to the festival itself.
You want a website where entrants can upload a trailer with minimal technical know-how. The easiest way to do this is to use YouTube as the host. Users worldwide simply create their own profile and/or channel on YouTube, submit their content, and then provide your site with a URL or embed code to the video. Each trailer then has its own landing page on your festival’s site, and should be accompanied by “Send To A Friend” and “Download To Your iPod” links, along with submission links for social bookmarking sites like Del.icio.us.
(Note – It is important to limit the length of the trailer (two minutes would be a good round number), and make sure that the actual length of the YouTube video is clearly visible on your site. If a video requires a time commitment, a lot of people will click away without even looking.)
Make sure your site is scalable, in the event that you receive ten times the traffic you expected. Even if you are focused on quality content, be prepared for massive quantity as well. Your web developer needs to make you very confident that your site won’t buckle under pressure.
You’ll also want to add search capability (this is easy with Google Custom Search) do some user testing, or consult a usability expert on making your festival’s website as navigable as possible. Invest in good analytics software to follow trends in visits,
pageviews, referrals, keyword-driven traffic, and so on.
2) Give your festival a personality.
If your festival has a theme, make it very evident. Brand it consistently, from the copy writing to the graphic design to the outbound marketing communications. Everything must boil down to the seminal concept of what your festival is about. If it’s abstract, e.g. “good independent film,” that’s fine as long as you remain consistent.
Offer an incentive. Partner with local organizations in the host city, e.g. the Chamber of Commerce or a local Arts Council. Find a major event taking place which could benefit from a partnership; your contestants’ work might be a major asset to their program. The grand prize, apart from whatever you already decide to offer the winner(s), is the visibility of being associated with these organizations…and thus get in front of a large audience.
3) Define your stakeholders.
Your directors and producers are the ones supplying quality content–the lifeblood of your site and your best promotional asset leading up to the festival.
Your visitors are your primary source of feedback. Leverage their opinions wisely and you’ll find many ways to bring them back to your site, and to your festival–along with their friends.
The general public is the 6 billion people living on this planet. Some don’t have computers. Some don’t like film. But in line with The Long Tail concept, reaching just about everybody else is relatively easy…and the enthusiasts will come out of the woodwork.
Keep these people satisfied at every stage of your campaign, and your marketing engine will keep things moving with minimal intervention on your part.