Part 2: The secrets of the $300 million independent film.

by | January 12, 2011 | Case Studies, Distribution, DIY, Marketing, Strategy, Tips

Today – Part 2 of Julie Eckersley’s 5 Part series Guest Post on the distribution and marketing strategy and execution for The Secret:

Lesson 3: Understand the power of your title

In early 2006, Australian TV producer Rhonda Byrne launched her feature length documentary online. It was called The Secret. The film spread like wildfire around the globe as viewers took up the viral campaign Byrne had begun.

So far we have learned the following lessons from her success:
Lesson 1: Start strong
Lesson 2: Tap into people’s passion

While Byrne’s viral campaign was clever and well organised (more on that in my next 3 posts) it was also the passion that she tapped into which propelled her film around the globe. Not only did this idea have followers, she also tapped into universal themes that resonated with a wider group of people.

She brought the passion of a subculture to the mainstream in a way that appealed to the masses.

As a film and communications critic this point is one of my bugbears with The Secret. She watered down her ideas so much that she was not communicating with any depth. But I do acknowledge that the way she generalised in her film (and left people to do their own research if they wanted to know more) was also part of why her audience base was so wide.

She gave words, voice and a medium to something, which had been seen as a subculture until then.

Ultimately the real marketing is going to be driven by your fans, not by producers. While this is always a point of contention for artists, finding stories that will evoke a strong and enthusiastic response should be high on your list if you want to make a successful film.

Importantly Byrne herself was passionate about her film and it’s message. She has almost a missionary zeal about the message she was communicating and her passion drove much of the project. Although I would say that most people in this industry are pretty passionate about their work.

Lesson 3: Understand the power of your title

I think this is VITAL VITAL VITAL!
There is so much competing for our attention now that your title needs to grab the attention of your audience. In fact it is estimated that you have 7 seconds to make your first impression. Title, images, colour are all-important!

What Byrne did here was use her title to create anticipation. Her images also supported this choice.

7 secrets to a powerful title:

1. Short is good
2. Be memorable
3. Unique – it can’t be mistaken for anything else eg. Bewtiched
4. It represents the film
5. The title makes a promise to the audicne that the film keeps. They know what’s in it for them.
6. Be strong – Use strong, action words. Avoid a passive tone. Create emotion and compelling images. Get to the point. Verbs and Nouns.
7. Tap into your audience’s interest. Know your audience, what do they most want? What part of this does your fim address and how can you communicate that in the title?

You also might want to test your title.

Have you heard of the book ”Drug Dealing for Fun and Profit‘ by Timothy Ferris?
You wouldn’t have because the title got changed before the book wen to print and was released (and became a best seller) with the title ”The 4-hour work week.‘

Tim and his writing team came up with 12 different titles, and hit a stalemate about which to choose. He then created ads for these 12 titles (he also purchased the url’s).

Rather than relying on his creative or marketing team Ferris decided to test it on the public instead. He tested multiple titles using the Google AdWords search marketing tool and used the winning title for his book. He placed Adwords text ads, varied the titles, and chose the title with the highest click-thru rate. He admits ”The 4 Hour Workweek,‘ wasn’t his favourite, but understood that it had strong audience appeal. His potential audience decided his title, which is now also his brand.

Google ad words are a modern day version of the focus group, and much cheaper too.

Go to Tim’s homepage or buy his book for more on this. (Note from Jon – this is a great book and a subject of one or two posts from me coming up!)

To be continued

Julie Eckersley currently works at Matchbox Pictures.
Follow us on Twitter @Matchboxpic