Part 3: The secrets of the Secret

by | January 13, 2011 | Case Studies, Distribution, DIY, Merchandise, Strategy, Tips

Today is Part 3 of Julie Eckersley’s 5 Part excellent Guest Post Series on the distribution and marketing of “The Secret”. As anyone who has read this blog or my book, knows that I am always talking about the subject of today’s post: Start your campaign as early as possible and engage your audience, natural allies in the process. Here’s Julie:

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.

This blog post is part 3 of the lessons we can learn from her success.

So far:
Lesson 1: Start strong
Lesson 2: Tap into people’s passion
Lesson 3: Understand the power of your title

Lesson 4: Plan your marketing campaign from day 1.

If you have done Jon’s workshop you would also have been in discussion about the role of PMD or Producer of Marketing and Distribution. I think this is a vital new role in the film industry and whether she knew it or not, The Secret was a great example of this in action. The online campaign was foundational to the project from its inception.

Before she had even shot the film, or planned the schedule Byrne built a website, began building followers online, bought url’s that would support her campaign (to release the project as if it were a real secret) and very early on she even released a promo DVD of stock footage and released it online, directing it into the hands of key influencers.

Which brings us to the all-important point 5.

Lesson 5: Align yourself with the key influencers in the area.

From very early on in the project Byrne identified the key influencers in this area and aligned herself with them. As it was a documentary she could do this by actually using them in the film, but it could also be done by having interviews linked on a website, articles, blog posts etc. She got these people (some of which already had their own community of hundreds of thousands of followers) and she involved them from the beginning.

These relationships worked 2 ways. Firstly the ‘expects’ were validated through their involvement in the documentary, and secondly The Secret was validated by the ‘experts’ supporting it.

Importantly she GAVE something to her influencers. She was offering them status and publicity, which was what they wanted as they are all business owners. She got them so excited about the project that they could not wait to tell their circle about it.

She allowed them to sell the DVD on their website and as she had no distributor (she had bought them back from the network that had originally supported it) and all DVD sales were initially online so they could also make money from the sales.

This is the online store where one of the stars of the film is still selling the DVD. It’s a good incentive! They were also allowed to play segments of the film on their website; some of them still have these on their homepages, like Joe Vitale.

In fact it wasn’t just stars of the film who could sell it. Mum and Dad distributors were able to set up on and offline sales all over the world.

As well as influencers, making relationships with key bloggers in the area your film is in is essential. To search for these go to:
Technorati or Digg

As Byrne did with her stars, look for ways to make the blogger feel a part of the experience. If you just try to use them they will see through it a mile away and it will work against you. Think about WIIFT. (what’s in it for them?)

If you are holding media events or a premiere, invite influential bloggers in your area.

You will need to be confident that your blogger will like your film, as they are notorious for being very honest.

The secrets to strong relationships with influencers in her niche:

1. There was something in it for them.
2. She gave them excusive information and first access to new promo clips.
3. They felt included in the project, not just used.
4. It validated them as experts.
5. Say thank you

Lesson 6: Alternative release and some very good news.

The Secret was originally planned for a television release. When this fell through Byrne was forced to look to other means for distribution. This need for alternative distribution turned out to be one of the keys to her success. She bought the DVD rights back from Channel Nine (one of Australia’s free to air stations) who had rejected the show and re-planned her release. The very good news hers is that the projects rejection by a traditional broadcaster was the very a major factor to her success.

She had been building a mailing list right from the beginning with her campaign and had been regularly updating them, giving them insights and first access to information to the pproject. So building on this she decided to use the Vivdas site to stream The Secret for a PPV (pay per view) of $4.95 US. With a global countdown to release time and the strong online build up of her campaign the response from her online community to PPV was very strong. It is estimated that the producers had a mailing list of 500,000 by the time the film was eventually released. This meant that the initial sales of PPV were enormous, and the momentum grew from there.

As a result of this campaign the first 48 hours after The Secret was made
available saw it viewed in over 45 countries, with a nearly 1:1 ratio of those who
watch pay-per-view [PPV] on-line then also ordering the DVD (see Utalk As Vividas PPV is password protected and non downloadable, it also ensured initial security of content preservation; until the DVD was released the content was unable to be pirated.

Byrne did not release the DVD until she felt she had exhausted the online viewing, this meant that she limited haemorrhaging through pirating.

To be continued

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