What Marketers Can Learn from Cinema

I’ve often found that long car rides can yield very interesting conversations. So it was on a recent trip back from a shoot with my business partner, C.J. Johnson.

As we did the normal post-game analysis on the shoot week, C.J. and I drifted into philosophical territory about content. We talked for a while about our shared belief in the power of story to create change, and lamented the fact that some brands put people in a box when it comes to the content they produce.

We kept coming back to a single question – “Shouldn’t your content be able to be shared by millennials and baby boomers alike?”

With the prevalence of technology in our society, it’s easy to rely on data to guide most of the decisions we make. And while we agreed that you should leverage technology to gain every insight you can about your audience, we also thought that when it came to story spreading far and wide, the best strategy is to keep it simple.

It was at this point in the conversation where C.J. had a mic-drop moment: “There’s a 100-plus year case study on human similarity … it’s called cinema.”

It was so simple, yet so true. There is more that connects us all than we realize, and filmmakers have always understood this. Think about it:

We all want a protagonist.

We all want to a see a challenge placed in their way.

We all want to see the protagonist overcome the challenge.

As a content creator, I view stories through a cinematic lens. No matter what the project, I try to incorporate as much of the cinematic approach (seen above) as I can because I believe that the more people who can relate to the story, the further it will travel.

A practical example of applying a cinematic approach can be seen with a video we produced for our client Mosaic Life Care about The Crossing, an emergency homeless shelter in St. Joseph, Missouri.

Our strategy was to keep the story pretty simple, applying the cinematic approach:

We want a protagonist -> Danny

We want to see a challenge place in their way -> Finding a way to feed people every night

We want to see the protagonist overcome the challenge > Partnership with Chef Jim

And since we kept it rooted in universal human truths, the story had a broad appeal. On social media, the video received over 32,000 views and 720 likes/comments/shares.

More importantly, the video helped move people to action. The Crossing saw an immediate impact of:

  • Over $25,000 in cash donations
  • 30 new volunteers
  • 6 vendor/supplier donations for contracting, kitchen and cleaning work
  • Donation of a van to transport food

One of my core beliefs when it comes to marketing on social is that building connections is how you move people to action. And if you want to move people to action, it comes down to story … so take a page from the cinematic playbook and your story one that will resonate far and wide.