3 Digital Marketing Lessons From 2016’s Movie Flops


Digital marketing, or rather marketing in general, is a difficult business. To be successful, your work and campaigns need to command the attention of potential customers. And do so in a cost-effective way. Of course, every other marketer is trying to do the same. In the rush to pump out the next viral hit, we sometimes forget our fundamentals. This is why it’s important to take a step back, and look at the big 2016 films.

On the surface, it might seem the topics are like comparing apples to oranges. Some of the incredible lows of this industry make for a great case studies. Inspired by this Sundog Interactive article, we would like to touch on three fundamental rules of digital marketing.

Lesson #1: Make Your Content Clear and Concise

“People may be hungry for information regarding your products and services. But that doesn’t mean they want to read the entire manual from front to back“– Renee Cook, Senior Team Lead Marketing/Media at Sundog Interactive

This may seem like a no-brainer, its content creation 101. However, several box-office bombs this year ignored this simple rule. The worst offender is probably Warcraft.

The film did well internationally, but it bombed critically. Based on a popular, long-running series of video games, books, and comics, the makers of the film decided to cram nearly a decade of material into two and a half hours. Critics didn’t appreciate the thick, nearly impenetrable information assault.

“To watch Warcraft is never to be transported, but to wade through a thick morass of mythology, exposition, gaudy light-show effects, half-assed character development, and formulaic franchise groundwork.” — A.A Dowd of The A.V. Club

Lesson #2: Know Your Audience

So, you have put out content and guess what, its built an audience. Congratulations! Before you pat yourself on the back however, know that the next step is keeping them engaged. For that, you’ll have to know your audience. When was the last time you’ve assessed your analytics?

“Engagement builds trust, and trust builds sales. People are more likely to buy from a brand they believe in” – Renee Cook.

Gods of Egypt, wow did the makers of this film not know what their audience wanted. Both critically and commercially a bomb, this movie managed to stir controversy long before it even premiered. The makers should have taken the hint when a similar movie, Exodus, tanked in spectacular fashion the year before. Of course, the terrible script didn’t help.

“‘Gods of Egypt’ is an epic — an epic disaster.” — San Francisco Chronicle

 Lessons #3: Have a Conversion Optimization Strategy

If you have great content, then you need a great way to communicate it with your audience. This is where KPIs come in. You need to assess and re-assess all your marketing data, see what works and what doesn’t work, and update your tactics. If you fail to do so, you may end up following the foot steps of Kubo and the Two Strings Guitar.

This movie had it all. Gorgeous visuals, an interesting story, memorable characters and almost universal love from critics.

Unfortunately, Laika, the makers of Kubo, hadn’t learned from the mistakes of their previous films which were also critical darlings that under sold.

“Did you set up your analytics correctly so that it’s tracking the right pages? Are you accounting for possible season differences? Have you tested your own sales funnel to make sure people are going to the right pages throughout the process?” – Kiss Metrics Blog

If Laika had learned from their past efforts, then they would’ve know known not to release their film in the wake of Finding Dory and The Secret Life of Pets. Having a title that was difficult for kids to understand and said nothing of the plot probably didn’t help either.

As the holidays roll around and the year draws to an end, let’s all take a seat a learn from the movies of this year. Let’s learn to never forget our fundamentals!