January 11, 2010

Three Marketing Lessons From James Cameron

Have you seen Avatar? What a remarkable film. Some creatures bring back memories of the underwater spectacle The Abyss. The military hardware could come from the Terminator series and the love story from Titanic. We aren't here for a film review, though.

We're here to learn three marketing lessons from Canadian director James Cameron:
  1. Put the money on the screen
  2. Establish a track record
  3. Stick to your standards
Let's delve into each and see how can apply them.

Put The Money On The Screen
"We put every dollar up there on the screen in Avatar --- [the money] is not squandered on star salaries." --- James Cameron
It's easy to spend money. It's easy to get limited or unknown benefits. Say you spend on golf, lunches and traditional advertising. You can see the expenditures but can you measure the value?

James spends on what you see. He's made the most expensive film ever four times:
  1. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991); the first $100M budget
  2. True Lies (1994)
  3. Titanic (1997); the first $200M budget
  4. Avatar (2009)
Remember Terminator 2? At the time, ticket prices jumped from $7.50 to $8.00 to help cover the costs. Arnold Schwarzenegger quipped that audiences were getting $10 of entertainment for their $8. He didn't mention the $15 million he got for his 700 words of dialog.

Spending more money here means spending less money there, where "there" may be
  • client materials
  • your lobby or washroom
  • your business cards
  • your website content
  • client appreciation events
Some items may not matter to you. What if they matter to your clients and your sales?

Establish A Track Record
You can't establish a reputation by hiding or with promises. James' string of successes masked the less popular films like The Abyss (excellent and underrated). His history helped him get future funding and enticed top people to work with him.

Our history may be hidden like the submerged base of an iceberg.

Is what you do visible to your prospects and clients? You can do this easily online so that someone meets you for the first time, they aren't meeting a stranger. You become a less risky choice.

Stick To Your Standards
James Cameron wrote Avatar in 1994 but delayed filming until technology improved. You may not have the luxury of waiting 15 years between major projects. You can continually hone your skills and take smaller steps towards your smaller goals. Without compromising, you can create, launch and modify. This iterative process gets you to market quickly while improving.

Having standards does not mean rigidity. James intended to release Avatar only in 3D but relented. A wise move since very few theatres can currently show that format.

Following the lessons from James Cameron doesn't guarantee that you'll succeed but you're more likely to leave your mark on your universe.

Links to Earlier Lessons

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