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What The Movies Teach Us About Brand Experience

10th March 2016

What The Movies Teach Us About Brand Experience

I love the movies!

Don’t get me wrong I love to read a book too, or listen to one. But there is just something about the movies that can really make an emotional impact on you in a very short period of time.

Especially a great movie.

They have the ability to affect us in many ways. They make us laugh & they make us cry. They can have you making involuntary body movements as you are on the edge of your seat! They fill us with happiness, whilst at the same time give us gratitude for what we have in life.

You clearly spend too much time watching movies I bet you’re thinking! Well, I spent the last few weeks catching up on some movies I promised myself I would watch when I had the time.

I didn’t have the time, I just ended up going to bed later!

But the movies can also teach us so much about experience. About employee experience, customer experience or brand experience. And as we have already spoken about, they do this in many different ways.

So let me share with you the films I watched recently which I think sum up ‘The Value Experience’ really well. They are all true stories too, so these examples really happened.

Purpose – Invictus

When Morgan Freeman stars in a movie its generally good. But when he is playing the inspirational leader Nelson Mandela then you know its going to be epic. The movie picks up when Mandela is released from prison and elected into power, with South Africa in pretty bad shape after the Apartheid. The country is racially and economically divided, with high tension in many areas. Mandela brings the country back together, with the shared purpose of winning the 1995 Rugby World Cup. He sets about working with the South Africa Rugby Team Captain (Matt Damon) to help him bridge the divides that exist in the country, through the universal language of sport. The film follows the memorable journey of a team in disarray, all the way to victory in the final against the giant All Blacks and Jonah Lomu. (Sorry if that just spoilt it for you!)

But what does it teach us about Purpose? Well, when an audience of people with a common purpose come together they can achieve many things. The importance of a clear purpose being displayed to the audience (In this case 42 million South Africans) and great leadership present a vision and common goal which people can resonate with & share together. A collective ‘Why’ can be very powerful in bringing together a tribe and as shown in this case, achieve great things.

Audience – Steve Jobs

The topic of Steve Jobs and Apple could ripple through this whole article. The film only captures a very short period of his life, when Apple launched the first Macintosh, through to when he re-joined Apple and launched the iMac. Having read Walter Isaacson’s fantastic biography I was a little disappointed by the film. But nonetheless, if you follow the whole story of Steve Jobs then you cannot deny the man was a genius. (His documentary ‘One Last Thing’ is definitely worth a watch)

So what does his legacy teach us about audience? (By audience we mean customers, employees and non-customers aware of your brand.)

Well his leadership left something to be desired. But his ability to create an experience for his audience most definitely shows the power of emotion and engagement. Very few brands have a following like Apple and the launch events are unrivalled. Jobs was obsessed with creating beautiful products that are as carefully designed on the inside as they are on the outside. Creating products that would change our lives forever with a rare ability to see way beyond the needs of today’s consumer & what they find valuable. Anyone who has unwrapped a product from Apple can tell you that it is an ‘event’ to be savoured. And whilst other manufacturers deliver great products, there is something about the experience Apple deliver to its audiences that is unique, different & special.

As an extra bonus of how not to do it, watch StartUp.com! How to build a $50m business and destroy it in 18 months with bad leadership, teamwork, design, implementation……the list goes on (Another true story too unfortunately!)

Approach – Moneyball

Moneyball is the true story of Oakland Athletics, a minor league baseball team in America. Based on Michael Lewis’ book, it follows the real life events of the 2002 season when GM Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) has a limited budget to chase success with. Knowing he cannot compete with the other teams on the same terms, Beane chooses a different approach to the season. He uses sabermetrics (What? I know this isn’t Star Wars!) to determine the statistical probability of success. By using an ‘On base percentage’ stat he can use unconventional players, which cost a lot less in the market. Despite a shaky start and some challenges around the hearts & minds, the Athletics go on a record breaking 20 match unbeaten streak to take them to the play offs!

The lesson? As we all know the way you achieve a goal can be reached in many different ways. We can’t all play on the same terms, as budgets and resources are not shared out equally. So the SME’s and Start Up’s have to compete on a different playground. They have to differentiate and follow a different approach if they are to be successful. In order to be successful in an established market you have to operate differently from the leaders of the pack. If you are creating a whole new product or service concept, then fine. But unless you are fixing a problem never previously tackled before, then you will need to differentiate to cause people to switch to your offer. This has been seen most recently by AirBnB disrupting the Hospitality industry and Uber affecting the Transport industry. Disrupters are popping up all the time. If you can make it easier, cheaper, less hassle or more efficient for someone, then you will disrupt the normal approach and create switchers. Which gives you competitive advantage!

Channels – The Social Network

The story of Facebook! How Mark Zuckerberg and his Harvard college roommates set up the social media giant that is now part of pretty much everyone’s lives! The story covers lots of ebb’s and flows of how Zuckerberg played with the early concept, whilst using some of the ideas of other students to get the channel off the ground. Initially meant for just Harvard, it quickly spiralled into other colleges then countries into the huge community it is today. Several law suits and evolutions followed, but essentially none of the parties involved did badly out of it. Its IPO in 2012 led to some of the young entrepreneurs involved in founding the early years becoming rich beyond their wildest dreams!

What does it teach us about the use of channels? Well, Facebook wasn’t the first social community online. But what it did introduce was a new channel that was easy to use, well thought out and evolved with its audience to allow it to remain strong where others fell away. (Remember Friend’s Reunited?)

Digital has been most businesses focus in recent years and with good reason. According to a recent study by Activate, Americans now spend more time each day on digital media and technology than they do at work or sleeping! McKinsey also stated in a report that nearly ¾ of all luxury goods purchases, even if they take place in physical stores, are now influenced by what consumers see and do online. The same experts at McKinsey believe in the long term 99% of purchases, whether online or taking place in the real world, will be influenced by digital in one way or another. You simply have to operate your business in the channels that consumers are using if you are to maximise your value, reduce their effort and stay in the game. Facebook may be today’s choice of social media, but in 5 years’ time who knows what channels will be strong once Virtual Reality kicks in!

Offer – Joy

One of the most inspiring movies to be released this year, Joy follows the real life story of Joy Mangano. Joy put her dreams on hold to look after her family and busy household after early years thinking of creating inventions. When she cuts her finger cleaning up a broken wine glass, she goes home and starts to create designs & prototypes for a self wringing mop. Watch as she enters a world of manufacturing product & patenting products for the first time before she gets a big break advertising the mop on QVC shopping channel. When the infomercial fails because of the approach of the presenter, Joy storms into QVC demanding she represents it herself in a new infomercial. After much convincing she gets her break and sells over 20,000 products in her first attempt by explaining and showing how it can be used as the audience would use it. There are many twists & turns in the journey, but I’ll let you experience those without me spoiling it! Needless to say The Miracle Mop was a huge success and Joy went on to invent over 100 more patented products, earning her over $10m worth of annual sales and a personal fortune of over $30m!

There are so many lessons from this movie, covering approach, audience and evolution easily, as well as the category of offer I have put it in. Put simply though, if you are first to market offering a product or service which makes peoples lives easier, you will generally be onto a winner! Combine this tailored approach to your audience with a channelled message and you can lead a market. Why do people who invent things not necessarily lead the market? (There were 20 search engines launched & 5 years before Google went live!) Well, those companies don’t get these key elements covered off before someone else enters the market and steals the march. Don’t let it be you! Make sure your offer is distinctly different, hits with emotion and makes life easier. Then get busy marketing the hell out of it!

Advantage – The Big Short

Another film based on a book by Michael Lewis, this time covering the events of the financial crisis, when greed led to the recession in 2007. The film follows the story of Michael Burry, who when looking through some data, uncovers an unusual trend which predicts the housing bubble bursting. A few others become aware of Burry’s activities and look into the details, only to come to the same conclusions. The banks and regulators though fiercely reject the facts surrounding the poor loans and CDO’s which have been incorrectly given AAA ratings. Not only do these traders predict the events that inevitably followed, but they bet that it will happen! Betting against the stable housing market which has always been rock solid. The banks fall over themselves to take their money into funds. People think they are mad, but as we know in fact the opposite is true! The crash happens, these guys get rich, with returns of 489% from funds invested & the financial world goes into crisis!

So apart from showing us these lucky guys are now smug & rich, what does it teach us? Well this section, advantage, is all about understanding your data by turning it into insights & value. Data is pointless if it doesn’t tell you anything, or you do nothing with it. Burry was clever enough to spot the trend and bold enough to back himself on it. Data is everywhere these days. Big data, small data, personalised data, we know more about our clients & customers than ever before. However, if you just collect data there is so much of it you will never see the value. The clever guys are able to choose what to measure so they create insight. They are also bold enough to use that knowledge to go in a different direction to the crowd. Make sure you have a clear advantage strategy to your business. Be aware of all the data you are collecting and make time to understand it. Choose the elements that are crucial to your success and analyse it to death, until you spot the trends that can make the difference. Then be bold. Be bold enough to put your money where your mouth is and back the horse! If you do what all the others are doing, you’ll get the same result. Unless they spot the trend before you do!

Evolution – Dogtown & Z-Boys

My last film isn’t a Hollywood blockbuster. It is though an award winning film documentary released in 2001 which explores the pioneering of the Zephyr Skateboarding Team of the 1970’s! Now why has he chosen a film like this you might be asking yourself, when Star Wars & James Bond haven’t even got a place? The reality is that any of the films mentioned here could fit into this category. They have all evolved and innovated from the norm. But this film shows a whole new phenomenon unfolding. One which creates an industry revolution! Skateboarding wasn’t cool back then. It had already risen and fallen once, declared a children’s pastime. These guys weren’t even skateboarders, they were surfers. But surfers who wanted to innovate boards and find the best way to hit the waves. Finding that they had a small window to surf in, they began to make smaller boards & bolted on wheels from roller-skates to practice their techniques on land. The introduction of the polyurethane wheels in 1975 changed the ballpark. They could now carve moves just like on the surf with wheels that stuck to the surface better than the plastic predecessors. Their style is unique at competitions and their bad boy reputation gains them a cult following. When the drought in California causes empty swimming pools in the gardens of homes, the z-boys start skating them. Evolving moves & styles which cause the start of a whole new trend, creating a $5 billion industry from nothing! Now that is evolution!

So the final part of ‘The Value Experience’ is evolution. Great companies evolve. They have creative DNA flowing right through them. They dedicate time, money & resources to long term innovation that is separate from the current budgets. They strive to understand more and when they do, they put it to good use. They lead the way instead of following others. And they are the ones who have raving fans and loyal tribes! They survive in the long run and those that don’t fall away. How much does your company fit this mould? Sure you may be successful today, but are you geared up for the next big thing? Or are you the ones introducing the next big thing?

So the movies then are far more than just an amazing source of entertainment. They teach us lessons about business, relationships & success. Like a good book they give us key messages to take away and use. But what about you? Do you have movies which have taught you valuable business lessons? Which ones would you have included under these headings?

Send them across and let’s share them. Let’s see what a trip to the movies is teaching the CX community.

Until next time, love your audiences!

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