The Walt Disney Studios job board has a new listing – Supervising VP of CRM (Customer Relationship Management). According to the listing, the key job responsibility of the VP will be to best leverage marketing campaigns and materials to engage consumers, drive increased global theatrical box office and long-term consumer loyalty to the Disney brand. The VP is also tasked with designing and executing an integrated social media/CRM strategy.
How important is customer relationship management to the movies? If a feature film doesn’t open big on its first weekend, it usually doesn’t get a second push. Theaters don’t hold over a film that performs poorly its first week, so movies, to survive, have to create a relationship with their customers quickly. Accordingly, just before every major feature film release, studios saturate the market with ads, spending often as much as half of what the film cost to produce.
It’s All about the Hype
These ads are aimed at creating and increasing brand awareness of the studio involved but, more so and primarily, for the specific film, because moviegoers are loyal, not to the studios, but to their favorite stars, directors and multi-film franchises like the Harry Potter series. Ads are targeted at creating an engagement with fans powerful enough to drive ticket sales that first critical weekend.
To help build the “buzz” for a movie opening, every major film is preceded by a web site designed to engage moviegoers early and pull them into a relationship with the film by focusing on the cast, behind the scenes of the production and even providing interactive elements for the fans. Over the last few years, studios have also added “social” to their CRM to help sell tickets by enhancing the personal and social experience around the film. Film companies are partnering with social media venues like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Tumblr to broaden their appeal . How influential these social efforts are, is still to be determined.
Does Social Drive Ticket Sales?
A survey by Ipsos MediaCT’s Motion Picture Group indicates that 42% of moviegoers under 35 check with social media to see what friends thought of a movie before going. Conversely, a recent article in the Los Angeles Times reported that, “films are considering cutting their spending on Facebook ads, just as carmaker General Motors Company did last year, when it dropped an annual $10-million Facebook campaign, deciding the ads didn’t help sell cars.” The studios’ love affair with Facebook may have become less passionate when Facebook changed the algorithms that determine what users see in their news feed, making it less likely that fans would see messages from the films they “liked.” Even so, you won’t see a movie released without its Facebook page.
So, does social involvement sell tickets? A survey of social network users ages 13 to 49 from The Hollywood Reporter and Penn Schoen Berland reported that more than half of the respondents believe “social media sites are important tastemakers in determining what to watch.”
Whatever the power of tools like Facebook or Pinterest to drive ticket sales opening day, they can’t sustain a growing box office. No volume of “likes” can make an audience like a film. Social media can extend the conversation around a movie, but the nature of the conversation will always depend on how good the film is. Just like a great cast, a great CRM can’t overcome a bad script, but it is essential to marketing the good, the bad, and the ugly.