We can learn many valuable life skills from movies, give me a piece of paper and a pen and thanks to Event Horizon and Interstellar, I can explain how travelling through a wormhole in space works, kinda. We've all learnt not to walk down a poorly lit corridor at night from horror movies, and thanks to Tom Hanks and an ice skate, we know DIY dentistry doesn't work, even if you are stranded on a desert island.
While those might not be the most recent examples, all the films mentioned above have one thing in common, their respective posters gave us a good idea of what to expect, and that's the key to all marketing, inform your audience of what they'll be getting. Before we get into the ways a 2015 Z movie you've never heard of before, let alone seen, has to do with your business, I'm going to briefly discuss the film in question. Here's the poster for Shark Exorcist, one of more than 30 shark-based direct-to-DVD movies released that year.
You read that title correctly, combining Jaws with the Exorcist with the budget of a Primary School Nativity play, and you get Shark Exorcist. The 70s-style schlocky poster gives us a killer image, a demonic shark thrashing against the shores while a heroic priest attempts some kind of shark-based exorcism. Sure, this isn't going to win any awards, but it could be some low-budget fun. Well, the poster tells me (a lifelong shark movie fan) that this could be a cheesy hoot, but glancing at the back of the DVD gives me pause for thought and an immediate recalibration of my expectations.
One jaw-dropping trailer later, and my expectations from the poster are dashed. Not only does it look like it was shot on a VHS camera without being white balanced, but the titular exorcism is performed on a woman who was bitten by a shark and is now possessed by the shark's spirit. She has a pair of joke shop-looking shark teeth and acts a bit like a vampire; it's 100% more confusing than a movie in this genre needs to be. Shark Exorcist is by no means the first low-budget horror to spend a few quid on the poster to make the movie look more expensive, and it won't be the last.
Now, I hear you; how high could your expectations be for Shark Exorcist, and what does this have to do with marketing my business? I'm just getting to that. Much like how you market your business, your promotional efforts need to accurately depict what your potential customers can expect from your offering. There can be no disconnect between your marketing and what you're selling; if there is, you risk breaking the trust between your audience and your potential customers.
So what are the business lessons to learn from Shark Exorcist's mistakes? Ensure the way you market your offering is an honest representation, a little creative license is acceptable, but anything less than honesty will only end badly. In hindsight, perhaps McDonald's would have been a more straightforward analogy; we've all seen the ads selling us a big juicy burger (or meat-free alternative) only to be served a sorry-squashed thing slapped on a plastic tray.
You might think that was the end of the Shark Excorist saga, but according to IMDB, Shark Excorist 2 will be unleashed in 2023.
Next time, discover what The Fast and Furious franchise can teach us about brand consistency and how changing the direction of your business late in the game can be a great thing.