Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Terrible Movie Marketing Strategies

I recently watched the movie Miss Congeniality (Sandra Bullock, Michael Caine, Candace Bergen) and I then did as usually do - checked out what a whole lot of other people thought about it on IMDB.

I came across an interesting discussion on one of the discussion threads, where some guy complained that the movie title was the worst marketing decision ever because "Miss Congeniality" was such an obscure word and no one he knew used the word "congeniality" in fact he didn't know what it meant, it was the stupidest marketing decision ever.

Naturally this thread had been started before Kraft had started the iSnack 2.0 campaign.

Well, of course some people leapt on him and told him to go spread a little dictionary on his toast, stupid, "congeniality" wasn't exactly that obscure a word. Exactly which bit of it didn't he get? It wasn't helped by the fact that his short posting was peppered with spelling mistakes.

What was odd was the fact that he likened the title to "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" - an ill-thought out title, a bad marketing decision because it used an obscure title that no one understood.

Umm, well I don't think it really hurt Harry that much, and I'm a little confused about the comparison. Which bit of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone doesn't he get? Does he not understand the word "Stone" or "Potter" or never heard of a "Harry" before? I'm totally confused. It wouldn't matter if you didn't understand what a "philosopher's stone" is but understood the word's separately - any dolt understanding the English language would be able to tell you if you've come across the word philosopher and you've come across the word stone, a philosopher's stone simply implies "stone of or belonging to a philosopher" and then of course the movie explains the significance of that to you.

Of course, there are some movies like "Snakes on a Plane" which use nice simple words and is ... well ... self-explanatory. But many of the movies that have been extremely popular are a little on the obscure side and have used words that are longer than one syllable. Like Superman, for instance, or Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (What the heck is an Indiana? Anyone? Anyone? And help me if I know what the Temple of Doom is!).

It could have been after reading this discussion board that it was decided to switch from two syllable words to one syllable words to increase popularity, and Batman was remarketed as The Dark Knight. 'Batman' was possibly considered just a bit too difficult for the attention span of some of the movie regulars nowadays.

One of the movie titles that has always baffled me is Die Hard. The fact that I have never quite understood the title hasn't stopped me enjoying the film though. Die Hard? Where in the movie is it about dying hard, as opposed, I suppose, to dying easy or dying soft? Or is that supposed to be a reference to when Hans Gruber dies, and he falls out and lands on the ground, which I suppose is quite hard? Then the next movie is called Die Harder, but I don't think anything could be much harder than splattering your brains out on concrete like that, and I don't think it even shows it to be ...

It's totally confusing. That is obscure.


Dan the VespaMan said...

I think it's all about first impressions. The idea that if a title doesn't spark a potential viewers curiosity in the first few seconds then they probably won't bother seeing it at all.

Maria said...

I definitely think that moviemarketing has to do with impressions; in many cases they have little to do with sense.

What I thought was interesting about this guy's argument was his stubborn belief that because HE didn't know what 'congeniality' meant, it was objectively rotten as a movie title, (not that it perhaps didn't agree with him, but as a movie title it made sense and in fact plenty of other people would have found it a good and interesting title, just not him) and the more others disagreed with him the angrier he got. I guess no one likes being told it's their rotten vocabulary that's the problem!

Watching him get wound up and throw a fit was amusing!

JahTeh said...

Philosopher was changed to Sorcerer for the American market as Warner Bros. didn't think they would know what a philosopher's stone was. That completely missed the mark as a sorcerer's stone could have been any old stone whereas 'the' Philosopher's stone is a very old myth.

Maria said...

Yeah Jahteh ... Americans!

TimT said...

DIE HARDLY: A movie about a man who has a slight cold, but gets better.

Maria said...

DIE BARDLY: A guy who dies while reciting the world's longest poem?

DIE TARDILY: A guy who says he's going to di, but just is really lazy abotu geting round to doing it?

DIE LARD: A guy who dies because he's really really fat.

TimT said...

DIE HARDY: A literature professor hates Thomas Hardy so much that he is not just happy that he is dead, but who concocts a zany plan to go back in time to before Hardy writes any of his novels or poems, and kill him.

DIE SOFT: Film about a psychopath whose modus operandi is to beat his victims to death with a kitten's whisker.

Friendless said...

IMDB has a wonderfully comprehensive database, but OMG the people on the forums are morons. When I post there (seldom) I make my statements as outrageous and bigoted as possible and never check back for responses, because that amuses me.

Maria said...

Yeah, it's always tempting to "play" a character and stoke the cauldron, isn't it, Friendless?

I was just on the forum now reading a discussion about the movie 'Amelie'. In the movie, Amelie says that one of the things that annoys her is how actors in movies who drive never seem to pay attention to the road. So a discussion arose on what things annoyed others about movies.

I certainly think people have a right to be annoyed about absolutely anything in a movie; the thing is that many of it used it as an opportunity to sneer at movies or make fun of them as if to say "the moviemakers should have done better, it would have been easy to fix that mistake up; there was no reason to make such a goof".

The drivers not paying attention to the road is one thing (of course there is a reason they don't, because usually they're supposed to be having a conversation with the person next to them and the dire3ctor is more interested in showing that reaction instead of being realistic about driving).

But for instance one person said that they hated movies that were shot in the wrong location, say the movie is set in one city but you can see the famous landmark of another city in the background. Yes, this is a boo boo to show that famous landmark so clearly (maybe a slightly different angle could have fixed that), but the contributor sneers "would it be so difficult to get up and take twenty minutes travel time to get to the right city and shoot for the day?"

If they thought about it it's not about lazy crew who can't get off their asses but probably about negotiating rights to shoot in a particular area and making deals - to shoot on location in a city street usually would involve at least a few days if not weeks of road closures and involve negotiating with a city council that may or may not be willing for you to do that. It might involve money changing hands and deals with promotions and so on. Not about people just all catching a few cabs or a few plane tickets.

All in all though, I am very grateful for the IMDB database, it's great and as you said, wonderfully comprehensive. I love to look it up :)

Maria said...

I've been reading IMDB Friendless. So many moronic remarks and arguments it's so tempting to go down that track ....

I'm not sure why, there are other discussion boards I've read and the remarks don't seem to be so strange. Are movie fanatics stupider or something?

I read a board of comments on Muriel's Wedding with them arguing about Muriel. Someone said they couldn't understand why Muriel was obsessed with weddings. It seemed to be a point of honour to defend. As if it was important to explain why Muriel was obsessed with weddings, and if they couldn't relate to the obsession personally then it wasn't possible to understand that Muriel could have such an obsession. Either that or some people pulled out all these weird psychoanalyses on Muriel.

What's there to understand? Sure, Muriel had issues that were somewhat deep in the movie (insecurity and identity issues blah blah) but even if she didn't ... many people have obsession. Weddings is actually quite a common one - look at bridal magazines. It makes sense - religion, tradition, pretty, community, emotion, status, lotsa good reasons why they rank high on obsessions. Some people get an idea in their head and go after it. Even if you don't, you could imagine it, couldn't you?

Now if it had been "Muriel's navel lint collection" or "Muriel's obsession with clipping and frying toenails and eating them at precisely 4AM every day" then we might think that's a tad unusual and harder to understadn. What the heck's so weird about having an obsession with weddings? Might be annoying but not unusual!

My WV is: stioc. I'm a mixed up stoic.

Friendless said...

I think discussion on accessible topics is usually at the lowest common denominator. For example, if you discuss global warming in Australia, everybody and his cow has an opinion because it's pretty easy to at least almost understand the concept. So you get all comments from scientific analyses down to "it was cold last night and there's a hole in my slippers". However if you want to talk about statistical interpretation of salt concentration in the water at the edge of the West Antarctic Ice Shelf you'll have a much more sensible discussion because stupid people don't see the relevance and have nothing to say.

In a survey on boardgamegeek, which I frequent, the data suggested that the median IQ for users was about 140 - at least that is the IQ they think they have. But really... who thinks board games are cool. Real nerds! It's actually very sensible to suggest the average IQ of the site is very high, and moreso since it attracts middle-aged middle-class guys who are a bit more educated and restrained.

So my hypothesis is that because board games are so nerdy they attract smarter people. ANYONE can watch a movie, so all sorts of idiots are attracted to IMDB.

I have a further hypothesis that people who actually do know stuff about movies are so supercilious and irritating that they are in fact indistinguishable from the idiots.

Maria said...

I don't doubt that boards that are mainstream attract "mainstream" opinions and mainstream idiots who often comment as if they are less than ainstream because they get swept up int he whole "group pressure" crap.

It's much easier to be restrained when the board is more niche and has fewer commenters (like OJS, for instance hehehe)

On the other hand witht he boardgame site, the "estimated IQ" ... well as you said, it's the IQ they think they have. I'm pretty sure the IQ people think they have and what they actually have is often pretty disparate!