Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Viewer's Experience

When it comes to selling your product or service (in our case movies) it's important to remember that it's not just a product that you're selling, you're also selling the experience that comes with that product (think Tiffany's blue box, iPod, Mercedes-Benz, etc.). It may seem basic or even a given, however this fundamental rule of marketing usually seems to skip over the heads of a few businesses - even large corporations in fact.

From Los Angeles to Honolulu - Aloha!
I'll give you an example. Whenever I head out on an international trip overseas en route to Guam from Los Angeles (with a stopover in Honolulu), the experience is entirely different then when I head back to LA from the islands. While leaving the mainland, the airline flight crew fills the passenger cabin with tropical island music, slack-key and all - providing a sense of an island getaway encouraging everyone to leave their troubles behind. On all headrest television monitors, they play video footage of the Big Island, sun, sand, surf, Hawaiian fire dancers and the whole nine - and we haven't even left the tarmac yet. They just let the vibe brew.

The passengers are smiling and are in a very calm and relaxed state while finding their seat assignments, looking through overhead compartments and they just feel good. Some of them are already wearing their Hawaiian print shirts and leis. I'm telling you - it's a great feeling. From the captain to the flight crew, you hear them invite you with a welcoming "Aloha" with every greeting. They're selling calm and they're selling relaxation. The experience has me sold. Rarely do I notice any grumpy folk during this leg of my trip. After we touch down, I'm so at ease that I forgot it was a five and a half hour trip.

From Honolulu to Los Angeles - Darn, Back to the Grind.
Coming back to the mainland is an altogether different experience. Same airline, same size plane, but different ambience. No smiling faces, passengers are in a rush, some even get irate when they find they have to sit next to a child. Grumpy folk are almost a given on this leg of my trip. No images of Disneyland, Hollywood or Yosemite National Park on the television monitors, no Frank Sinatra or Clay Aiken playing throughout the cabin - just your usual stock elevator music. The flight crew is not half as friendly as the Honolulu crew. It's just plain old business. Show me your boarding pass and I'll show you to your seat. That's it. No experience is being sold here.

But wait a minute - you might just say that it's the passengers that may be heading back home - back to work and a nine to five life in a cubicle that sets off the infectious grumpiness. Well, to that I say...all the more reason for the airline to take it upon themselves to remind the weary travelers that as long as they're giving them business that they'll have a safe, entertaining experience. Remind them that they're on their way back home - back to California - a place that influences the world around it. What I mean is...this is another perfect opportunity for their services to capitalize on the experience of coming to Los Angeles - Disney, Hollywood, Malibu. They know where they're going, so why not give them what they want? Make them feel good about a California experience. Without even the smallest effort of doing so, the experience of flying that particular airline isn't exceptional at all.

Let Them Escape
My point is - treat your audience well. Give them what they automatically (and subconsciously) expect in a movie - seamlessly clean audio, great production value and good pacing. Have them remember you and your movie. Selling your product means selling the experience. How will your viewers feel about the movie that they just watched? What are they going to walk away with? Will they feel like they've just been on trip of a lifetime or just another commute?