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Friday, 24 May 2013

Marketing tips from unlikely sources - the cinema

With half term looming (school holidays for those of you without children), a constant niggling distraction is how to keep the cherubs entertained. Since we live in Scotland, where even the summer weather can't be guaranteed to be kind, a cinema visit is sure to feature, which got me thinking about this post (see, you knew there was a point to all this).

Cinemas are really just distribution chains. Routes to market, which let us consume a third party product (the film). Just as video was meant to kill the radio star, the dawn of the internet and the rapidity with which media streaming took off, should have rendered cinemas to the realms of history. Yet, there seem to be more than ever before. How did this happen?


In marketing terms differentiation is "what matters to the buyer". It's a way of positioning your product or service so that the experience your customer has, matches their world view. Over the years, cinemas have evolved from stand alone, single purpose destinations, to entertainment hubs. Cinemas have become experiences and customers happy with their experience tend to be repeat customers buying memberships that guarantee their stake in that community.

The last decade has seen cinemas get smart about attracting the right kind of customers for their venue, through differentiators - a wall of pick'n'mix or thai rice crackers, leather seats with footrests or slightly sticky standard, shown to your seat or left to stagger around in the dark - they all shape a customers choice of which venue to visit. These differentiators have become almost as important as the film itself, especially for those of us still grappling with the nuances of HD versus lazor IMAX, (I know which venue does the best popcorn though).


Cinemas have had to adapt to the brave new world, by meeting their potential audience online and before they've even started to consider a visit. My local cinema has a twitter account and a facebook page, a membership program and a Pinterest board.

You no longer just see a film. Cinemas are now engaging their customers ahead of their visit through trailers, behind the scenes footage, special offers and the like, delivered directly to your inbox or your social media feed. Post film you're encouraged to share your experience, put questions to the production team, take part in a competition to see the next release and all from the comfort of your mobile app. We're hooked.


Customer perception is reality, so while the film being screened is the same wherever you watch it, the factors supporting your decision to visit the cinema in the first place, really matter. When customers buy a cinema ticket, they are really testing the brand to see if it delivers on it's promises. Was the surround sound as good as the hype?, was the premium seat worth paying extra for? etc. Meeting expectations keeps customers coming back for more, safe in the knowledge that they know (and like) the experience that they get there. 

Of course you could just stay at home and watch on your laptop, tv, home cinema, ipad ..........

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