Tips and tricks | marketing lessons from horror movies

October 25, 2019 | Posted by: Outside Labs

Awareness is All

You’ve just arrived in a charming seaside town for the weekend, and something just isn’t right.
You don’t know what it is, but the locals sure are acting weird. The gas station owner tells you to “Bewaaaare,” and then gives you your change. But never does she tell you what exactly do you need to “beware” of? Bad roads? That chili dog you bought at the station? The ghost of the cursed sailor that appears on Saturdays looking for revenge?

Ghost? What ghost? There’s a ghost? Had you known that you would have either stayed home, or brought a bunch of friends with you for protection. But you didn’t know, which means someone is not doing their job.

Awareness in situations like this is pretty important. One would think the town would want visitors to come prepared to have a good time, spend their money and come back again. It’s also a great story to put the town on the map and drive even more tourism. Supernatural tourism IS on the rise.

Awareness is also a necessary component when developing your strategy and marketing plans. Unless you are one of the instantly recognizable companies such as Kellogs, Google, or Nabisco, an awareness component is necessary when your programs are in market.

There are a lot of products and companies vying for prospect’s eyeballs, and chances are a good number of them are your competitors. It’s important to create a presence, whether through social media, testimonials, search, remarketing, etc. In a cluttered space, you want your prospects to think “I have heard that name” when doing their research and one of your banners or offers pops up. This familiarity will increase the chances of them clicking on your offer or banner, opening your email, attending one of your webinars, or actually completing a form. This increased engagement can lead to higher numbers of qualified leads and facilitate Sales engagements.

Teamwork is important

Don’t go to the basement alone. And don’t go investigate that noise in the camp cafeteria by yourself thinking you’ll “be right back.” You might not be “right back” at all! And let’s face it, that’s what 911 is for. Net-net, when you’re in a group, there’s no need for you to go gallivanting alone to investigate that scream in the abandoned church. If you really need to know what it was, bring a buddy. They can take the pics for your Instagram, hold your hand when you get nervous, help you escape, and in extreme cases, provide a handy distraction for whatever is lurking in the dark. Hey, 50-50 chance of getting away is better than 0.

Similarly, things work better when marketing is a team sport. The more departments aware of and bought into your programs, the better. Feedback and information from Sales, Product teams, and even your external vendors is invaluable. Interacting with external teams and engaging them in information-sharing and post-mortems can provide the kind of information that can greatly enhance your programs: what kind of information are prospects and customers looking for, are the messages resonating with prospects, what new features are coming up, etc. All things that help you prepare, adjust, and optimize.

Content is Key

Knowledge is power, and in some movies, knowledge is survival. What information do you need to make it through the night? Do you know a foolproof way to kill a vampire? The kind in “Twilight”? If you find a rare book in a strange language in the attic that compels you to read aloud from it, wouldn’t you want to know what you’re saying before you unleash a demon or a ghoulie? And wouldn’t it be great to have resources to help?

In the same way, there are thousands and thousands of prospective buyers looking for tools and services that fulfill a requisite or solve an issue. They too would welcome the right materials to help them make the correct choice – and the correct choice is, of course, your tools and services.

But are you putting the right material out there? It’s important to have content available that fits into all stages of the buying cycle- from awareness to purchase. You want materials that talk about the prospects’ paint points and addresses solutions. And you want a good mix of thought-leadership materials and content that talks about your specific offering.

Prospects are usually trying to solve a monster of a problem and helpful information is always welcome!

Personas Work

What do you need to feed that werewolf in your backyard so it doesn’t come in your house? What amulet does that mummy lurking around your neighborhood fear the most? And how do you integrate into a zombie horde? Like…what are they really like?

All these are important questions, especially during Halloween. A little knowledge about these creatures could mean the difference between life and death. So the best thing to do is to learn all you can about them. You need to discover their traits, their routines, and their likes and dislike. The more you know, the more prepared you can be.

The same holds true when developing your market messages and tactics. Who are your targets? What do they read? What are their job functions? Who do they influence and who influences them? What are their goals and pain points? Developing a persona or personas will help you develop relevant messaging and content to effectively engage them. And when developing programs, the segmentation possible from having this information saves you money and time.


Let’s just lay it out there. So you read the literature, but that vampire will not stay dead even after you’ve thrown garlic at it. And that Zombie you buried three times is in fact dead yet still walking around. You’re frustrated and you want results. It’s time to try something else. And that’s the basis of testing.

AB Testing is an important component of your marketing mix. You want to know what’s working, what’s not working, and what’s hitting the sweet spot with your audience. You also want to know how and if you can improve your existing programs. Testing helps you to answer these questions and optimize for greater results.

So what have we learned from all this? Poltergeists, Witches, Babdooks, Werewolves, Zombies, Scary Victorian dolls…these are all movie dangers that can be overcome with a little preparation and know-how, as well as some plain old common sense. In the same way they can provide clues to dealing with the everyday horrors of marketing: Low CTRs, content fatigue, unclear messaging, and….eek…unsubscribes!