Slumdog Millionaire is a love story surrounded by the harsh realities of life wrapped in a game show. While many inspirational and thought-provoking life lessons can be taken from the movie, I’m going to look at 12 Oscar-worthy marketing lessons from the film.
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4 MARKETING LESSONS FROM THE STORYLINE
1) Beware expectations
If you haven’t seen the movie yet, there are some ***spoilers*** in here so don’t say I didn’t warn you. The bigger problem for you right now is that if you haven’t seen the movie, now that it’s getting award show buzz and your friends are raving about it, it’s nearly impossible to live up to expectations.
The same goes for your marketing plan. It’s easy for marketers to get ahead of themselves and over-hype their new product. But remember the glitches that can sneak up to bite you when you set expectations too high. It’s not always a bad thing to under-promise and then over-deliver.
2) Some people will lie, cheat, and steal to get to the top
I’m looking at you Bernie Madoff. Fortunately for the educated Wired reader/listener, these are pretty easy to spot. Can’t believe you got approved for that $500,000 dream house on your $34,000 salary? Shocked when you don’t get the body of a Navy Seal by purchasing the perfect pushup mobile unit for just two easy payments of $24.95? Don’t buy the hype.
The movie casts Jamal and Salim’s eventual escape from the slums as enterprising Robin Hoods, stealing and re-selling shoes and giving tours to unsuspecting tourists. But you sure wouldn’t be laughing if you had to walk barefoot back to your hotel before cutting your vacation short because all your cash was stolen. So monitor your marketing budget closely.
3) The crowd loves an underdog
As Jamal advances to the final round, the entire country comes to a standstill to rally behind this unknown Cinderella story. While this is a common thread in everything from Rocky to American Idol, it applies to marketing as well.
In fact, the internet has made it easier than ever to take on big business. Independent bloggers trump the The New York Times as a news source. YouTube had a huge head start on the television industry in terms of online video. A guy named Craig created an empire that dominates anything you used to get from newspaper classifieds. And if you’re waiting till Slumdog comes out on video, are you more likely to walk down to the corner Blockbuster, or add it to your NetFlix queue?
4) To get close to a celebrity, sometimes you have to be full of crap.
Definitely the funniest part of the movie, and maybe a good lesson if you’re thinking about getting a celebrity spokesperson.
5 MARKETING LESSONS FROM THE MAIN CHARACTERS
1) The cops
What did we learn from the police in Slumdog? They’re bullies. They’re bumbling. They’re corrupt. They control the system. Sometimes they’re pure torture to deal with. But in the end, maybe they’re a little misunderstood?
On the marketing side, check out the recent Wired Magazine story about Comcast Cable, titled “The Dark Lord of Broadband Tries to Fix Comcast’s Image.” A lawsuit against them effectively called them broadcast bullies, using their might to exert control over internet traffic. Their missteps in customer service are well-documented, but it seems that with bright spots like ‘Fantastic Frank‘ “Famous Frank” and embracing platforms like Twitter, they’re starting to turn the corner.
Throughout the movie, Jamal had an unwavering focus on Latika. Many marketers would do well to follow that same lead. Whether the goal is increasing unique users, driving more page views or getting more people to subscribe to your podcast, a company that can create a singular focus will benefit from those efficiencies.
3) Big brother Salim
Soâ€¦ is he evil or not? How can the brother that leaves your dreamgirl behind on the train and humiliatingly steals her from you later in the movie, also save you from being blinded for life and help reunite her with you in the end?
And so it goes with Google, the company with the motto ‘Don’t be evil.’ Another recent magazine article titled ‘The Plot to Kill Google‘ illustrates people’s concern with the personal data being collected and monopoly fears. But if there was only 1 thing you could have by your side with millions of dollars (or rupees) on the line, wouldn’t it be a laptop with a browser pointed at the all-knowing search engine? You bet it would be.
4) The Host
The lesson here? Even a smiling, familiar face that appears to be your most trusting friend can have ulterior motives, so be careful who you trust and what information you exchange with them. Think about that next time Bank of America sends you an email verifying your account information, and make sure to safeguard your user’s personal information to the highest standards.
As we saw with the main character, sometimes you get on a roll and everything falls into place. Your marketing plans are thriving as you move from level to level, but be careful about believing your own press clippings. Keep a reality check by phoning a friend (build out your network and work with a mentor), asking the audience (conduct regular site surveys to elicit customer feedback), and use 50/50 (do a/b split testing on various creative). But most importantly, in the end, trust your gut.
3 SLUMDOG / MILLIONAIRE COMPANIES
1) SUBWAY SANDWICHES
Slumdog: The ‘5 Dollar Footlong’ ad is killing me. Are we a nation of idiots??? Do they think we believe these ruggedly handsome, girl next door cute, ethnically diverse co-workers, firefighters, and construction workers are really singing this song? Does anyone believe that a high def camera crew rolled into a Cleveland suburb and found these guys on a construction site just palling around? Really? The fake laughter, the unbridled comraderie around a sandwich? Or do they know we’re in on the acting and are just taunting us? It’s horrible. Horrible!
Millionaire: For the love of Pete they’re selling giant footlong sandwiches for only $5! This is fantastic!!! As Jared told everyone, you really only need a 6′ turkey sub to stay fit and healthy, so you’re actually getting TWO halfway decent sandwiches for $2.50 each. Tough to beat that.
Millionaire: I have to say that there’s really nothing in my apartment that I love more than my Samsung 46′ Flatscreen TV. I did hours of research in November 2007, and whether it be sports or an Oscar-nominated DVD, it’s amazing. Just last week, I helped a friend make the jump to an LCD, and went through the myriad of research options again, reviewing all the latest models with an open mind, and once again the Samsung emerged as the best balance of price and performance. Of course, also check with Wired’s Gadget Lab guys for the official tech reviews.
Slumdog: But sensing my one year anniversary of my purchase, I received a letter from Samsung, urging me to sign up for their Extend Service. For the low price of just $245, I could extend my warranty a year, and for just $590, I’d get 3 years of coverage. Is there anyone who still doesn’t understand this? Is anyone paying Samsung $600 to protect their current TV, when you can now get a bigger, better one for that price? And doesn’t simply offering this say that you don’t believe in your own product quality? Shame on you.
3) iFART MOBILE
Slumdog: I mentioned in a recent podcast that iPhone apps are the new land grab. That anyone and everyone is rushing to market to get their piece of gold. So I’m sure some of you aren’t surprised that some of the content has resorted to the gutter, where farting applications recently became the # 1 downloaded paid app on iTunes. Have we no moral compass?
Millionaire: The problem? I had this idea a few months ago! I was at lunch with a friend and although we didn’t sketch it out on a napkin, I certainly wiped some ketchup from the corner of my mouth with one. A farting app would be hilarious! Let’s build one. Too late. It was released on December 12, and was making upwards of $30,000 a day. $30 grand a day!!!
And it’s no surprise whyâ€¦ the economics are simple. Low cost of entry for a developer, low cost of entry for the user (99 cents). What it eventually comes down to is the marketing. And to be serious, iFart Mobile has done a good job of itâ€¦ press mentions, viral videos, user contests. Everyone wants in. As of this recording, searching ‘fart’ in the app store reveals 94 different apps to choose from.
So what’s my final answer?
In the game of marketing, keep your eye on the prize, surround yourself with the right people, beware of evil, and with the advent of new media technology such as the iTunes app store, suddenly the path from slumdog to millionaire just got a lot easier.
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