Don’t Trick Your Prospects: A Marketing Lesson From the Movies

The purpose of a great headline is to get your readers’ attention. And the purpose of the remainder of your sales letter is to get your readers to buy your product or service.

But if there is a disconnect between what the copy promises and what the product delivers, you’re going to have dissatisfied customers who feel betrayed.

Result: You end up spinning your business’s wheels, trying to constantly replenish your customer base. You’re losing them out the side door as fast as you’re bringing them in the front.

I recently read an interesting article in The New York Times about something similar that happens in the movie business. David Pogue wrote about how excited he was when he saw a trailer for the film National Treasure… but very disappointed when he saw the film and it bore little resemblance to the trailer.

Shortly after saying something to that effect in the paper, Pogue received a surprisingly candid note from the film’s director, Jon Turteltaub.

Turteltaub explained that the trailers are often put together LONG before the movie’s final edits. In fact, they’re sometimes finalized when filming is barely half complete. That means there’s a good chance for the more-than-occasional disconnect.

But that’s only the unintended consequence. Turteltaub hinted that sometimes darker forces are at work.

“For me,” said Turteltaub, “the biggest problem that comes up is when the trailers and TV spots don’t reflect the essence of the movie they are selling. You see that a LOT. The studio often feels that the movie they made isn’t a movie they can sell… so they sell it as a different movie. That can help fill seats on opening weekend, but it usually backfires. Personally, I think that’s what happened with Sweeney Todd. Perhaps they didn’t want anyone to know it was bloody, gory, and a musical. So they hid that. What happens is that the wrong audience sees the movie on opening weekend, and the word of mouth is all wrong. Great movies can get lost because of this.”

Here’s the lesson: If you find out late that your product isn’t going to appeal to your market, don’t be tempted to just put a new spin on the advertising. You’ve got to do the hard work of making the product fulfill your prospect’s needs, as you promised in your promotion.

[Ed Note: Charlie Byrne is ETR’s Associate Publisher.]