5 Marketing Tips from Movie Trailers | How to Tell a Story

5 Tips Marketers Can Learn from Movie Trailers

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Every year, the Hollywood elite gather to honor the best of the best in cinema at the Academy Awards. Throughout the 12-hour ceremony (they tell me it’s only three, but I beg to differ), the most outstanding films and actors are honored for a variety of categories and performances.

But while the golden statues are handed out for complete films, it’s important to remember the power-packed mini movies that propel blockbusters to box-office records. I’m talking, of course, about movie trailers. And while some spoil the entirety of a film by giving away all the good parts, the best movie trailers employ sound marketing principles we can all learn from.

Capture the Mood

The trailer for the latest reincarnation of A Star Is Born does a good job expressing the mood of the film in all its gritty glory. With a mix of driving guitars, gravely voices and go-for-it vocals, the feeling that you’re about to watch stars burn bright or burn out is tangible. Striking the right tone can serve as the foundation of a well-told tale, and whether it’s building up narrative in 120 seconds or perfecting a pitch that will last 20 minutes, capturing the mood of the story will have your audience rolling down their windows for another look. 

Give a Taste

One of my favorite trailers in recent memory is from the Impossible series that brought you Tom Cruise rappelling into vaults, Tom Cruise bouncing along skyscrapers and Tom Cruise sprinting everywhere. 2015’s Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation gives us a taste, nay, an entire sampler platter of what’s to come. These jam-packed 2 minutes of action offer a plethora of spicy appetizers without ruining the entire meal. The fact that (SPOILER) the majority of the clips occur within the first half hour of the movie only adds to the flavor. In marketing, giving a taste of what’s to come whets the appetite for the main course.

Build Tension

Some of the best trailers focus on one thing and execute it well—building tension. If you’ve ever seen a horror movie or psychological thriller, that’s the formula. Building tension heightens the release and, if done well, creates an amazing user experience. Case in point, my friend Jen’s Godzilla moment:

I’m a huge Godzilla nerd. They had kept his new look a secret and everyone expected to finally see him in this trailer. Instead, it was 2 minutes of teasing us and then a quick shot. But! Then they gave us a new roar at the end that just rolled on forever and everybody immediately stopped caring about what he looked like. I clapped. At a roar.

Keep Em Curious

My favorite theater viewing experience of all time was going to see Inception, but my fascination started months earlier with its confusing trailer. Hindsight clarified everything this trailer was selling, but at the time, worlds were folding on top of each other, people were falling into bathtubs, I had absolutely no idea what was going on … and I loved it. I was buying what Christopher Nolan was selling and I didn’t even know what that was. Keeping people curious keeps them engaged and engagement leads to action. Now if only I knew if that top stopped spinning.

Highlight a Moment

Chills. That’s what happened across the country when Disney unveiled the new trailer for The Lion King. Unlike most trailers, where bits and pieces of the movie are spliced throughout to create one somewhat cohesive narrative, The Lion King decided to focus on one pivotal highlight: the introduction of the new king. Highlighting a powerful moment or key message can add authority to your work and gravitas to your presentation. It’s a bold move in the same vein of go big or go home,” and I’m here for all of it. AHH ZABENYAAA!

End Credits

Movie trailers are made for a reason—they work. With many different avenues to choose from, these mini masterpieces mirror the job we do as marketers. And in a world where the landscape of advertising is ever changing, it might do you some good to spend a little time with your favorite flicks in their 2-minute form.

Craving more? Check out the trailers below submitted by some of our DS cinephiles.

🎥 Inglourious Basterds

🎥 The Blair Witch Project

🎥 The Social Network

🎥 The Big Lebowski

🎥 Rhys Thomas

🎥 Se7en

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