Last Friday Sacha Baron Cohen’s new movie Bruno came out and topped box offices with a whopping $30.4 Million, only to see diminishing returns for the remainder of the weekend. It is unusual that a movie begins to drop just the day after, but in Bruno’s case it did. The newest installment of the Harry Potter series opened this past Wednesday with an unheard of $104 million worldwide, with more people expected to see it this coming weekend. Despite Bruno not having great success after its opening day compared to Harry Potter’s unrivaled success, both of these movies have one glaring commonality; both of these film’s online reviews were negative.
From social sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Digg, to movie review sites like Yahoo movies and moviefone.com, the reviews for these films were nothing to be proud of. I personally have not seen Bruno yet, but I was dragged to see Harry Potter at midnight this past Wednesday, and it was probably the worst of all Potter films that I have seen. I am not a reader of the novels, so I can say unbiased, it wasn’t a great movie. So we ask ourselves, why one movie continued to do well even though they both had bad reviews. The answer: Branding.
Branding is one of the most important aspects of marketing. If your product is branded well, introduces itself successfully, and is made a staple within popular culture (such as the Harry Potter series) then a formula for future success has been established. Also, keep in mind the demographic for both of these films. The demographic for Bruno are the people who enjoyed Borat, and the people who bought the hype. Compare this to the loyal fans (both children and adults) who will watch the movie regardless of negative reviews.
Sacha Baron Cohen didn’t do a great job at branding himself as a transcendent figure in popular culture. Many people don’t even know him by name; only by the guy did who Borat. For example, comedians such as Jim Carrey, Adam Sandler, and Will Ferrel to name a few have branded themselves adequately. We know their names, the posters and ads for all of their movies have their names in big bold letters, so we associate them with funny movies, which at the least will make us laugh. With Sacha Baron Cohen, “not so much… (Borat accent).” It is true that Sacha Baron Cohen has a small following of loyal fans that have enjoyed him since his start with the Ali G Show (like myself), but much of him is surrounded by mystery. It may be due to the fact that he is not from the United States, but that has been overcome before (Monty Python); but in my opinion he didn’t brand himself the way that other successful talents in his field have. He had the perfect opportunity with Borat; it was a gigantic hit worldwide, if we would have attached his name to it a bit more, and made himself more of a global icon/phenomenon than I think despite bad reviews, Bruno’s numbers would still be climbing.
Now, more than ever, movies are capitalizing on the effects of branding. Think of all of the new movies coming out that are based on old comic books or children’s cartoons. Transformers, Wolverine, Spiderman, and GI Joe just to name a few are all expecting to, or have already earned high revenue at the box office.
The overall marketing theme here is branding. Yes, you can have a great product, and it might do well initially, but without a great branding technique you may not be ensuring yourself future success. So before you unveil your next great product/service, make sure to brand it properly, or the 15 minutes of fame that we all desire might be all that you get.