In the filmmaking industry, marketing and merchandising are two sides of the same coin. A well-marketed movie allows for greater merchandising revenue and more merchandising means better marketing. Get the wheel turning and it can keep going for years and years. Disney’s 1950s release of “Cinderella” has been re-released three times in the United States — four if you count the video release — and has grossed $264 million worldwide. The success of the movie makes it one of the major contributors to Disney’s $41 billion annual merchandising revenue which, of course, makes a new generation of children want to watch the ’50s version of “Cinderella.”
In April, Disney is releasing a live action version of its classic animated movie “The Jungle Book.” It is an interesting leap to go from a movie about a boy that only wears a loincloth to fun shoes marketed at children, but that is what Disney successfully did with its marketing partnership with Vans shoes. Specifically, what the company did was take its iconic characters from the film and place them on the comfortable kids’ shoes. This made for a simple but impactful merchandising partnership that was not defined by money. Instead, it created a synergy of both companies around one big-ticket movie.
Even things that are not sequels are sequel-like by adding the phrase, “from the makers of…” Legacy goes a long way with merchandising and marketing. Even a new filmmaker will have a resume. Here perception is everything. Watchers might never have heard of the young movie maker’s accomplishments but, if presented as impressive, they will assume greatness in potential. This will lead to viewership and merchandise sales.
When Disney acquired Marvel Entertainment in 2009, the geek community became worried. For the most part, the release of “The Avengers” in 2012 squashed any concerns and turned most of us into fans. Since then, the combined studios have used the fan base to do much of their marketing and merchandising. Take for example the partnership with Gillette, showing Avenger-inspired shavers. The shavers did not exist, being only a promotional video ad, but would-be Thors and aspiring Tony Starks clamored for the devices. This was some great marketing around fans doing what fans do best.
Though they are a very big company, the Disney marketers know how to make their brand accessible. One way is that they use YouTube and other common social media outlets to do their merchandise marketing. Recently BuzzFeed published an article showing 18 awesome covers of Disney songs posted on YouTube. This highlights the organic, natural way that the company uses other media to drive viewership and merchandise sales. Each song links back to an iconic movie. Best of all is that the advertising cost the moviemaker nothing.
Merchandise is not merchandise if your company makes no money on it. Your film has brilliant characters and attractive plot lines. You can either create another company around merchandise for your film or you can license the images and let others do your work. Use licensing to distribute your merchandise without the need to develop new marketing channels and distribution tracks. That becomes someone else’s job.