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5 Films That Can Teach Us the Most About Marketing

Following the recent Oscar ceremony, I thought it would be the perfect time to write a post about movies. We all love them and they can be surprisingly useful for all us marketing types in both a cultural sense and in those rare cases, for practical marketing and advertising knowledge. That’s right, if you’re having trouble with your direct mailing plan or sales strategy, sometimes the solution is to simply grab the popcorn and the remote.

Here are 5 films that not only entertain us, but can also give us some valuable lessons for making our campaigns a success:

1.       Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)

Glengarry Glen Ross Movie Poster


“Always be closing.”

This film offers a peek inside what goes on in two days of the lives of four salesmen at a real estate office. The men are told by a trainer, played by Alec Baldwin, that in one week all but one of them will be fired. In the pivotal scene, Baldwin’s character delivers a powerful, insult-laden monologue, during which he flips over a chalkboard with the A-B-C mantra: Always Be Closing. He also mentions his A-I-D-A Formula: Attention, Interest, Decision, Action. This iconic scene serves as a 101 course in the path from getting the customer’s attention to prompting them to take an action (buying your product or service). Basically, no matter what, get the job done. Be proactive. Take action. And get the customer to sign on that dotted line.

2.       Boomerang (1992)

Boomerang Movie Poster


“I think we should go a little more subtle. I think some women might get offended.”

This 1992 movie stars Eddie Murphy as Marcus Graham, a womanizing advertising executive who falls for a woman who treats him just as he’s treated others in the past. Outside of the soap opera-esque plot line, the movie offers a good look into the behind-the-scenes world of advertising and marketing. Business acquisitions, mergers, and branding (through Grace Jones’s eccentric Strangé character)—it’s all covered in this film. The considerations that come into play as to why some ads work and why others don’t are also discussed.

3.       How to Get Ahead in Advertising (1989)

How to Get Ahead in Advertising


“It’s a vicious, but quite wonderful, circle, and it adheres to only one rule: whatever it is, sell it.”

This comedy stars Richard E. Grant as an ad exec who is having trouble coming with a catchy slogan for a new pimple cream. He becomes so stressed out about it that he grows a large boil on his shoulder, complete with eyes and a mouth and an unethical approach to advertising. The lesson here: There’s nothing wrong with having a career in marketing; just don’t lose sight of your principles and always try to make the most ethical decision.

4.       Mr. Mom (1983)

Mr. Mom Movie Poster


“Show them that you really care about their problems.”

Before he was Batman in Tim Burton’s version of the comic book, Michael Keaton played Jack, a stay-at-home father of three in Mr. Mom. His wife, Caroline, played by Teri Garr, is hired by an ad agency. She comes up with a great idea for a commercial and has to spend significant amounts of time away from her husband and family. One great scene features Caroline in a board meeting pitching an ad for Schooner Tuna. The comedic scene shows the loyalty-building strategy of offering potential and existing customers a discount while also showing them that you care about them.

5.       What Women Want (2000)

What Women Want Movie Poster


“A man’s man is the kind of man who – just doesn’t get what women are about.”

Mel Gibson plays…you guessed it…an ad executive whose firm caters to men but would like to expand its target audience to include women. After a freak accident, he discovers that he can hear the thoughts of all women. He decides to use this newfound gift to his advantage in the world of advertising, taking ideas of women and passing them off as his own for professional gain. No, no…the lesson here isn’t to take credit for other people’s work. Rather, in the field of marketing, it’s important to do your homework and get to know your target market in order to effectively meet their needs.



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