I recently saw the movie Hitchcock, which tells the story of the making and marketing of Psycho. The master of horror Alfred Hitchcock financed the movie himself for what was in 1959 a huge sum: one million dollars.
Despite all the naysayers, including Hitchcock’s own studio, Paramount Pictures, which passed on the project, the movie was a blockbuster and made $50 million. That’s like a $100 million movie in our day making $5 billion! (By comparison, the blockbuster Titanic cost $200 million and made over $2 billion.) In short, the success of Psycho was, well, crazy!
Hitchcock didn’t have a big budget for marketing, and the film’s distributor was hesitant to release a movie that had sex and violence like no other movie before it. (One objection from movie censors was the scandalous appearance of a couple in bed….together!) The movie opened in just a few theaters. Hitchcock knew the success of Psycho hinged on a positive reception in these theaters!
What Hitchcock did to market the film has lessons for all marketers, but especially cause marketers like you and me that have small budgets, tentative support but big aspirations for success!
BREAK SOME RULES
Hitchcock broke ranks and didn’t show the movie to critics first. They had to see it with the rest of moviegoers. He also didn’t allow the film’s stars to give any interviews about the film. These were unpopular decisions, but they heightened interest in the film because no one knew what to expect.
How you can break some rules: Forget about traditional corporate giving, which is only 6% of the giving pie. Instead, focus on cause marketing partnerships that give you access to the real money in fundraising with businesses: customers and employees
SPOT THE TRENDS
Hitchcock challenged Hollywood censors by adding more scenes with sex and violence in Psycho. For good or bad, he knew these things would become more common, not less. Hitchcock also saw the opportunity of Psycho when it was a book languishing on store shelves. When he committed to the project he bought the rights to the book for just $9,000. He also bought every copy of the book he could find so no one would know the ending.
Here’s a trend to tap: Did you know that Halloween is the second biggest consumer holiday after Christmas? And while the latter has plenty of cause marketing partnerships associated with it, Halloween’s potential hasn’t been fully tapped by cause marketers. Check out this post on Halloween cause marketing and use my Pinterest board on Halloween cause marketing for inspiration! But, more importantly, help me add to it!
MANAGE EVERY DETAIL
Hitchcock was obsessed with every detail in the marketing of the film. Each theater received a manual with specific instructions on how the movie should be marketed. This included admitting no one after the movie began and having Pinkerton guards on hand, which stressed the shocking content in the movie.
Here’s something you should manage: In 2012, a Cause Marketing Forum study showed that 60 point-of sale-programs (i.e. Fundraisers involving cashiers asking shoppers to donate a dollar or two) raised a whopping $360 million dollars for charities. But how serious are you treating the all-mighty ask at the register? I bet you’re not giving it the attention it deserves. That’s where Mollye and her team at For Momentum can help. They’ll look at every detail of your program to make sure you’re raising as much money as possible.
BE RED-BLOODED, NOT BLUE-BLOODED
Within the carefully controlled setting that Hitchcock created for viewing Psycho, every day moviegoers ultimately decided the fate of the movie. Movie critics and movie stars didn’t receive special treatment. There was no big budget for advertising so Hitchcock focused on grassroots marketing within movie theaters. He banked on consumer buzz not expensive television ads. Hitchcock’s practices may sound familiar because that’s just how most films are marketed today.
Appeal directly to your target audience: I’m amazed at the number of companies and nonprofits that are still waiting for newspapers, radio stations and television cameras to tell their story and promote their organization when they can do it themselves with social media. The age of big media is over. Tell your own story and make it easy for people to share it. There’s a great new book out that can help nonprofits do just that.
The biggest lesson from the marketing of Psycho is the need to think creatively and progressively about the challenges we face. You can surmount any difficulty, but you have to believe in what you’re doing.
Alfred Hitchcock mortgaged his house and put his reputation on the line because he believed the story of a deranged man living with his dead mother would make a blockbuster movie. Your nonprofit is trying to save the world, do you have the courage to face your demons or will you be their next victim?