I recently watched the movie Avatar – probably the most awaited movie of 2009 and a movie with amazing special effects. First things first, the movie was pretty good and the visual delight was every bit worth the money. I was completely engrossed in the movie as it was my first 3D experience and left the cinema hall pretty happy and full of thoughts. Here in this post I try to explore some of the lessons in marketing excellence which I personally derived from the movie. This is not one of those articles which talks about the innovative ways in which the Avatar marketing team kept audiences captivated before and during the launch. It’s more about what can be taken away from the story line. So in case you have trouble with complete abstraction and imaginative interpretations please bear with me.
If we keep at it the movie Avatar or probably any other movie worth its money for that matter can provide each of us myriad interpretations. Here though I try to explore only the thoughts I have from a marketing perspective.
1) Internal Branding – The movie time and again emphasizes on Eywa or Mother Goddess – essentially the spirit of the planet Pandora. Each and every person acts in a way befitting the way of responsible citizens and each and every act promotes “the spirit”. Coming to think of it the organizational equivalent of “the spirit” is probably the culture, mission, vision, goals that the organization has. In today’s world companies spend millions of dollars promoting themselves and trying to reach their “target audience” through the most appropriate “mediums”. From my experience at least not much attention is given to Internal Branding. The smart ones though do know about this spirit and spend as much time and effort promoting and branding the company outside as they do inside among the employees.
Employees after all are human beings. They know people and talk and interact with people in their homes, extended family, friends circle, on the bus, at parties, at the railway platform etc. In the Indian context the question “What do you do?” comes up sooner or later. If the employee does like his work, is taken care of well and has been groomed well invariably there is a glint in the eye when the employee gives a reply. Also on and off there would be references made to the work environment. These are also “contact points” I feel and it is essential a sale is made here too as much as in the shop or in the marketplace. This is where I feel (and I maybe wrong) the employee as a brand ambassador sells the company not only as a “Great Place to work” but also as a good company to get associated with as a customer. Because at least in the minds of people good companies are the ones that make great stuff!!!
2) Personal Branding – A trivial point you may feel but I would still like to mention it. When the principal protagonist Jake Sully comes to the Na’vi clan in the beginning and they ask him his purpose for being there he says he’s a “learner”. Again when they “brand” him a traitor in the climax Jake doesn’t make noise – he just goes about establishing his credibility by taming a Toruk, the fiercest beast around.
Companies I feel also love to have “learners” on board and from the employees point of view it makes sense not only to be one but also to be seen as one. Also there is no better way to prove one’s credibility than delivering the goods and in case one can associate the “Wow!!” factor with himself/ herself, it’s an absolute winning proposition.
3) Branding in the mind of competitors – This is probably my best take-away from the movie – how should a company brand itself in the eyes of the competition? Yes you read that right – positioning oneself in the eyes of the competition. In Avatar, when the RDA corporation heads out to clear the forest by force in the climax, all Eywa’s children including some of the biggest animals in the forest which were essentially competitors to the Na’vi tribe fought it out together. Now you may say that all the wildlife was not the competition but instead consisted of the ecosystem to which I would say the big animals were essentially fighting for supremacy over the same pie (the forest) and thus can be considered competition.
If you accept my interpretation, what made them act in concert? They could well have waited for the forces to reach their part of the forest and die fighting. Instead they decided to join forces with the Na’vi tribe and that’s what did the trick.
What I feel made some of the Na’vi’s fiercest tormentors to join them was their sense of what the Na’vi tribe was. The clan to them consisted of elements who were fierce but fair, who cared for the welfare of the overall ecosystem and who never took from the forest more than what they needed for survival.
The same applies for companies – they don’t have to come across to their competitors as “weak”, they just have to project themselves as people who compete hard but play fair.
But when on earth is joining forces with the competition required in the first place you ask. Well the latest economic slowdown is the best example. More than anything else slowdowns require companies to come out and tell their customers “All is Well!!” and demand can be resuscitated. After all what would be more effective – one company standing up alone and shouting out the message or all of them standing up in unison and doing it together? Think about it!!!