Brüno was the first film to be so drastically effected by the power of the audience – who had an opinion, broadcast it and drowned out the marketing messages. This Coup d’état on Hollywood, from audiences over studio giants, has effected how the entertainment industry creates and sells stories. For the industry to survive, it will need to understand, accept and adapt to these changes (see Hollywood and Disruptive Storytelling).
So what exactly does the ‘Bruno’ story teach Hollywood about how to craft an IP in the age of social media?
1) Greenlight engaging and compelling stories
Hollywood needs to shift from deceiving the public about a bad movie and put more attention into selecting and creating quality story experiences that resonate, motivate and inspire audiences to see it again, share it with others and evangelize. When this is accomplished, audiences not only become evangelists, they also seek more of that beloved story via different platforms, ultimately leading to more points of entry and revenue for the IP holder (see Transmedia 101). We need to return to quality storytelling, the likes of which Joseph Campbell would greenlight – those that tap into the cultural ethos. This means that the films that are greenlit, produced and end up as bad movies, should in the end NOT be distributed. The development process has to shift to adjust for new kinds of risk taking and not all risks get should get the greenlight for distribution.
2) Refigure marketing goals
In a pre-internet and social media world, it worked to aim for a robust opening weekend box office to guide strategy behind a) how stories are selected for production and b) the marketing campaigns. But in an interconnected world, this strategic goal distracts Hollywood from creating successful storytelling experiences.
So what should the strategic goal be? After selecting strong stories to greenlight, story experiences and story communities need to be built before the marketing window and last longer than a single opening weekend. In this way, the audience is built, engaged and spreads for long-range IP success.
3) Engage audience’s early and nurturing story communities
Story experiences need to be created that invite audiences deeper into the storyworld and the story telling process. This means more than just engaging them in the marketing window for a film. It means starting early in development to craft story experiences and engagement that exists across multiple platforms and the life of the IP. It means creating and nurturing loyal, story evangelists. It means we no longer talk TO the audience, but we talk WITH the audience. It means that storytelling (and the business of) has become social again and we need to listen and create story experiences that grow an IP’s audience (see New Age of Storytelling: The Audience is Waiting).
Marketing’s attention should evolve towards audience engagement, nurturing and growth. While traditional marketing efforts are still valuable, they don’t have as much of an ROI as they once did (see the 2013 KPCB report). Marketing dollars should shift and move toward engaging audiences in social and digital spaces where their love for story can be experienced, invested in and spread
Thank you Brüno!
Brüno was the beginning of a cultural shift toward the gaining power of the audience. This shift requires Hollywood to rethink the business of storytelling to match the growing voice and participation of audiences. In 21st century business, “Change is the new normal.” So as an industry let’s take each failure, learn together and evolve (see Story Entrepreneurs).
Brüno had an unfortunate, surprising weekend at the box office. And while it was not financially successful, it’s failure teaches Hollywood about a few of the many ways the business of storytelling needs to evolve in order to match the ever-changing landscape of consumers and communication in an age of hyper connectivity.
So I raise a glass to Brüno. Thank you for your most unusual failure that has taught us all how to evolve toward the next age of storytelling. Your failure was not in vain … Cheers!