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The Oscars: The Glitz, Glam, and the Marketing Lessons

Angie Tran

Content Marketing Manager @ AdRoll

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The 92nd Academy Awards is coming up soon, and to say I’m excited is an understatement — the glitz! The glam! And lessons? That’s right — behind the heavy crystal curtains, the bevy of celebrities and the swelling orchestra, there’s a lot that a marketer can take away from the Oscars. Let’s explore some of the marketing lessons I’ve learned from watching the coveted award show throughout the years. 

Visuals, Visuals, Visuals

The red carpet event preceding the awards show is always a visual spectacle. Celebrities mill about in their best designer clothes and their outfits are splashed across televisions, magazines, and social media.

In marketing, you also have to play up the visuals, because the stats don’t lie: 91% of people prefer visual content over written content. Things like videos, infographics, and social media images can help engage the audience and boost brand awareness. Be wary of “bad” visuals, though, because that’s the equivalent of ending up on the “Worst Dressed List.”

Branding Is Everything 

With the Oscars, branding is spectacularly important. Take Leonardo DiCaprio, for example. He’s regularly pictured on yachts with his other movie star friends, exclusively dates models and influencers, and never seems to actively seek out the spotlight. He’s widely considered a “serious” actor who’s admired for his commitment to the craft (case in point: he once ate raw bison liver for a role). All of this points to Leo being “inaccessible,” and when you’re an Oscar contender, that just won’t do. According to Vanity Fair writer, James S. Murphy:

Cool guys don't win Oscars.

Murphy goes on to talk about the “Pitt-Hanks Continuum,” which is a theory based on what director Andrew Dominik said about Brad Pitt: “He doesn’t invite you to share his position somehow.” In contrast, Tom Hanks is on the other side of the “cool guy” spectrum — still extremely talented, but more approachable: “[Tom] lets you in, so you feel what he feels and understand the world as he understands it.” Historically, the Academy has honored the Hanks of the acting world more often than the Pitts. 

When Leo was cast as Hugh Glass from The Revenant, that’s when his branding shift began. Unlike his previous “cool” roles in movies such as The Wolf of Wall Street, Leo was suddenly transformed into a bedraggled scout with a beard that's as wild as the bearskin draped around his shoulders. And when he was nominated for a “Best Actor” Oscar for the fifth time for this role, he went on a campaign binge that painted him as friendly, warm, and humble — all the things you wouldn’t expect from a movie star who borders on unapproachable. 

By breaking out of his “cool” persona and rebranding himself as the humble guy-next-door, Leo skewed towards the Hanks side of the branding spectrum and finally won his first Oscar. 

For your business to succeed in the marketing world, your branding also has to be on point — it's not just about the logo or advertising campaigns. It's the way your brand presents itself to the market and interacts with your audience. Be mindful of all aspects of your business from a branding perspective, including product design, employee relations, and customer support.

Accuracy Is Important

If you’ve seen the infamous 2017 "Best Picture" mix-up between La La Land and Moonlight, then, like me, you’ve probably tried to erase that cringe-worthy moment from your memory. The La La Land cast and crew were ecstatic — their leading lady, Emma Stone, had already won the "Best Actress" award, and they were also going to reap the biggest prize of the night! The camera panned to their delighted faces, people started gathering on the stage — and then an abashed Warren Beatty admitted that, when announcing the winner, he had mistakenly read from the “Best Actress” card. Moonlight was the real winner. 

Ryan Gosling’s face said it all:


Which goes to show, accuracy in your marketing efforts is essential — always double-check your work, and be hypervigilant concerning data. Any data you provide must be accurate for your company to have any credibility. When your brand generates high quality, reliable data, the benefits include better decision making, improved productivity, lower costs, and higher sales. 

Social Media Is Powerful — Use It

During the 2014 Oscars, host Ellen DeGeneres went into the crowd and brought together some of the night’s biggest stars — we’re talking the likes of Bradley Cooper, Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence, Brad Pitt, and more — to squeeze in for a selfie. After it was taken, DeGeneres posted the photo on Twitter, where it went on to receive over 3 million retweets (at the time, the most retweeted photo in history). 

Image: Twitter

It was a huge advertising coup for Samsung, as it was the company’s phone that DeGeneres used for the selfie. The extent of the profits? Its public relations firm acknowledged its value could be as high as $1 billion. This shows the sheer strength of social media when something goes viral, so take advantage of the social platforms that work best for your business. And don’t just keep the lights on — fill up your feed with exciting content. Think out of the box to be one step ahead of your competition. And who knows? One day, your content might go viral and your brand will be on everybody’s lips. 

It’s All About Narrative Marketing

Let’s be real. While the Oscars may seem like a glittery and glamorous evening of celebrating cinema, it’s about more than just films — it’s about building a good narrative, too. There are plenty of outstanding movies out, year after year, but only a handful are considered for Oscar nominations. 

And those are the ones with great narratives built around them. "Crafting that narrative that both is the movie and beyond the movie is a huge part of the conversation,” says Jordan Horowitz, producer of films such as La La Land and The Kids Are All Right.

How you market the film, who goes to see the film, how they in turn talk about it. All of that feeds into the narrative of the movie — especially during awards season.

The importance of building a solid narrative also holds true with marketing. The goal is to find out what appeals to your customers, then to capture their interests through narrative marketing campaigns. It’s about going outside of your product or service and focusing on your company values. For example, let’s take a look at Patagonia. They’re not just about their puffy vest jackets and outdoor clothing and gear — they’ve also established a narrative as a company that “aims to use [their] resources” to save the world from extinction. It’s a narrative that their customer base believes in and stands by. 

"I Want to Thank the Academy..."

...for all of these marketing lessons. Let's see what shenanigans will happen during this year's Oscars — who knows, maybe it'll inspire a sequel to this blog post. 😉

Speaking of the Oscars and movies, here are 5 film books that’ll teach you about marketing storytelling

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