Five Movies Every Marketer Should Watch

I’ve always been taught that every thing you do, see or hear has something you can learn from. Movies probably are one of the most great examples of that. In every movie there is something you can take away. Most of the time it is focussed at ‘good versus evil and good always wins’. But there is much more to take out of movies.

A marketer for example can learn a lot from movies. How do people respond, what is it people like. And where is it heading. Just take a look at some movies made in the late 80s and early 90s: a lot of what was ‘futuristic’ back then is now real, just think about minority report. But there are a few movies which will bring the marketer some real valuable insights. I’d like to introduce a few of them to you.

Joneses_posterThe Joneses

The first one is “The Joneses”. It is a movie I have referenced several times in my presentations so if you have seen my presentations you might recognise this one. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, even after my talk, shame on you!

What is it about?

The movie The Joneses is a film which plays in a suburb of an American city. A wealthy suburb. A new family moves in, father, mother, daughter and son. They seem to be the perfect American family who have it all. Expensive cars and expensive clothes. It’s all there.

Quickly within the movie (without spoiling it) you will find that it is not a real family. They are actors placed in the suburb by a marketing company. To sell products. But not by selling them through a Tupperware party but by using the articles.

This means they get to use the new golf clubs, video games and make up. And throughout the movie you will see the people around them being affected by them. Influenced maybe a better word here: the neighbours are starting to buy the products.

What’s there to learn?

The movie gives a great insight in how people’s minds work when it comes to peer pressure and influence. We are constantly influenced by our surroundings. The people around us are the ones who makes us buy things, not ourselves.

I watched this movie in a hotel room in Prague when speaking there a few years ago and I literarily started slamming my pillow because I realised even I, as a marketer, would completely fall for this.

thank-you-for-smokingThank you for smoking

This movie has a title which makes your eyebrows go up immediately. Is it promoting smoking? No it is not. But it does give some valuable insights for a marketer.

What is it about?

The movie is about a man who works as a lobbyist for the tobacco companies. They want as many people to smoke as possible off course, but that is not an easy job. The movie shows how the guy is able to make smoking look good.

It even goes as far that you get to see him talking on a ‘fathers day’ on his kid’s school and convincing the children smoking really isn’t that bad. That sounds very harsh, but the weird thing is that during the movie you do get sympathy for the guy.

What’s there to learn?

Well we don’t want to learn our children to smoke, but this movie gives a marketer great insight in the vulnerability of the human spirit. People want to be convinced. They want to trust what others are saying. It give a great insight in the world of lobbyism and it shows how ‘anything can be marketed’.


Moneyball_PosterSome ladies will just watch the movie ‘Moneyball’ because it has Bratt Pitt in it. Others will watch it because it is about sports, baseball to be specific. But marketers should watch it to learn, especially in this age and time of big data.

What is it about?

The movie is about a baseball manager from Oakland A’s in San Francisco. The manager realises that because his team has little money and thus can’t buy the ‘big players’ he needs to take a different route. And the route he takes is data. He hires a mathematical genius who looks at the players statistics. Based on that they buy less famous or even seemingly less valuable players.

At first it doesn’t work but when they truly 100% go for it, it works and the team starts winning and gets to a winning streak which no other team ever accomplished. Now almost every team in US baseball works like this and it is copied in other sports as well.

What’s there to learn?

The movie shows a couple of things for a marketer. First of all there is the budget. It shows that you don’t necessarily need the big budgets to be successful, as long as you get it right.

Secondly and most importantly however it shows the importance of data. Always measure what you do, but also measure what others are doing. Being able to interpret that data makes success. It’s big data…


What is it about?

The name says it all: it’s a movie about Steve Jobs. With Ashton Kutcher in the role of Jobs we get to see the rise and fall of Jobs at Apple and then his ‘victorious’ return at Apple. The story ends there so doesn’t show the birth of the iPhone for example.

In the movie you go through Jobs’ life and you can see how brilliant a guy and at the same time asshole the man could be.

What’s there to learn?

I watched this movie on the plane and even though there is a lot you can discuss about in matters of whether or not this movie is ‘good’ in the sense of acting, realism or even story, it does give the marketer and especially startup or entrepreneur some things to think about and to learn.

One lesson for example is that no matter how great your product is, it doesn’t sell itself. People need to understand that the product you are selling is something they should have. Jobs thought of products which people didn’t understand yet, which makes it harder to sell.

But Jobs had one huge quality: he knew what the user wanted, even if the user didn’t know himself. He had a natural talent of being able to put himself into the shoes of those who were supposed to be using the product he was designing. And exactly that is what a marketer should always try to do: putting themselves in the shoes of the people they are targeting.

What Women Want

wwwantWhat is it about?

The movie tells the story of an advertising agent who starts to hear the thoughts of women. Mel Gibson, playing the lead role, suddenly can hear women’s thoughts and starts to understand better how to ‘target’ them. In both personal and professional ways.

What’s there to learn?

To me the most important lessons are even to be found before he starts hearing womens voices. As I explain in my Linkedin post, Gibson I believe the title that better describes the movie should have probably been ‘What Women Think’ (though I realise that title ‘sells’ less). Simply because yes, Gibson can hear what they are thinking, that doesn’t mean he understands them.

As a marketer the lessons here are in the trying to understand who you are targeting and how you can act on that. It takes effort and this movie shows that.

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Bas van den Beld

About Bas van den Beld

Bas van den Beld is an award winning Digital Marketing consultant, trainer and speaker. He is the founder of State of Digital and helps companies develop solid marketing strategies.