Movies Every Marketer Should Watch

Movies Every Marketer Should Watch

1st May 2017

Being a marketer isn’t always easy. You have to stay on top of the latest developments. At the same time, marketers have to learn tactics and strategy. So a marketer needs to wind down as well. Watch a movie and relax. But what if we combine the two? What if marketers can watch movies about marketing?

Well, you’re in luck. You can. There are many movies for a marketer to watch and learn at the same time.

A marketer can learn a lot from movies. How do people respond, what is it people like. And where is it heading? 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. There are some movies that will bring the marketer some real valuable insights. While at the same time they can enjoy themselves. Let’s take a look at them.

Don’t forget to check out the bonus movie at the end that was only just released!

The Joneses

The first movie is “The Joneses”. It is a movie I have referenced several times in my presentations as a must see movie for marketers. 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 Joneses - A movie every marketer should watchThe movie The Joneses is a film that takes place in a suburb of a random American town. One of the wealthy suburbs. A new family moves in, father, mother, daughter and son. They seem to be the perfect American family who has it all. Expensive cars and expensive clothes. It’s all there.

Within a few minutes (I won’t spoil the story, don’t worry) 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 to them, but by using the products. You could say the family in the movie are marketers. They actually call it ‘self-marketing’ in the movie.

The ‘family’ has it all: new golf clubs, video games, cooking gear, makeup, you name it. In the movie, you will see how the people around them get affected. Influenced is a better word here: the neighbours are starting to buy the products.

What’s there to learn?

The movie gives a great insight into the minds of people when it comes to peer pressure and influence. We are always influenced by what happens around us. The people close to 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. At one point I started slamming my pillow. Why? Because I realised, even as a marketer, I would also step in here.

My rating: 5 stars. A must see movie for any marketer.

Watch the trailer:

Thank you for smoking

This movie has a title which makes many raise their eyebrows. Is this movie promoting smoking? No, it is not. But it does give some valuable insights for a marketer.

What is it about?

A must watch movie for every marketer: Thank you for smokingThe movie is about a man who works as a lobbyist for the tobacco industry. Their goal, as you can imagine, is to get as many people as possible smoking. This is not an easy job. The movie shows how the lead character is able to make smoking look good. He is a marketer without knowing.

You even get to see him talking at his kid’s school. Convincing the children smoking isn’t that bad. 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 teach 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 gives a great insight into the world of lobbyism and it shows how ‘anything can be marketed’.

My rating: 4 stars. As a marketer, you need to understand the human brain.

Watch the trailer:


Some will watch the movie ‘Moneyball’ because the lead character is Bratt Pitt. Others will watch it because it is about sports, baseball to be specific. But marketers should watch it and learn, especially in this age and time of “big data”.

What is it about?

A movie every marketer should watch: MoneyballThe movie is a true story about a baseball manager from the Oakland A’s in San Francisco. The team doesn’t have a lot of money. This means the manager can’t buy the ‘big players’. After meeting a ‘data-nerd’, he understands he needs to take a different route. He hires the mathematical genius who looks at the player’s statistics. Based on that they buy less famous or players who seem less valuable at first sight.

In the beginning, it doesn’t work. But when start using as their main strategy, things change. The team starts winning. They have an unprecedented winning streak. As said, this is a true story. These days, data in sports is very common. It wasn’t back in the day.

What’s there to learn?

For a marketer, the movie has several learnings. First of all, there is the budget. It shows that you don’t need a big budget to be successful.

Second and most important, 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 is key. It’s big data…

My rating: 5 stars. In this era, you can’t live without data. Plus, this movie is very motivational!

Watch the trailer:


What is it about?

For those who are not familiar with Tech, the movie title might indicate it is about ‘getting a job’. For those in the industry, the name is clear: it’s a movie about Steve Jobs.

There are many movies about Steve Jobs. This one has Ashton Kutcher in the role of Jobs. We get to see the rise and fall of Jobs at Apple. And we get an insight into his ‘victorious’ return at Apple. The story ends there so doesn’t show the birth of the iPhone for example. That’s a shame, but it is not those lessons we take away.

What’s there to learn?

A movie every marketer should watch: JobsYou can debate about whether this movie is ‘good’ in the sense of acting, realism or even story. But it does give the marketer 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 can’t live without. Jobs thought of products which people didn’t understand yet, which makes it harder to sell.

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 he was targeting. Those who were going to be using the product he was designing. Exactly that is what a marketer should always try to do. Putting themselves in the shoes of the people they are targeting.

My rating: 4 stars. Not a 100% reflection of the truth, but definitely things to learn.

What Women Want

what women want - a movie every marketer should watchWhat is it about?

A golden oldie, this one. The movie tells the story of an advertising agent who starts to “hear” the thoughts of women. After an accident with electricity, the lead character starts hearing women’s thoughts. and starts to understand better how to ‘target’ them. In both personal and professional ways.

What’s there to learn?

As I explained here, a better title would have been ‘What Women Think’. Though I realise that title ‘sells’ less. So why the change in title? Because even though he can hear what women 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. It is not about getting the data. You need to understand that data.

My rating: 4 stars. Nice to watch and some learnings with it.

Watch the trailer:

Bonus movie: The Circle

This movie only recently made it to the cinemas in the US. It is not out everywhere else yet. But it’s one you should reserve tickets for if you can. And if you can’t, read the book by Dave Eggers.

The Circle - a movie every marketer should watchWhat is it about?

In the movie, Mae Holland (played by Emma Watson) gets a job at a Silicon Valley Tech company. You will feel like she was hired by Google, Apple or Facebook, even though it is a fictional company. But you will probably feel like Tom Hanks plays Steve Jobs…

Mae joins a groundbreaking experiment that eliminates all privacy. It leads to an engaging and sometimes compelling story.

What’s there to learn?

There are many things to recognise in this movie. And that alone is a lesson. You will feel that this is possible. But is that something we actually want? Especially in regards to privacy, this movie will make you think.

There’s more to learn though. Like how easy people get influenced. How fast people turn into sheep for example. As a marketer, you will learn.

My rating: 5 stars. A must see movie for any marketer.

Watch the trailer:

Your suggestions?

These are only a few movies. There are a lot more movies you can learn from. Will you tell us which movie you learned the most from? Comment here or tweet:

[Tweet “The movie I learned most from as a marketer is… @stateofdigital @basvandenbeld”]


Written By
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.
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