Last weekend, I saw the new batman movie, The Rise of the Dark Knight. I always liked the super-hero movies, not just to see the latest production magic, but also because the good guys always win and save the world. The recent Aurora massacre and tragedy at this movie made me think through a bifocal lens. Somehow, The Dark Knight Rises survives the darkest night in US movie history. I can’t say that I believe in limiting the filmmaker’s artistic vision of a super-hero story, because one psychopath picked this movie to commit a mass murder. I can’t completely fault good marketers who achieved the second highest midnight opening in history and are trying to change upcoming plans in response to current events. The videogame industry is larger than the movie box office, and movies in general are not as violent as videogames. This speaks to a greater culture of violence, which is a reflection of our society’s mind in general.
But I asked myself why would Warner Brothers, among others, promote “midnight opening” of a PG-13 movie and allow ignorant parents to bring their very small children to a midnight showing of such an adult movie? I questioned why we have more restrictions, screening and licenses for owning a car than owning a gun? I question why companies, such as Apple, can choose whether to sell products to Iranian-American citizens due to economic sanction, but gun control interferes with American freedom.
2012 truly marks the year where marketers can expect which programs will help establish new branding norms, while others protect the status quo, and at the very best, serve as lessons learned.
In a revolutionary world where consumers are increasingly inspired to stand up against Corporations with brand backlashes, aligning with popular entertainment or simply getting behind a charity sponsorship is not enough. The New World Marketplace demands an honest, authentic blend of social movement with social responsibility to lead the social and cultural change.
Consumers are hungry for stories and issues that have real meaning and substance. Brand building is like story telling, and marketers have resources and clout to explore and tell the stories that consumers hold dear and close to their hearts, and bring new ideas to life. Consumers are well aware of companies’ fiduciary responsibilities, but they will purchase from those who connect with higher purpose and shared values–they know the difference between an honest cause and just another way to make profit.
Can we look at unfortunate events and learn something different? Yes. But first, brands must evaluate their Value Proposition for their cause and movement. If it doesn’t create something better and more meaningful for the target market, there won’t be any motivation and engagement. Maybe movie marketers can go beyond editing trailers and re-evaluate their ratings, or at least minimum age for PG-13 attendance—demonstrate that they truly care about what’s right. Maybe Apple, among other companies, can stop racial profiling regardless of government initiatives.
Any good value proposition will have trade-offs as well as benefits. We are living in a bitterly divided political nation these days, and as easy as it is to judge the political candidates on their strategic trade-offs, it is nearly impossible to create a social movement and brand differentiation without them. The Dark Knight is not just a fantasy. We will always have dark and light forces all around us in life. Decide which side of this movement you want to walk on.