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How Are Filmmakers Like App Developers? It's the Marketing, Stupid.

By John Casey | Indiewire June 22, 2012 at 2:45PM

Last week Apple held its Worldwide Developers Conference, or, as it is otherwise known, “Oscars Week for app developers.” Which begs the question: What do aspiring filmmakers and app developers have in common? Quite a lot, actually. Most notable, though, is that both often mistakenly forgo the marketing process for a focus on production.
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The importance of implementing a creative marketing strategy to launch a brand's consumer product cannot be stressed enough. Doing so inevitably helps brands get higher visibility for their products on retailers' shelves. Simply writing and distributing a press release about a new product or app is almost pointless. The media is inundated with tens of thousands of new announcements every day. The likelihood of having a press release picked up is miniscule. Thus, advice to budding filmmakers and developers should be the same: Treat your creation not as a work of art, but as a consumer retail product; hire an expert to develop and implement a marketing plan.

One filmmaker that became a developer did just that. Rania Ajami, director of the feature “Asylum Seekers” and the documentary “Qaddafi’s Female Bodyguards,” recently started a children’s mobile content company called Jumping Pages. As she did with her films, Ajami was adamant that the first Jumping Pages product employ a smart and strategic marketing and promotional plan at the outset.

“When we began production of our critically acclaimed version of the epic David and Goliath story book app for kids, I realized that we needed to incorporate an effective marketing strategy early, which was particularly important since it was our first production and there was already a David and Goliath children’s book app available in the iTunes store,” said Ajami. “It worked, and as a result we are implementing and crafting marketing strategies aimed at the consumer at the earliest stages of development for our upcoming mobile productions.”

Films and apps, like all types of consumer products, should begin to formulate marketing strategies at least three to six months from the release/launch date. As Greenwald points out, “A smart indie filmmaker today will attach a marketing person to her or his film at the start of the development process.”

Just like the retail world, it’s not enough to have quality merchandise. Consumer brands that make it onto the shelves of a top retailer are assumed to have good products. What differentiates those products is how they are marketed to the shopper.

"Vendors who ultimately succeed are those that inevitably create excitement through some type of launch activity and marketing support behind their products," said Deanna Williams, director of media relations at Macy's. "As a company, it’s impossible for us to promote everything that's available in our stores. It's up to each vendor to compete to grab the attention of the customer."

Just as developers can’t rely on Apple, Google or Amazon to promote their product, neither can filmmakers afford to imagine their production as a fashionable blockbuster hit like “The Devil Wears Prada.” Instead, they should treat it like Prada shoes, by putting someone in place early who has walked the marketing walk and can help make that film dance off the cluttered iTunes Store shelf.






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