'Tis the season to make or buy a Halloween costume, take a haunted hayride, and eat your favorite Halloween candy. For many of us, Halloween also means watching a beloved scary movie.
At their core, movies are simply content waiting to be shared and enjoyed, just like the videos or blog posts your company might create. In the spirit of everything orange, black, and creepy, consider these content marketing principles that we can glean from favorite horror films.
1. Let the Right One In: The best content resonates across geographic areas.
Just like this scary and romantic Swedish vampire film (which later spawned a less successful American version), a compelling story works even with subtitles or translations. If you're trying to create content that drives engagement in other parts of the world, pare your story down to its simplest form, removing any cultural nuances that may confuse global audiences. In Let the Right One In, we saw that fear, kindness, and friendship translate across any language, as in this scene where the two main child characters hug.
2. Cabin in the Woods: Humor can work in unexpected places.
This movie is rife with gore and suspense, but the script is also extremely funny. You may find yourself laughing just moments after being completely terrified, which provides relief and may even make the next big scare even scarier. Your content marketing might not (and hopefully doesn't) have the goal of scaring people, but a touch of humor can break up technical or wordy content.
3. Blair Witch Project: Be authentic.
Today's audiences don't want content to be completely photoshopped. Just like audiences responded to Blair Witch Project's low-budget, unedited style, people prefer brands that have a real human voice. Authentic marketing means that you don't hide behind fancy visuals that are also meaningless fluff. Offer an unfiltered, true-to-life view of your brand and products by being authentic, letting real people's voices shine through in your content.
4. The Shining: Your best content may not be immediately recognized.
Stanley Kubrick's The Shining is known today as one of the best horror films of all time. It has a 92% "Certified Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes and has been named to multitudes of "best of" lists. But back in 1980 when it was released, it didn't receive any Oscar nods (making it the only one of Kubrick's last nine films to get no Oscar or Golden Globe love), but was instead nominated for two Razzie Awards. Just like The Shining, your best content may not be an instant hit; it may slowly drum up an audience through SEO or readers who continuously share it.
5. Paranormal Activity: Relate to your audience as "us" not "them."
In Paranormal Activity, the main characters are highly relatable because they don't seem to be acting. They act essentially how normal people would act in their situation and were instructed to improvise instead of using a strict script, and the film is more believable for it. When crafting content marketing, it's important to relate to your readers or viewers like you're one of the group, instead of treating them like a disconnected public.
6. Saw: Connect content with meaningful truths about life.
People like to be entertained, but they also seek deeper meaning in life and work. The Saw series set out to make people appreciate their lives by tapping into two basal human truths: we all want to survive, and we're all guilty of something unpleasant. The filmmakers used plenty of blood, guts, and terrifying puppets to make their points, but people walked out of the Saw movies appreciating their lives and safety more than ever. Not all content marketing can have this effect, but I do recommend finding a way to tie your content to broader meaning. Does your product or service help people? Are your customers helping others by the work they do? Work should be meaningful and not just a paycheck, so brainstorm ways you can make this connection.
7. A Nightmare on Elm Street: Killer content doesn't have to be expensive.
You don't always need to spend a lot on advertising or production to yield a great piece of content. Consider A Nightmare on Elm Street, which was created on a budget of just over $1.8 million (originally $700,000), and rejected by Disney and Paramount before New Line accepted it. Some of the creepiest special effects were created in a highly simple way, as Wes Craven explains in this recent tweet. Simple and effective beats expensive and half-baked, so don't worry too much if your content marketing budget is tight.
8: The Sixth Sense: Sharing and word of mouth can take your content to new heights.
Without a major advertising campaign, The Sixth Sense became a runaway hit through word of mouth. In a 1999 article from AdAge, Craig Murray, president of an entertainment marketing company that worked for Disney, said, "This is why people go to the movies, because they can discover it by themselves. ... They are not bombarded by the movie's marketing." People wanted to see the "crazy twist" that their friends told them about, and that shareability made the movie a hit. Consider how to incentivize sharing of your content and simplify the process through social calls to action.
9: Ringu: Use real-life examples and stories.
Both the original Japanese Ringu and subsequent American version The Ring were scary movies because they related to objects in everyone's home: TVs and VHS tapes. The original movie is from 1998; had it been made today, the deadly communication may have been a text message instead of a killer tape. Customers love to see real-life examples and stories from other customers, so I recommend seeking guest bloggers from current customers and case studies (whether written or videos) to create new relatable content.
10. Jacob's Ladder: Leave room for people to think for themselves.
Jacob's Ladder is frightening because of what it leaves to the imagination. It's all about drawing your own conclusions and thinking for yourself, which makes it a great example for content marketers. Today's readers don't want to be told what to think; they want to read about your brand and competitors and figure out how to proceed from there. Your content should be clear, concise, and based on facts, not biased opinions.
11. Sinister: Use video to add an unexpected twist to your content.
In Sinister, the lead character finds evil videos in an attic, and these videos form the foundation of the plot. Video can be used to connect the dots in the story you want to tell-just don't get too obsessed with it!
12. Devil: Don't let limitations restrict your ability to produce great content.
This entire movie takes place in an elevator. You wouldn't think much could happen in such a setting, but you'd be wrong! Whether it's headcount, budget, or another resource that's got you down, get creative with your tactics and deliver useful content to your customers in unorthodox ways.
13. Carrie (2014): Update existing content to reach a new audience.
Just as the 2014 film Carrie borrowed from the 1976 original, you can spruce up content that's already been created. Just because something has been done before doesn't mean you can't dust it off, makes some updates, and maybe even reach entirely new customers.
Happy Halloween from Salesforce Marketing Cloud! Want more examples of real-life content marketing success? Check out the 30 most genius content marketing examples of 2014 (so far).