#1 - Direct-response ads really work
In an effort to drum up business, the Ghostbusters decide to air some low-budget ads on network TV. Each commercial ends with Venkman, Stantz, and Spengler telling viewers to call a number on the screen. After seeing a few of the commercials, Dana Barrett picks up the phone to call them, earning the Ghostbusters their most important client. It's classic direct-response marketing from glory days of paid programming -- you know, before every DR commercial had the impossibly annoying Billy Mayes screaming at the audience to Call now, supplies are limited! Despite the negative stigma these ads might have (many "reputable" agencies won't even make them), TV commercials with a call to action tend to perform very well according to recent viewer data from TiVo. Needless to say, when your content is running inside a store (or somewhere else where a sale can be made), that call to action is even more important -- and even more effective.
#2 - Seeing is believing
Not actual Ghostbusters. Image credit: Gamerscore Blog
#3 - Emerging markets create huge opportunities for first movers
Why didn't the Ghostbusters have more competition in the spirit removal and containment business? I mean, they must have been around for at least a few months before the final showdown with the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, right? Perhaps they were geniuses who had a better understanding of the spiritual and technical worlds than anyone else. But I prefer to believe that it was because of their first-mover advantage. Once established in the marketplace, the Ghostbusters brand simply became synonymous with the services offered -- they became the Kleenex of the ghost-busting world. And if you don't think that such an advantage exists in the marketing field anymore, I'll point out that some bar owners are now asking specifically for "Ecast" interactive jukeboxes, while big retailers like Walgreens have been clamoring to install "Redbox" DVD rental kiosks. Even if these companies weren't the first to offer that product, they were the first to build a recognized brand that became synonymous with it.
#4 - Don't be bashful about your brand -- Venkman wouldn't be.
Branding on the Ecto-1. Image credit: Chad Davis
#5 - Never underestimate the power of customer urgency
Whether you're capturing ectoplasmic entities or just pointing out the benefits of a new brand of toothpaste, it's always easier to sell when the customer is already in a buying mood. Of course, even customers who are open to buying will probably do so on their own schedules, so as marketers we often try to inject a sense of urgency to speed up the process. You're probably not going to be able to threaten your customers with the release of a particularly nasty Class 2 free-floating apparition (at least, I hope not). But if you're selling toothpaste, you could mention that after age 30, our gums start to recede and gingivitis becomes a bigger, faster-moving threat than ever. Just don't go overboard with the scare tactics: think education, not intimidation.
As a closing thought, be careful what you wish for. The Ghostbusters nearly destroyed half of Manhattan after getting more business than they could deal with (a misguided EPA official accidentally released thousands of captured ghosts). The moral of that experience: shoot for a controlled growth rate that you can handle.
Have you spotted any marketing gems in your favorite movies? Leave a comment and let me know!