What Pixar can teach us about marketing

Boing… boing… boing… ka-ching!

Boing… boing… boing… ka-ching!

Every summer’s packed like a beach bag with kids’ films (the competition must be ungodly), all hoping to be the big blockbuster. This summer, Pixar maintained its stellar track record with Monsters University—the prequel to its 2001 hit, Monsters, Inc. In fact, Monsters University was Pixar’s 14th consecutive film to lead in box office sales on its opening weekend. In those first few days, it pulled down more than $82 million.

Granted, the Pixar marketing team—and its big daddy entertainment behemoth Disney—are blackbelt masters of marketing. They come flying out of the shadows with an unbeatable mix of public relations, personal appearances, ads in every media known to humankind, documentary-style previews on cable, social media blitzes, awesomely fun websites, apps and more. Then it starts all over again when the movie comes out on Blu-ray, and they pack the bank vaults once more.

But, I don’t want to talk about any of that.

Weird, I know, since this is a blog about marketing. But stay with me, because there’s a critical marketing takeaway coming up.

Today, I’m going to share the secret sauce behind Pixar’s stellar success—the one thing every single one of their films has in common and does exquisitely well.

Nearly every Pixar fan agrees that the films are masterpieces of storytelling, design and entertainment. We’re drawn into the plots and characters—whether it’s a fish looking for his lost son or a group of toys just wanting to be loved by a child. All those plots, characters and films may be very different from one another, but they share a common Pixar commandment:

Make me care.

Andrew Stanton, writer and director for Pixar, says that this is the foundation to every great Pixar story. “Please—emotionally, intellectually, aesthetically—just make me care,” he said in a 2012 TED talk on storytelling.

It’s an entirely audience-focused approach—one that drives every Pixar decision, from the tiniest story details to the precise line of a character’s design. It’s about engagement, being worthwhile, beautiful, interesting or even provoking.

What can we learn about marketing from Pixar’s “Make me care” mantra? Simple… remember your audience. Think about their needs, their interests, and how to engage them. So many times, we commit the original sin of marketing—vanity. We talk about ourselves or our products or our brands in a way that’s simply blowing a horn… and not playing music.

Design and write ads and brochures that are interesting. Share content on social media that people will use and even share. Make your website an example of user friendliness. Post online videos that are engaging and informative from the first frame. Connect with your audience—emotionally, intellectually and aesthetically, as Mr. Stanton asks.

In other words, make them care.

–  Andy Badalamenti is the creative director for CI-Group

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