3 SMart Marketing Tactics for Independent Film Makers

Kevin Smith

Image from: Kevin Smith / Shutterstock

Say what you will about Kevin Smith, director of cult followings like Clerks, Mall Rats, and Chasing Amy but this man turned motion picture marketing on its head this year employing smart marketing techniques that those with loyal niche audiences can learn a lot from. The book Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead: What Every Business Can Learn from the Most Iconic Band in History, by David Meerman and Brian Halligan, comes to mind when thinking about his approach. If you’ve read it, the book covers the why the Grateful Dead were so successful without ever having the typical measures of success such as billboard hits. Smith’s marketing tactics resonate the same creativity discussed in the handbook, using a blend of independent film marketing techniques in conjunction with social media and tight purse strings. Kevin talks about this very topic in his prolific blogging and podcasting efforts, as well as in his Q & A session which was part of his Red State Tour. Rather than betting the house on engaging a new audience through high budget marketing placements, he placed a smart bet that his loyal following would likely come see the film at a higher price if paired with a Q&A session… and he was right. Though his marketing efforts didn’t simply sound like the mantra “if you screen it, they will purchase tickets,” rather, he made some smart moves to pave the way for his success.

1. Great marketing requires impeccable timing, so stir the pot!
The Harvey Boys production company launched at Sundance Independent Film Festival earlier this year. Gathering some momentum as you can see in the chart below. In addition to screening the film, he threw some gas on the fire by garnering media attention through protest and a dash of creative misrepresentation.

2. Social Media – Put a Bird on it
The February Destination traffic shows that there was significant traffic pushed to Ticketmaster, StubHub, and various other venues and entertainment with likely actionable interest in attending his first screenings.

site destinations from coopersdell

As you can see, outbound behaviors indicate strong interest in purchasing tickets based off of the destination traffic for coopersdell.com the Red State Tour’s landing page.

The prolific use of Twitter throughout the tour’s screenings showed a commitment to the idea that interest can be created, harnessed, and sustained through the use of “Live-Tweets.” I was lucky enough to attend the Boston showing and spied Kevin in the stage left wing at the Wilbur Theatre, illuminated in the blue iridescent glow of his cellphone as he manically tweeted the entire duration of the film; tw*eat your heart out James Franco.

If you’re curious about different audience reactions, feel free to check out the Google realtime searches for each of the Live-Tweet hash tags.


3. SELL OUT…  keep your integrity, auction off the kitchen sink
Since Kevin was dead-set on making back the movie investment as fast as possible without selling the movie rights, he decided to auction off hundreds of props, costumes, comic art, and set pieces from his catalog of films and projects. The auction was held on April 10 at the Pasadena Convention Center in conjunction with SModcast-style stories about each of the items and as you can see below, the auction site garnered a good amount of reach and attention.

daily reach and attention propworx

Given Kevin Smith’s success, I’m sure we will see the film industry (specifically independent film) turn more and more toward social media strategies and micro-financing websites like kickstarter.com (which has seen aggressive growth this year) for funding.

Shameless Plug
I’ll leave commentary about the film plot to the critics as I’m not much for spoilers, though I will say that I find it refreshing to see a different perspective on extremism, in what can only be loosely defined as a horror flick. Check out the trailer below:

About Lindsey Mark:
Lindsey Mark works in Client Relations at Compete and is responsible for the strategic development of client retention and support policies for compete.com, with a focus on education and training efforts. She graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, NY so she's a certified technology junkie and open source advocate. When she's not thinking about marketing or training digital 007's at compete, she's doing yoga & blogging about gluten-free diet and lifestyle. Find Lindsey on Twitter as @linji, Google Plus as Lindsey Mark or connect with her via LinkedIn.

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  1. Rick Noel

    I love the three tactics especially “sell out.”

    This post has inspired me to add “Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead: What Every Business Can Learn from the Most Iconic Band in History” to my must read list.

    Great imagery regarding your recounting “Kevin in the stage left wing at the Wilbur Theatre, illuminated in the blue iridescent glow of his cellphone as he manically tweeted the entire duration of the film” … on a smart phone, not laptop. Hardcore. Get Kevin some ice for his thumbs!


    • Lindsey Mark

      The whole experience was well worth the increased ticket price. My boyfriend’s little brother was just accepted to film school in Boston so he was pumped to see the movie and experience the Q&A. He was actually the one that pointed Kevin out to me. Though it was really interesting that while he tweeted most of the venues are anti-smart phone. So I was tweeting, on the DL.

      I’m also glad that I inspired you to read “Marketing lessons from the Grateful Dead”, it’s a quality and easy read. Think of it more as a marketing coffee table book, than a cerebral heavy think piece.

      Thanks for the feedback!


  2. David Meerman Scott

    Lindsey – Kevin is doing some really interesting stuff here. We are both keynoting the Content World event in September, so I hope he talks about his marketing techniques.

    Many thanks for mentioning our book Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead. Rick – hope you like it.


    • Lindsey Mark


      Your book was one of many business oriented books I read last year, but it was one that really stuck with me because of the storytelling nature of the content and my love for industry shifting & disruptive business models.

      The content resonate my favorite quote by R. Buckminster Fuller
      “You never change things by fighting the existing reality.
      To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

      I hope your Keynote at Content World this year is a home run!