When it comes to pop culture related to marketing and advertising, certain shows and movies come to mind immediately. For television of course it’s Mad Men – one of the best dramas of the last decade all about the ad men working in New York in the 1960’s. But there are plenty of movies that feature excellent scenes or story lines about marketing and sales. I like to consider myself a bit of a pop culture connoisseur, so here I’ve collected just a few of my favorites.
Joy is a biopic of sorts about legendary fempreneur (female entrepreneur) Joy Magano (played by Jennifer Lawrence), that shows her meteoric rise from airline booking clerk to an entrepreneurial sensation. Joy invents a self-wringing mop and spends an immense amount of time trying to get some advertising time on QVC for her product. She finally gets her break and a spot on one of the QVC telethons, only for it to flop thanks to a salesman’s terrible execution of her revolutionary invention. After that disaster she fights for a chance to star in the infomercial herself and succeeds at selling her product to dozens of women. Thanks to her knowledge and marketing savvy Joy’s business flourishes and builds an empire.
The Joneses (2009)
This movie may not be the greatest reviewed film on the list, but it features an intriguing story line that relates to marketing better than most films. I don’t want to give away the plot of the movie, but trust that it should be a must see for those in the marketing field. The gist of the plot (without spoilers) is that a new family moves into a wealthy suburb, a seemingly perfect family who truly has it all – expensive cars, expensive clothes, and all the latest tech. Early into the film you find out that this is not a normal family, but rather they’re actors placed in the suburb by a marketing firm to sell products. Think of it as the ultimate form of guerrilla marketing, and it gives a lot of food for thought on the future of marketing.
Thank You for Smoking (2005)
Though the lead character in this film is a lobbyist for the tobacco industry and not a marketer it still offers some great lessons for marketers. Nick Naylor has what seems like a tough job, convincing as many people as possible to smoke, but he uses a marketer’s mind to convince people to do it. Naylor speaks at his son’s school and manages to convince a bunch of kids that smoking isn’t bad, it’s totally something you should do! Though we don’t encourage smoking, especially in children, this movie gives us insight into the vulnerability of human spirit and how much people want to be convinced.
Baby Boom (1987)
Baby Boom is the story of J.C. Wiatt (played by Diane Keaton), a woman so focused on her work that she barely takes a moment for herself. After inheriting a toddler from some deceased relatives and losing her high-powered management consultant job, Wiatt buys a farm and starts selling her own brand of organic baby food. While learning how to raise a child, she also finds her true calling selling her baby food thanks to entrepreneurial spirit. The big message of this film is that in business and in life, sometimes a setback can be an opportunity in disguise.
A sports movie may seem out of place on this list, but when you consider the overarching theme of this film it makes a lot of sense. Moneyball is the real life story of a baseball manager who doesn’t have the money to pay for big time players and has to find a different route to success. Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) hires an economics grad to analyze players’ statistics and find the diamonds in the rough who cost less but play well. The marketer’s gist of this film is that they analyze data and use it to their advantage to minimize their spending while making the most money. Data is crucial, especially in the world of SEO and social media marketing and this film shows how important data can be.
What Women Want (2000)
This movie tells the story of an advertising agent who begins to “hear” the thoughts of women around him after an electrical accident. He uses this advantage to target his products to women better than ever before. This movie shows how important it is to understand the audience you’re targeting and how to act on that information. It shows just how much effort it actually takes to actually sell your products with that targeting and truly understanding the data for your target market.
Movie studios may not be making huge blockbuster movies about marketing anytime in the near future, but we can learn plenty from the films that have come out already. Hopefully in the future as the field of marketing continues to grow we see more films featuring marketing and sales stories as they continue to provide a plethora of lessons important to our field. If you haven’t seen the films mentioned here, I definitely recommend giving them a shot – you could certainly benefit from the information presented and might get inspired in your own work.