Top 9 Marketing Takeaways from the 2013 Oscars

Top Ten Marketing Takeaways from the 2013 Oscars

A movie is more like a song than a novel. It is the symphonic progression of various moods and feelings. We’re taken on a journey in order to feel a certain way, nothing more.

It is only after the credits are rolling that the meaning, or what’s behind all that emotion, becomes more evident. We begin to talk about what we think the movie was all about and cite previous films in order to prove our theory. The truth is that a movie, like music, can be used to compliment a variety of different topics.

For example, let’s take the 2013 Oscar nominees for best picture:

  • Argo
  • Amour
  • Beasts of the Southern Wild
  • Django Unchained
  • Les Miserables
  • Life of Pi
  • Lincoln
  • Silver Linings Playbook
  • Zero Dark Thirty

These films each carried a unique story and production that lead to their individual nominations. We see a reflection of many of the world’s current sentiments and issues in these films, in addition to their own themes. From our own perspective, they were successfully able to gather a large enough audience to deem it worthy of recognition and praise. The two key elements to an Oscar nominated film are:

  • Trust
  • Legacy

We trust that these films accurately portray a higher level of intellect and production value in entertainment. They leave a legacy in place that will inspire countless films to come and serve as precedents for their respective genres.

As content marketers, we want our business to have both of these characteristics. We want our customers to trust us and we want our companies to build a legacy within our community.

  • So how specifically did these films accomplish those goals?
  • What sort of marketing takeaways can we derive from the 2013 Oscar Nominees for Best Picture?

Here we will take a look at each of these films individually and see what key concepts we can find that could help us in our own content marketing strategies. By analyzing the strongest aspects of each of these Oscar Nominees we can find new ways to attract audiences while reinforcing seasoned tactics as well. Feel free to share your own experiences and successes with these marketing strategies or just drop us a question in the comments below.

argo film


As the official Oscar winner for Best Picture of 2013, Argo captured the audience’s heart by combining a great story with wholesome entertainment. The takeaway here is a little vague, but I think it’s still very relevant for content marketers.

In the movie, CIA exfiltration specialist Tony Mendez thinks up a crazy cover story to help save six embassy hostages hidden in the home of a Canadian ambassador in Iran. The story involves posing as a movie crew working on a new science fiction movie, “Argo” that required filming in Iran’s unique desert landscapes. Oh, and did I mention this was based on a true story?

Tony was able to pull off this incredibly insane plan by thinking on his feet, years of training in his field, and shear dumb luck. But he wasn’t without his set of troubles either. Tony has to pull together a rag tag bunch of guys and make them work as a unit with the purpose of carrying out a single goal – save the escapees.

The only way this completely crazy plan would work is if everyone came together and did their job exactly as it needed to be done. Sure there are some hiccups along the way, but they work through it as a unit. Likewise, probably the biggest marketing takeaway of 2013 is that you make sure your company works together to succeed in a common goal.

Marketing is not limited to one person or one department. Marketing should be part of sales, customer service, shipping, and reflected from every employee. Your goal in 2013 should be to unite your business and inspire them to market the company brand and message.

That doesn’t mean that your front desk receptionist needs to start hitting the streets handing out flyers or that your credit department needs to actively promote your business on social media. Only that you begin to unify your company and make sure that you take advantage of every opportunity available to promote your business through these channels.

This is one of those marketing takeaways that depend very much on your not thinking much about it, because as soon as you do you’ll be making crazy, radical changes that will only hurt employee morale rather than strengthen your brand. Ask for suggestions and get people involved that wouldn’t normally contribute to the discussion on occasion. Great opportunities to market your business will only come naturally in this regard.

amour film


We as business owners must be humble in our marketing outlooks. In the foreign film Amour, the main characters are two retired piano teachers who (at the end of their lives) must deal with the ugliness of disease, the loneliness of isolation, and the fear of death. Their beauty has undoubtedly faded, but it shines from within their hearts. The film forces its views to unflinchingly accept the realities of old age, failure to change the inevitable, and the complete disintegration of the ego.

Likewise we cannot allow our current successes or status in our respective markets to make us complacent or excessively arrogant in our marketing approaches. If you see the opportunity to work with a new audience or market to a smaller niche, do not let it pass you by because you think that they are “beneath” your company’s current status. You never know if in the future you’ll have to appeal to a completely different market entirely.

The film Amour is about embracing change. Do not fear it. Know that there’s nothing you can do to stop it and learn to adapt to the new world. Companies that stand the test of time know when their current marketing approaches are no longer working, and when it’s time to move on from that business model. Sometimes that could mean an entire re-marketing of a new product or brand identity. It’s hard work, but this is necessary sometimes if you want your business to live on.

In 2013, with the introduction of countless new technologies, platforms, and ways of communicating with your market, it will be more important than ever to embrace change and humble ourselves in the process.

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Beasts of the Southern Wild

This film fell under the abstract category. On the one hand this can be more difficult to interpret because of its ambiguity but on the other it allows us to make more creative assumptions of the story. Overall this is the story of a small girl named Hushpuppy and her relationship with the world around her, and with nature in particular.

At the beginning of the movie, Hushpuppy’s assumption of nature revolves around the food chain. She understands that she is a smaller, weaker creature that will eventually be consumed by a larger force. The only way she understands death in the film is by bigger creatures eating smaller ones. In the story, everything that is “bigger” than her, are themselves being consumed by things even bigger than them.

Her father is being consumer by a terminal illness, while her home is being consumed by storms, floods, saltwater intrusion, and land loss. It is through these seemingly violent relationships that we begin to see her understanding of nature. But by the end of the film her world view evolves into a more enlightened, complete perspective as she sees nature as a flowing system. In other words, everything has its place and everything plays its part. She comes to peace with it.

As for the extinct species of aurochs making an appearance at the end of the film, the meaning is quite clear. Both Hushpuppy and these creatures are honorable animals that understand at the end that the greatest evil you can ever commit is to kill an animal on the verge of extinction – to kill the last of a kind. So it’s not just about your own survival. It’s about working together and allowing each other to go on.

Alongside working as a unit with your own employees and team, it’s important to reach out to other businesses and work together to create new products, content, and creative opportunities. As a small business owner, you have to understand in 2013 that you are small. You can’t change that. And in order to grow bigger, you have to work together at one point with other small businesses in order to help both parties grow as companies and brands. Find a significant partner related to your target market and collaborate this year. Think of a plan and present it to them. Don’t wait for someone to come to you.

django-unchained film

Django Unchained

This is just plain old brilliant entertainment. Quentin Tarantino has made a name for himself doing the kinds of movies he so eloquently promotes. In this edition of a Tarantino thunderbolt, the edgy director takes on the subject of slavery in much the same way he did with the World War II in his previous film, Inglourious Basterds.

Tarantino wrote the script entirely himself, and if you see the film, you can tell that he has quite the admiration for dialogue and lets it run at unusual excessive length for the exploitation genre he holds most dear. The takeaway here is content. You’ve heard it all of these redundant phrases endlessly before:

  • “Content is king”
  • “Provide fresh content above all else”
  • “SEO is dead because of content”
  • “Eat, sleep, breath content”

The main problem is your drop shipping office supplies. Not exactly the best topic for creating that juicy, irresistible content everyone is talking about right? Well that’s true to an extent, which is why Django teaches us something very important. You can take subject matter from other niches and industries and incorporate them into your marketing campaign.

Django Unchained tackles the issue of slavery by using old spaghetti western plots, exploitation violence and other elements that (you would think) have no business being in this kind of movie. And yet the blending of these unrelated genres worked so well that it was nominated for an Oscar and one Tarantino the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.

2013 is all about looking at your business niche in an entirely different way. Don’t be afraid to incorporate an entirely unrelated niche or subject matter into your marketing in order to appeal to your audiences.


Les Miserables

Musicals are a rarity at the Oscars. They often take the showbiz Hollywood route into mainstream obscurity, but not in this case. Les Miserables has been around for a long time. It’s been done before and then some. We know it’s a great story, and in this film the performances were equally spectacular. But it was still a remake in most people’s eyes.

So what would set it apart?

Director Tom Hooper decided that he truly wanted to capture the marvel of live performance by recording and using the actual voices of the actors during the scene. In most musicals, the actors would say their lines with emotions and either lightly sing or hum the song. Later in post-production, the cast would go in a re-record their performances on a professional soundstage. This would sometimes go on in pre-production as instead.

Either way, the actor would then have to reinterpret their initial performances and try to match that again as best as they could. Les Miserables eliminates that by recording their performances all out, live on the spot. It took a tremendous toil on the actors but it also allowed them to go all out and provide a better overall performance. The results were remarkable and attributed to the film’s nomination in this year’s Oscars.

As for this year’s takeaway from Les Miserables, simply add something new. Try something that has never been done before. This doesn’t mean do something that has never been thought of or done before in your industry as a whole, (although that would be ideal), but it could mean just try something that your company in particular hasn’t tried. Start a blog, try video commercials, get an endorsement from a celebrity, build a new product, or redesign your company site.

Marketing in 2013 is all about new beginnings. So try something new for a change!

Life-of-Pi film

Life of Pi

Men and animals will always regard each other across an ocean of mutual incomprehension and respect. Life of Pi portrays this truth brilliantly. The tiger and boy become aware of each other in a whole new way. The tiger in particular views the boy not as prey or master, but as another being.

Life of Pi delivers this notion along with philosophies of the world religions and the very fabric of existence by showing us a film about a boy in a boat with a tiger. That’s it. Many people thought that the novel was unfilmable, that the story was too contextual and not enough visuals. Well director Ang Lee completely blew this notion out of the water by making a film that completely relied on visuals and much as it did context.

Let me try to describe a scene for you. The camera is placed in the sea, looking back up at the lifeboat and beyond it. The surface of the sea is like an enchanted membrane upon which these two vastly different beings aimlessly float. There’s nothing meaningful or distinct to define this moment. It just is. This is not a shot of a boat floating in the ocean. It is a shot of the ocean, boat, and sky unified as one.

Life of Pi was able to prove through the context of its timeless story and through the dedication and incredible work that the production team put through that anything was possible. There are no limitations in this world.

It’s pretty deep stuff to think about. In our own marketing strategies, we can interpret that there are no limitations to what we can do and how we can present something. In fact, in some cases (given the material), it’s all about presentation. Our efforts should include producing quality landing pages, video, and design work to compliment our brand name. Don’t just settle for what’s cheap or what’s efficient. Take the time and effort into making everything you put out representative of the professional business name that you know you are.

lincoln film


This two and a half hour historical drama presented a rather interesting take of the life of Abraham Lincoln. Not so much about the content of the civil war or the late president’s upbringing, but about how he spent his final days getting his cabinet to pass an amendment to the constitution that would change the nation forever.

The main selling point here I think was the authenticity of the piece. From the rooms and wardrobes to the vernacular and mannerisms, it was all very real. No one better could have contributed to the authenticity of Lincoln’s character than Daniel-Day Lewis. It was the central element. The authenticity that Daniel Day Lewis brought to his role sold audience members and critics alike completely. This was Lincoln.

In our own marketing strategies, we have to bring a higher level of authenticity to our work in all aspects of the company. We can’t just talk the talk we have to walk the walk. Our products have to do what we say they do, our company has to deliver exactly what we spell out we can deliver. There can be no ambiguity in our sales pitches or vaporware in our marketing plans.

With the ever availability of the internet and resources for fact checking and authentication so readily accessible to the general public, we just can’t hide anymore behind empty promises and exaggerated claims about ourselves. You have to come clean and show them who you really are. Don’t like it? Then make the change!

silver linings playbook film

Silver Linings Playbook

Every cloud has a silver lining. Know when it’s time to move on from something. This was what Silver Linings Playbook was all about. You have two characters that are brought together and must learn that there is always a good side to things, and that we must act from that good side.

A former teacher named Pat is released from a mental hospital after an eight month stay and tries to win back the affection of his cheating (uninterested) ex-wife. Tiffany is a recently widowed young woman who coped with her distress by developing sex addiction. She meets Pat after he moves back home and together they begin to develop a close bond.

Together these two characters have to learn to come to terms with their illnesses (emotional as well as physical) and learn to move on. The key takeaway here is to know that there is always a silver lining or a “bright side” to things. Maybe your email marketing campaign had zero replies.

Perhaps you promoted something in a foreign country only to find out that the language you used was inappropriate for the culture. You could have had an employee recently go out of their way to give you bad PR and you’re just now thinking of your next move.

Whatever it may be, it is always important to know that you can recover from your failures, and learn from your experiences. Many businesses tend to sink after a public misstep because they don’t know how to move on. Remember that you can recover. All you need is time, new ideas, and to constantly think on your feet. Don’t get sidetracked. Move forward in 2013.

zero dark thirty film

Zero Dark Thirty

It’s all about knowing the facts. Much of the fascination with Zero Dark Thirty is inspired by the unveiling of facts, unclearly seen. People want to know more, so give them some back story and be more transparent in your strategy. Tell them things you wouldn’t normally reveal. Treat your customers as they intelligent people that they are and give it to them straight.

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