What Marketers Can Learn from 2018’s Top Movies, Shows, Viral Videos and Songs

Blockbuster movie and TV producers and songwriters know what grabs their audiences by the heartstrings. So do great marketers.

Just look at the best ads of all time, and you’ll see a lot of common themes along with memorable movies and songs. As we approach the end of 2018, marketers owe it to themselves and their customers to take a few tips from 2018’s hit movies, TV shows, viral videos, and songs.

Refresh Your Marketing 101 with 2018’s Best Movies

Your audience, like film-goers, loves to escape with fantasy. A film whose story is so compelling that you feel as if you’re right in the middle of the action can teach you how to tweak your marketing campaigns to reach your own customers’ heartstrings—and into their wallet. Here are this year’s finest blockbusters:

2018’s Top Movies

  • 5. Won’t You Be My Neighbor?: Generations of children grew up with the iconic PBS show Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. The show’s creator, Fred Rogers, taught his young audience to grow kinder and wiser through kid-friendly, captivating stories. He never nagged, never scolded, but nevertheless drove home his main theme: to love others as you love yourself. This film captures the backstory of the show through a compelling biography of its creator. Audiences often left the film with tears streaming down their face as they watched Rogers conquer his inner insecurities to become the most beloved figure on TV. The takeaway for marketers? When you combine a heartwarming story with nostalgia, your target audience will respond with their pocketbook.
  • 4.  Hereditary: Everyone loves a good scare—especially when you can walk out of the movie theater in one piece. This movie combines family mistrust, hereditary curses, and tragedy for a dark drama that delves into the occult to deliver even more darkness. You may think that marketers can’t glean anything from a horror film—but think again. Horror films unearth those fears that lie deep down within us. We want someone to deliver us from those fears. In marketing, we call these pain points. Uncover your customer’s greatest fears—and let your product become the hero that pulls them from the brink.
  • 3. Love, Simon: A coming of age film with a 21st-century twist, this film portrays a romance between two gay teenagers. Dealing with one’s first love is always heart-wrenching, but when combined with the struggle of coming out, this storyline transcends that of the typical teen movie. That twist is the kernel of genius marketers should take from this film. It’s not the particulars of the story, but rather the struggle to allow one’s true self to emerge, which their customers experience every day of their lives. A marketing campaign that presents your product as the one thing they need to gain the courage to become their true selves will always be a winner.
  • 2. Annihilation: This surreal trip into a land of sci-fi horrors examines the deepest fears in the human psyche, played out in a scary no man’s land where fears turn into living nightmares—hideous monsters that emerge from our own mind and eventually kill us. Unlike the 1950s sci-fi flick Forbidden Planet, with a similar theme, Annihilation ends with more questions than answers. For that reason, the film wasn’t a huge box office draw. Audiences, it seems, want their heroes to triumph over their inner demons. Marketers, then, can go as dark as they want with pain points—but should never leave the outcome in the dark. Consumers want relief—not more questions.
  • 1. Black Panther: The quintessential superhero film, this latest entry in the field tackles global challenges as its heroes fend off villains galore. Everyone wants to be the hero. For marketers, Black Panther is a gold mine. When you position your product as something that turns your customer into a superhero, customers will pour into your doors.

Up Your Marketing Skills in 2019 with These Tips from 2018’s Top TV Shows

To be successful, a TV show needs a loyal following—as do the products and services you market. Take a tip from 2018’s most popular TV shows to grab the attention of your target audience.

2018’s Top TV Shows

  • 5. You: You’d think that a thriller about a stalker wouldn’t be ripe for marketing tips, but its human-interest angle about the depths one can go to satisfy his or her longings is indeed a fertile field for marketing gold. Case in point, the Eighties’ “What Would You Do for a Klondike Bar” campaign that took Klondike ice cream bars from a regional icon to a national obsession. So successful was this obsession-themed campaign that it survived long into the millennium. Make your product an obsession, and the cravings can turn into a cash cow.
  • 4. Better Call Saul: A prequel to the hit show “Breaking Bad,” this award-winning series chronicles the story of Jimmy McGill, a former con man who becomes a lawyer—every sleazy lawbreaker’s defense of choice. Plot twists and ongoing stories are always a winner for marketers. Just look at Peloton’s 2017 and 2018 holiday-themed ads about a fit family’s way to give their mom the perfect gift to see how an ad can practically become a TV series of its own.
  • 3. The Good Place: Who wouldn’t like a comedy about a bunch of hell-bound sinners outsmarting the demons who run the nether region’s bureaucratic echelons? The Good Place—named so because—of course—the worst punishment for sinners is to be unable to utter the cuss words that make human existence bearable in the face of frustration, is ripe for humor—and for marketing tips. Underdogs who kick the stuffing out of their masters always attract viewers—and customers—as viewers envision the advertiser’s product giving them the courage to confront their Scrooge of a boss.
  • 2. The Haunting of Hill House: Ghost stories always attract viewers, especially when they allow us to explore our own mortality and the possibility of an afterlife. Done with a little humor, apparitions can teach us a lot about morality as well as mortality. Just ask Charles Dickens. Done well, a ghost-themed ad could warn families to purchase life insurance, car insurance, and other future-aimed products that could save their loved ones from future disaster.
  • 1. Atlanta: Stories about up-and-coming artists are always an audience draw, provided that the audience can identify with the budding stars. Atlanta is no exception—and can teach marketers a great deal in the process. Place your product or service as the one that can help your audience go from nobodies to the star of the show in their own field, and your marketing campaign, too, will catch a ride on a star.

Learn Why Videos Go Viral for Market Dominance

For this list, we’ll borrow from both Thrillist and CBS News, since the former focused on kid-oriented videos, while the latter concentrated on more adult appeal. Figure out why these videos took on a life of their own and make your 2019 marketing videos pull in a larger, more loyal audience.

2018’s Most Viral Videos

  • 5. Kid Yodeling in Wal-Mart: With 60 million views, this theatre-of-the-absurd video focuses on a grade-school boy, clad in cowboy boots and jeans, yodeling his way through an old-school country song in where else? Wal-Mart, of course. Think you’ve seen it all the last time you headed off to one of these humongous chain stores? Think again. But a cute kid doing something outrageous? That’s marketing treasure. Capture that, and your video, too, may end up on such a “most viral” list.
  • 4. We Broke Up: Celeb couple David Dobrik and Liza Koshy discuss their impending breakup. With tears, laughter and a promise to stay best friends, we can all identify with this couple wanting to keep what was good within their relationship while moving on to a more comfortable one. Capture this blend of emotions and your marketing campaign, too, will pick up viewers.
  • 3. Real-Life Trick Shots 2: YouTube star Dude Perfect does it again with his dead-center aim. From tossing two backpacks onto wall hooks to sinking a perfect three-pointer with a garbage bag into a trash can way off, doing the impossible is everyone’s pipe dream. Find a way to help your customers do just that through video marketing and motivate your customers.
  • 2. To Our Daughter: Media darling Kyle Jenner (of Keeping Up with the Kardashians’ fame) provides fans with a touching short documentary about her daughter’s birth story. Keeping mum about her pregnancy and impending birth before the blessed event, Jenner created a surprise for her delighted fans with this viral video. Combine that with the heartwarming story that any birth inspires, and you have a winner. Marketers who like Jenner, combine the element of surprise with a touching story, will likewise experience success.
  • 1. A Bath Time Song: By far, the most-watched YouTube video of 2018 is one directed to babies, not about them. Cocomelon’s charming cartoon babies teach their fellow tiny humans their basic body parts, as well as a needed lesson on the importance of keeping clean in a catchy bath-time song to the tune of Cocomelon’s kiddie chartbuster, “Baby Shark.” With over 800 million views, parents tune in to teach their kids the basics of escaping babyhood in a memorable song. 800 million satisfied parents can’t be wrong, right? In fact, one only has to go back a few years to Life Cereals’ picky little character “Mikey,” to help kids enjoy something that’s ultimately good for them. When marketing to parents, create something that’ll catch their kiddies’ eyes and ears. Combine it with educational material, and you’ll have the parents’ loyalty for life.

Give Yourself Marketing Mojo When You Take a Cue from 2018’s Top Songs

Music industry’s Holy Grail, Billboard, has chosen—and its hot list can be a treasure trove for marketers looking to up their game. Here are their picks:

The Top Five Songs from 2018

  • 5. Kendrick Lamar & SZA, “All the Stars”: A masterful blend of vocal stylings, this duo utilizes both artists’ ranges to their uttermost–and for their efforts, landed a spot on the year’s number one film, Black Panther. Marketers who use music to deliver their message need to find the perfect match for their brand. Consult a professional musician to find just the right music to carry your message. Volvo’s launch of their “car built around an aria” ad featuring soprano Emily Cheung does just that—to marketing perfection.
  • 4. Childish Gambino, “This Is America”: A bold plea for sanity and justice in a world that believes racism doesn’t exist, yet, oddly, still remains, this song takes on a subject that many Americans have placed in the annals of history and brings it to the forefront of their minds. Marketers who need to explode truisms to expose a need—say, for a non-profit organization whose mission isn’t the cause du jour—need to take a bold approach, using vivid imagery to get the point across.
  • 3. Ariana Grande, “No Tears Left to Cry”: A call to rise above the pain left in the wake of the singer’s experience as a survivor of the 2017 Manchester terrorist bombing, this song urges people to rise above tragedy to not only survive—but to thrive. When you want to inspire your target customers to thrive in the face of tragedy, allow your product or service to help your customers pull themselves up by their bootstraps.
  • 2. Drake, “Nice for What”: Dealing with change is never easy, but Drake’s musical encouragement to women dealing with what Billboard’s staff calls “men like him” gives breakups and tough relationships a positive spin. In your marketing campaigns, conjure up some tough love of your own to help your customers deal with tough times—with the help of your products, of course.
  • 1. Cardi B, featuring Bad Bunny & J Balvin, “I Like It”: Pure energy and cultural appeal drive this musical list of the singer’s favorite things. Pair a wish list with a bouncy beat, a catchy tune, and you have a chart-topper. When you position your product in such a wish list and gild it with appealing music, a great story, or vivid imagery, you’ll have everyone lining up to buy it the moment they see your ad.

Inspire yourself with these 2018 hits—and create chart-topping marketing campaigns of your own during the next year. For more tips on how to create world-class content to reach more customers, contact us today.

Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner  is a Top CMO, Content Marketing and Digital Marketing Influencer, an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula" and he is the CEO and Founder of Marketing Insider Group, a leading Content Marketing Agency . He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael helps build successful content marketing programs for leading brands and startups alike. Subscribe here for regular updates.

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