Wednesday, July 04, 2007

What Has TRANSFORMERS Taught Us?


Let’s look at the technical, real-world application for authors—cross promotion. Have you seen those commercials where the cars transform and people think they’re totally cool, then the camera pans to an auto sales shot? Yep, that’s to get you to buy the car. And all of the dealerships who are involved also have huge banners displayed on their lots. Then there’s the devilish toaster who steals the guy’s Mountain Dew. Now, really what were we interested in—the drink or the mocking robot? And of course, then there’s the merchandising: t-shirts, dinnerware, Underoos, backpacks, not to mention the dozens of new toys. Come on, who wouldn’t want a voice modulator that turns them into Optimus Prime?

The powers behind the marketing swarm knew who their audience was and we’re not just talking little girls and boys. Try twenty somethings who are looking for hip cool toys (not necessarily literally), as well as thirty somethings who remember the old series with fondness (and want to buy a bit of nostalgia). What do the majority of us (since I fall in the demographic) do? Watch TV! So where do you think those business savvy marketers placed ads? In prime time TV on the hottest shows, including a guest judge appearance by Michael Bay (Transformers’ director) on On The Lot. Of course, during every intro Transformers was mentioned as well as the occasional clip played. MySpace is also a huge place where their “focus audience” lurks. So they went all out on a page where you choose to be an Autobot or a Decepticon. (Of course I went Autobot all the way. But I’m guessing you knew that about me.) Another place Transformers dominated was the MTV Movie Awards where Optimus Prime appeared opposite the hostess. At every break, viewers were treated to clips of the movie.

If a person has to hear a suggestion three times or see it on half a dozen occasions to make the information stick, we’ve all had plenty of subliminal messages sent our way.

So what was their key? Tapping into several niches for prime product placement and thinking outside the box (we’re talking cars that turn into alien robots here!). Let’s say you write superheroes like Jennifer Estep (sorry ladies I though it best to use someone outside our midst), what can you do to cross promote? Sign at local game and/or comic stores. (Yes, the later does still exist.) Hit the cons hard (RWA, RT, Comic Con, Book Expo, DragonCon to name a few). Being in an environment where there are more bodies, means a higher probability that you will sell books. You will also get the chance for name/face recognition by being seen. I know it’s scary, but you gotta get out there. (And if you can’t, send goodies for the promo room or to get stuffed in gift bags!)

It also doesn’t hurt to have an ad in a national trade magazine. Every romance author goes for RWR and RT, but what about comic/gaming rags? These are people looking for something new. And the only people reading them aren’t guys. I remember plenty of days flipping through my bf’s issues trying to kill some time while he leveled up. If you can’t pay the fee to run an ad, call them with a story angle built around your book or write in to comment (but be sure to get in something about your title or your website address). If all else fails, try to get on a reality show. (Yes, I am being half-way serious here.) I can’t count the amount of authors I heard at Nationals last year saying they tried to get on to Wife Swap, etc. as a marketing tool. Who Wants to be A Superhero was a little hokey, but who wouldn’t want to meet Stan “the Man”? And it’s national exposure that will have longitude because episodes are released in DVD collections and hosted as downloads for avid viewers.

The best part about this whole spiel? All these tricks can be used for any genre with a slight tweak. Just think, with the Optimus Prime voice modulator you could be snuggling up to your cyber-licious honey with your eyes closed, dreaming about really taking over the world…in a good way.

Dun-da-da-duh. Now, the review (`cause you knew it was coming!):

Michael Bay and Steven Spielberg have a picture that’s sure to make moviegoers come back for a second pass. There was so much packed in the film (even at 2 hours +), you have to see it twice. The plot is simple, just like the TV show used to be. But there is plenty of action and unexpected conflicts that arise to keep fans on their toes (along with the Autobots). Eventhough this blockbuster was constructed as an action movie, it has two romance subplots that are at moments heart-jerking. In short, if you haven’t seen it yet, roll out! I’m sure it will have you thinking the same thing I did--I wish my car did this!

(I write this under the duress of mini-Optimus who ultimately dismissed being my bf's birthday cake topper, so mini-Bumblebee and mini-Shockwave will have to do the honors!)

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If you can’t get enough of movies, check out my Movie Night contest running until July 27th! You just might win one!

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