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July 2008

Hollywood Blockbusters: Marketing The Story Behind The Story

There's no doubt about it that today's release of The Dark Knight is sure to be a summertime blockbuster. The movie contains elements essential to all good stories...the presence of a superhero (Batman) who pulls off the impossible in the face of evil, love, action, adventure and suspense.

There's also no doubt that Heath Ledger's appearance in the movie provides additional cachet and added marketing value. With Ledger's performance up for critical acclaim, the question now becomes one of combining tact and decency with a situation at hand that is sure to catapult Ledger to potential iconic status.

I'm not saying that Ledger isn't deserving. He's a fabulous actor and his role in The Dark Knight is sure to win kudos from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. But how far can studios go in marketing an actor who died under such tragic circumstances, without seeming as if they're 'using' this fact to sell a better story?

In spite of The Dark Knight's blockbuster potential, it's hard not to ask ourselves whether at least some of the hype is based on the fact that Heath Ledger is no longer with us. Tragedy is at the heart of all dramas, and it's almost impossible to resist seeing the movie just to see what all the hype is about.

Was Hollywood careful enough in trying not to use Ledger's situation as a marketing tool, or is most of the hype based on the reality of Ledger's tragic end? Does the death of an actor almost automatically propel a movie to a higher level? Could you argue that I'm trying to profit from the situation, by mentioning the movie in my blog?


What Is It About The Working World That Makes Us Lose Our Sense Of Wonder?

Whatever happened to our sense of childhood wonder? Why is it that, as soon as we get entrenched in the working world, we lose all sense of play?

A week ago or so, I watched the movie "Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium."  The movie was enchanting, had some great special effects - and dealt with topics that related to both kids - as well as to the "kid" within us. Topics such as "believe in yourself", "finding your passion", and "uncovering the lost 'sparkle' within us" are handled with such craft, that I found myself asking myself why it was that I felt I lost that "sparkle" and passion for play and imagination.


I grew up in a family that was keen on storytelling. My mother used to read tales from the Brothers Grimm to us. She recited stories from Germany and Czechoslovakia that left us spellbound. My childhood was full of play, and I spent most of my time outside finding useful ways to feed my imagination.

Years passed, and as I studied business and entered the working world, I found that creativity and imagination weren't always held in high regard. In fact, the world of business could be quite ruthless, and its tendency to play by the old rules left little room for someone with creative sense and a strong imagination. I began to feel stifled and frustrated that my creative ideas weren't being met with the respect they deserved. As much as companies said they wanted change, what they wanted was a way to justify their already outdated and ineffective ways of operating and thinking. 

It's no secret that the most innovative and successful companies are also entrenched with a strong sense of play. Look at Google and Herman Miller. These are companies with a strong flair for innovation that encourage employees to think and act "differently."

What will it take for companies to rediscover how a sense of play can add to productivity and profits? If employees are having fun at what they do, doesn't this go a long way in reducing turnover and absenteeism in the workplace? Why are so many companies still stuck in the middle ages in their thinking? How can they better hone the "sparkle" that would make most employees shine in their careers?