Oh I’m sorry…did I break your concentration? Along with being one of the best movies in the last 20 years, Pulp Fiction is chock-full of marketing insights if you look at it in the right light. Here, we pull out just a handful to discuss what brand marketers can learn from the film.
As a child of the 90s, one of the most lauded and influential films of that era for me was undoubtedly Pulp Fiction, thanks to its mix of dark humor, action, irony, and a unique tempo of scenes. It wasn’t a conventional movie when it came out, and even then I remember it sparking a lot of debate and discussion on topics like “is it too violent” or “what’s in the briefcase” or “should you ever take out your boss’ wife under any circumstances”.
Rather than trying to peel through the layers of the movie itself though, let’s take a look at what brand marketers can learn from Pulp Fiction. Here are seven of the best marketing lessons that Vincent Vega, Jules Winnfield and friends have for us. NOTE: Spoiler warning for those who have yet to watch the movie.
- Be smart about working relationships – Choose your business partners and your colleagues carefully. Vince Vega and Jules…great team. They know how to work together to tackle a project and seem to have a good time doing it. Vince and Mia Wallace? Not the best match-up. Each has a different goal for the night and they are not aligned on strategy. Even the rollercoaster relationship between Butch Coolidge and Marsellus Wallace shows how two opposing agendas can sometimes work together with the right intervening scenario (Zed and the Gimp’s agendas aside).
- It’s all about content – Everyone in the movie who comes in contact with the briefcase is transfixed by what’s inside. Is it gold? Marsellus’ soul? Diamonds? Tarantino claims it was simply a MacGuffin to keep the plot moving. What it actually was doesn’t matter…it grabbed people’s attention and motivated them. That’s exactly what good content does for marketers and the audience we are trying to reach. Keep in mind what you’re going to put in your proverbial briefcase before you focus on how you’re going to deliver it…
- Choose the right tools – Hammer, baseball bat, chainsaw, katana! Butch knows the result he’s looking for, and chooses the most efficient way to reach it.
- Don’t lose focus – Vincent Vega was on his game for most of the movie…he handles the situations with Jules, he handles Mia Wallace…but he drops the ball while staking out Butch’s apartment. By leaving his weapon on the kitchen counter while he uses the facilities, Vince shows us the importance of always being on the ball. Sure, maybe that’s why marketing is such a high-stress career, but we’re a group of motivated professionals and juggling updates, knowledge and responsibility is what we do.
- Word of mouth – Big Kahuna Burger…that’s that Hawaiian burger joint…This IS a TASTY burger! There’s no substitute for word of mouth and a recommendation from our friends. That’s why social media carries such weight, because ultimately we trust the opinion of people we know. If you are setting up tactics for a social campaign, first go back to see lesson #2 above, and then be sure that there is a conversational connection in order to get your audience talking, recommending and supporting.
- Have a plan, but be flexible – “Pumpkin” and “Honey Bunny” work out their strategy of how they’re going to rob the restaurant by citing third party research, industry trends, their own past experience, and divvying of responsibility. If it weren’t for Vince and Jules, it likely would have been a flawless robbery. The lesson to take from this scene is that when Pumpkin and Honey Bunny do encounter that unexpected roadblock, they re-assess and adapt to the situation. As much as we can plan and prepare…PR interviews, events, media buys, etc., there is always the likelihood that something will need to change and we will need to roll with it.
- Drink good coffee – Jimmie buys the gourmet expensive stuff because when he drinks it he wants to taste it. This is more of a personal takeaway that I adhere to. Life’s too short to waste on crap coffee.