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Oh the Horror! Storytelling That Created a Brand

By Joe Walsh
October 31, 2014
Oh the Horror! Storytelling That Created a Brand

My two theater-crazed high school kids enjoyed a right of passage the other night and went to see the Rocky Horror Picture Show at a Maine drive-in. I'll leave the wisdom of going to a drive-in in Maine in late October alone, and instead focus on the brand story.

For those who don't know the picture, Wikipedia explains:

"The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a 1975 musical comedy horror film directed by Jim Sharman. Although largely ignored upon release, it soon gained notoriety as a midnight movie when audiences began participating with the film at the Waverly Theater in New York City in 1976. Audience members returned to the cinemas frequently and talked back to the screen and began dressing as the characters, spawning similar performance groups across the United States. Still in limited release nearly four decades after its premiere, it has the longest-running theatrical release in film history."

Rocky Horror is an enduring brand for reasons that apply directly to your business-to-business branding today:

1. Great storytelling—the basis of all good marketing. My partner, Burkey, likes to say the marketplace can be thought of as one giant cocktail party; those who engage you by telling the best stories get remembered.

2. Stunning engagement—Those who go to the show become part of the show. My kids even dressed for their parts—which was a bit scary. In marketing terms, when you involve others in your story, they become engaged—today's baseline for all social media and for all storytelling. If your prospect sees themselves as part of the your story, you fill the house.

3. Self-assuredThe movie is self-consciously outrageous but somehow does not take itself too seriously either. The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a comedy, a tribute to old sci-fi flicks and a send-up to B-horror movies. It's a rollicking good time and that requires confidence. Most B2B marketing we see lacks that very important quality.

4. Creatively riskyCross-dressing wasn't exactly mainstream in 1975 and is still a touchy subject today. But as the late great ad-man, David Ogilvy, said, "you can't bore people into trying your product or service." We know very well that your brand communication risk tolerance will not be as elastic as the Show's creators, but in order to keep an audience's attention, you first need to earn it.

Classic movie with contemporary application to the business of branding. If you don't believe me, go see the film. It's certainly entertaining.

On another point, I'm proud of my high school kids for being fans of "the classics."

Happy Halloween.