Movies and Marketing Lessons

Movies are not my first source to learn about marketing, but they are great for reinforcing marketing concepts. They’re also a fun conversation starter as in “What’s your favorite marketing-related film clip?”

Here’s a list that starts with one of my favorites:

  • Ghostbusters: The scene is when the guys get called into the mayor’s office and Bill Murray convinces the mayor to ignore the EPA rep and let them try to handle the weird stuff happening in the city. It’s a great example of understanding what’s important to decision-makers and customers from their perspective (aka WII.FM).
  • City Slickers: Jack Palance holds up one finger when telling Billy Crystal about the importance about “one thing” that Billy must figure out. The challenge is that “one thing” means different things to different people – like it is to marketers who find the “one thing” in strategic brand differentiation or unique selling proposition.
  • What Women Want: Mel Gibson’s character can hear what women are thinking, giving him valuable insight into female consumers. Marketers need to put themselves in their customers’ shoes to better understand them.
  • Big: Robert Loggia unexpectedly runs into Tom Hanks at the toy store and explains he visits the store periodically to observe consumer behavior because it’s more real to him than a marketing research report.
  • Jerry Maguire: Sports agent Tom Cruise listens and commits to what his client wants.
  • Wall Street: When you consider the mentoring relationship between lead characters Michael Douglas and Charlie Sheen, this film is an interesting study in personal branding.
I’ve highlighted a number of classic films here that were released from 1984 though 2000. For more recent films, check out “Lights, Camera, Action! 10 Posts on Marketing Lessons from Your Favorite Movies.”

What are your favorites films and movie clips that relate to marketing?

[Special thanks to my colleagues for helping compile this list: Elaine Fogel, Robert Kincaide, Debra Semans, and Ron Strauss.]


  • Elaine Fogel November 5, 2013 Reply

    Thanks for including my suggestion, Sybil. One thing that’s different today than in previous years is all the product placement we see in films. It’s subtle marketing, but it must work.

    • sybil November 5, 2013 Reply

      I agree, Elaine. Product placement is also an opportunity for mutual marketing when the brand promotes its placement in a film – building awareness for both the product and the movie.

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