Harry Gardiner

Shoestring Marketing Tips Taken From Independent Films

20th Mar 2014 Brand 7 minutes to read

Piggy BankLast month I looked at how the marketing behind big budget cinema releases can inspire your own brand’s content plans, but this month I want to bring things back down to earth.

Not everyone has the kind of budget that the likes of Paramount and Sony Entertainment are working with at their disposal. In fact a lot of businesses will never come close to having access to a budget like that, but should that stop them from carrying out awesome content campaigns?

Absolutely not!

If anything, being limited by your budget is less of a problem and more of a challenge. It should be the parameter that drives your campaigns to excellence, like a slightly more annoying backseat driver.

So how can your brand produce the best possible content on a far from generous budget?

I’ve discussed plenty of tips on this in my latest Koozai TV video, describing exactly how small business can utilise multiple methods of content creation and beat the monetary limitations put upon them; so be sure to give that a watch for some extra insights:

Go on, I’ll be waiting right here.


Back with us? Great. All the advice I discussed is brilliant in theory, but it doesn’t really have an impact until you see it in practice.

Nothing screams low-budget more than independent cinema. Indie filmmakers focus their expenditure on producing their content, and often left with little or nothing to promote it. So let’s take a look at some of the greatest indie marketing success stories to come out of that sector in the last decade or so.

Iron Sky

Iron Sky dared to be different by asking the one really important question that has baffled historians for decades. What if the Nazis, after being defeated in 1945, were actually hiding out on the moon, carefully plotting their next attack?

The film, which took 6 years of production to come into fruition, is as gleefully ridiculous as the premise sounds; so how do you manage to market an idea as abstract as this, and how do you keep attention high over such a long timeline?

“We do not have the money to get the word out quickly, we needed to build up our fanbase slowly so we will have enough buzz going on when the premiere is near… We have been sustaining this by trying to open the film making process and trying to make production interesting to follow.”

The above quote is taken from an email interview with the film’s community manager, Jarmo Puskala and the Selling Your Film website, a few months before the film’s release.

By keeping users informed about the project using teasers, making-of videos and social updates, the film’s producers were able to build and maintain a fevered interest around the content.

“Our teasers have gathered some 6 million views on YouTube [Editor’s note: The official trailer currently has 13,496,542 views!] plus a few million more on other video sites… We spread the content to networks by ourselves. We get the viewers via the network of fans and followers we have built over the years and via skilful and effective use of social media.”

Iron Sky

The team behind Iron Sky are still actively involved with posting regular content to their social accounts to this day. They’ve kept it up so much in fact they’ve managed to use these profiles to launch, fund and advertise the films sequel. They currently have over 183,000 likes on their Facebook page, and this number is sure to increase as the push begins for their new film.

Indie Game: The Movie

An independent film about independent games may be one of the most meta subjects I’ve covered, but regardless, the story behind how this film got made is a marketing miracle.

By utilising the popular crowd funding platform Kickstarter, where people donate money in return for various different rewards, the team behind Indie Game: The Movie (IGTM) were able to fund a sold-out screening tour and a limited theatrical release. This helped build an astronomical amount of positive word of mouth around the film, but the team didn’t stop there. Making the film available online was one of the most important goals for the production crew, because in the words of co-director James Swirsky: “that is where our audience is”.

The movie was distributed online via three separate channels: iTunes, VHX (an online streaming service) and Steam, a PC video game distribution platform.

Distributing a movie about creating independent video games on a platform that is widely known for its connections to the independent video game community is a stroke of genius, and the very epitome of understanding your audience.

“From a pure distribution standpoint, we cannot get any closer to our core audience that being listed side by side with the games that are featured in the film.” Swirsky told tech website Gigaom in an enlightening phone interview, “Steam brings us to the core of our most relevant audience in a very unique way. It’s kind of amazing”.

It’s an amazing story. I’d recommend you watch the trailer below, and if you’d like to know more, you can find the film on all the channels listed above, as well as the movie’s own website.

What we can learn:

There’s a lot that can be learnt from both of these shining examples, and many other independent films out there. Let’s take a look at some key pointers we can take away from their success.

Super Social

It should go without saying by now but you really should be constantly present on as many social channels as possible, promoting your brand and interacting with your audience, as this should be an overarching practice that you conduct daily. If you’re serious about promoting your content, you should live and breathe social media.

Kevin BaconAnd I’m not just talking about the big four (Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn), although these are great tools as well. I mean active social channels that your audience are interested in. Look at how IGTM utilised channels that they knew their target audience frequented and enjoyed regularly. These kinds of sites also allow you to openly communicate with your audience and potential advocates, even brand influencers.

Becoming active on forums and platforms where people are genuinely interested in your cause is, to quote Kevin Bacon, “a no brainer”.

Show Your Face

It’s all well and good targeting your audience, but what about actually meeting them? One way a lot of indie films gain buzz is by attending as many film festivals as possible. There’s no reason your brand can’t do the same. Attend as many events that are related to your industry as possible. Put your content on display front and centre and make sure the right people see it. Keep doing this, and doing it well, and your reputation will build itself.

Rely On Reviews

This follows on suite from the last point, actively encourage constructive criticism of your content. If no one in the world has got anything good to say about the work you produce, then chances are it’s not as great as you first thought. In that case, kill you darlings, cut your losses, and start again from fresh.

But, if you can gather positive reviews from those who witness your work, even if you start small and just focus on local reviews, then this will help establish your brand, and in turn build your reputation.

Utilise The Right Channels

This partly goes back to being active on Social Media, but it also includes all the other available channels. The advent of streaming media and the rapid adoption of superfast broadband means that users and producers have never had it so lucky when it comes to picking a distribution platform. Whether you use your own blog, publish in a guest spot or utilise sites such as SlideShare and Visuall.ly, your content needs to be placed where the right people will see it.

Look at what you’re selling and establish who your audience are, then research how they spend their time and utilise that data to adjust your plans accordingly.

Word Of Mouth Still Works Wonders

If you’re constantly active on social channels, regularly attend industry events, gain as many (preferably positive) reviews as possible and distribute your content properly, it’s likely that you’re brand will begin to gain traction in the right circles.

From there on out it’s just a matter of keeping in contact with your audience, recognising your strongest influencers/greatest brand advocates and utilising their passion for your business/project/media to help spread the word.

That’s my advice at least, but if you’ve had any experience with marketing on a miniscule budget, or have something to say about my post, then please leave a comment below.

For more information on how to do more with your content check out our Content Marketing Services.

Image Credits:
Piggy Bank via BigStock
Iron Sky Poster via IronSky.Net
Kevin Bacon via Bigstock

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Harry Gardiner

At a statuesque 98ft tall (or 6ft 7”, whatever) Harry’s head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to social media. He’s also got mad DJ skills and is a lover of Pugs, bacon and if you tell him you haven’t seen a certain movie, he will make you watch it. You’ve been warned.

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