Blog: Marketing Strategy
Birdman

Three Marketing Truths From The Movie Birdman

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John Locke is a SEO consultant from Sacramento, CA. He helps manufacturing businesses rank higher through his web agency, Lockedown Design & SEO.

Image from Fox Searchlight

I’ve been wanting to see the Academy Award winning movie Birdman since I first saw the trailer late last summer. Now, I’m here to give a movie review, but I’d like to point out three scenes that talked about how modern marketing works, and how they may apply to your business.

If you haven’t seen this movie yet, and don’t want to read spoilers, you can come back to this article later. If spoilers don’t matter to you, just scroll past the spoiler alerts.

Here there be spoilers! You have been warned.

These three scenes really stood out to me when it comes to digital marketing. Any brand or business that wants to keep growing has to embrace these truths, because those who don’t may face irrelevancy.

Truth One: Relevancy Has To Be Earned

There’s a scene that starts about 38 minutes in, where Riggan’s daughter confronts him about his motivations. At one point, she says:

Well, guess what? There is an entire world out there that fights to be relevant every single day, and you act like it doesn’t exist.

Things are happening in a place that you ignore — a place, by the way has already forgotten about you. I mean, who the fuck are you?

You hate bloggers, you mock Twitter — you don’t even have a Facebook page. You’re the one who doesn’t exist.

Because you’re scared to death, like the rest of us, that you don’t matter.

And you know what, you’re right. You don’t. It’s not important, okay? You’re not important. Get used to it.

— Samantha Thomson

Wow. There’s a lot to unpack here.

What Sam is saying here to her father is that he wants to be relevant, when he hasn’t made an effort to be in the places where people are. He is still clinging to the old ways that he knew twenty years ago.

But the world changed around him, and he didn’t notice. He doesn’t realize that fame, recognition, or business isn’t something that you earn for life. It’s something that you have to fight and scratch and claw for — Every. Single. Day. And if you do not fight to remain relevant — to matter in your industry, there are a thousand other people right behind you, putting in the work, hungrier than you are, who will be relevant.

Like it or not, every single person, every single business on the planet is in the media business. Our world is a place where the tools have never been more available. The publishing platforms have never been more available. There are still gatekeepers in traditional media, but the way to get on their radar is to build your audience for your business or your brand, and that is what will open the door for those legacy media.

None of us are important just because we exist. The game is much tougher than that. But the playing field is more equal than it ever has been. Anyone can write a blog, publish videos on YouTube, and be active on social media. WordPress is a platform that seeks to democratize publishing, and has made the barrier to entry easy to cross. All that remains is to actually put in the time, publish the things that your audience is seeking, and keep providing value in the digital space, because that’s where people find and consume information in 2015.

Truth Two: Everyone Has A Different Perspective To Share

A few scenes later, Mike and Samantha are flirting via a game of truth or dare. Samantha asks Mike what he would want from her if he wasn’t afraid. She does not know how to react to his answer and it leaves her taken aback. Mike responds that if he could, he would take her eyeballs out of her skull, and put them in his own head, so he could see the street the way he would if he was her age.

Everyone has different life experiences, and a different perspective on the exact same situations. It is impossible to see every different angle of a situation by yourself. Having diverse perspectives on your team allows you to see things in ways you would not be able to by yourself. This is why it is important to have people in your organization that are from different backgrounds, genders, ethnicities, orientations, and age groups.

While I don’t believe that having millennials on your staff is a silver bullet for social media, having people that are familiar with the technology and platforms you want to use is critical to your marketing success.

Truth Three: Publishing Is Power

Towards the eighty minute mark of the movie, Samantha shows her father a viral video on YouTube of an embarrassing incident that he was involved in. Bystanders had captured it on their phones and uploaded it. Samantha tells him it has had 350,000 views in an hour.

Riggan is mortified, and fears that the publicity will ruin his play debuting the next night, which he has put all his money into. Samantha states seven words.

Believe it or not, this is power.

— Samantha Thomson, showing her father his viral video

In the next scene, news anchors are discussing the video. Believe it or not, I see examples of this all the time. Local news stations here often show viral YouTube videos or talk about what’s trending on social media. On the day that people were debating what color #TheDress was and llamas were running wild in the streets, both stories were featured on TV news all over the United States.

While you cannot predict what will go viral, if you don’t publish anything, none of it will go viral or be discussed anywhere.

Publishing is power. Attention is the only currency that matters in a always-on, globally networked world.

You can’t maintain relevancy in your industry if you’re not part of the conversations taking place. This means publishing your insights, answering questions, being active on social media, and overall being available. The power that is accessible through the act of creating messages just like this one is a power that not everyone wants to take a hold of.

Being a media creator is the most powerful thing you can do for your business. Whether that is writing, video, audio, print or all of the above, publishing automatically puts you in a category where many people in your industry hesitate to go. That alone should be incentive enough to give it a shot.


Maybe it’s just the weird way my brain works, but when I see messages about one subject embedded in an art form about another subject, I still make that mental connection.

What I’d like you to do is tell me about a movie, book, or other art form where you found lessons or messages that weren’t implicitly related to the story. What are some films that made you think about your business? Tell me about it in the comments, or send me an email. Peace.

Avatar for John Locke

John Locke is a SEO consultant from Sacramento, CA. He helps manufacturing businesses rank higher through his web agency, Lockedown Design & SEO.

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