Film Marketing: Les Miserables, Posters and the Power of "Positioning"

As reported by crushable on Sept. 24th, 2012, the poster for the new movie version of Les Miserables doesn't feature any of the big stars (Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway or Amanda Seyfried) attached to the project.

Instead young Isabelle Allen, who plays the young Cosette, is pictured.


The answer is what marketers call "positioning."

The illustration of a sad-eyed young girl with wisps of hair blowing in a (revolutionary?) wind should look familiar.

Somebody else has already spent millions of dollars and years making this iconic design well known around the world.

Currently the longest-running musical on London's West End (it opened there in 1985), the original Broadway production of Les Miserables was also a record-setting landmark: Having opened on March 12th, 1987 with an initial run that lasted until May 18th, 2003 (6,680 performances), Les Miz was revived on Broadway in November 2006 for an unprecedented second run that lasted until January of 2008.

For anyone (like me) who lived in or near New York City in the late-1980s (or 90s or 2000s), the poster for the Broadway Les Miz was a part of everyday life. The sad-eyed girl was everywhere, staring out at you from bus shelters and the walls of every train station. Eventually, with tours and TV ads, the sad-eyed girl design has spread around the world - with associations and meaning even for potential customers who never saw the play but simply know the poster.

I think that's why the distributors of the new film (wisely?) went with a design reminiscent of the stage play's marketing.

Linking your product (or service) to an existing campaign is a form of marketing messaging known as "positioning." In this case, rather than paying to create a new impression in the customer's mind, the distributors are building upon years of marketing for the stage play: Designing a poster that positions their new film into an existing (comfortable?) slot in the consumer's mind.

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