When it comes to film, everyone has their own tastes, but sometimes there are productions that people can agree are undeniably classics—from Casablanca to The Godfather to The Sound of Music. But what about cult classics—those films that have a dedicated following no matter how quirky or bad or obscure they are?
According to the Oxford Dictionary, a cult classic is “something, typically a film or book, that is popular or fashionable among a particular group or section of society.” Can creatives use this type of mindset to generate and brainstorm content? Are Rocky Horror Picture Show, Clue, and The Room actually viable sources of inspiration?
While consumers might not be dressing up in branded costumes, quoting advertisements, and showing up to late-night content marketing screenings, companies can see the equivalent of cult classic followings in brand loyalty.
There’s one unifying theme to each cult classic film: an element of the subversive. Each symbolizes a break from what is considered traditional film and story form, or even good production value.
With this knowledge, marketers can decide if experimenting with different, quirky content types is worth pursuing within their overall strategy. It might not have to be as puppet-filled as Labyrinth or as trippy as A Clockwork Orange, but breaking out of established norms every once in a while can bring new engagement opportunities and types of media to content creation.
While there’s no doubt that specific cult films will leave viewers trying to decipher what exactly they just watched, there’s still something to be said about integrating the absurd into content. Depending on the industry, content creators might actually be able to generate content that is considered unlike anything else on the market; mainstream content can be more subtle about introducing absurdity. This might be a new slogan, a play on the brand logo, or even a content form that hasn’t been done before.
In terms of visual content creation, cult films can certainly serve as inspiration for new aesthetics, or even as a way to think about the element of illusion. This doesn’t mean falsely representing products, but rather evaluating new ways to present a brand with creative, eye-catching designs or interfaces that will make audiences want to investigate more.
Certain cult films also bring an element of mystery. By slowly revealing elements of a story through a series of articles or a long-term campaign, creators can built a certain amount of momentum behind a product or story, leaving audiences wanting more or finding the time to piece together the clues.
Using mystery fits well with today’s content-binging culture, with viewers obsessively consuming content to figure out how everything and every plot plays out—in book, TV, or movie form.
A large part of what makes these films so loved by fans is the chance for involvement, from movie screenings to costumes to literally shouting lines at the screen. This is one of the largest takeaways for content creators: How can you consistently find new ways to get your readers to interact with your content beyond social media?
This could be integrating new technology or platforms into your content, evaluating what types of content are getting the most types of engagement, or just investigating how today’s consumers are even looking at and sharing content.
But cult classics also teach another lesson about audience demographics: You’re never going to just have one type of viewer. Cult film fans are a varied audience with different levels of participation and experience, from first-time viewers to decades-long fans.
In addressing a multifaceted audience, brands can take different approaches to their content and create a comprehensive portfolio that can introduce consumers to new ideas or delve into the super-technical side of things, depending on the audience—widening the field of engagement.
With today’s media landscape constantly changing, content creators are always looking for different ways to generate interest and engagement with their audiences. And while sometimes we might wonder how these movies got made, at their heart we see a push for creativity, passion for a vision, and experimentation—elements that can always be applied to marketing content.
So for a twist, sit down with some “so bad it’s good” content and see if you can dig up some unexpected inspiration. And if you don’t, at least you’ll have a great story for your friends about an absolutely bizarre movie you decided to watch.
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Featured image attribution: Sebastian Dooris