What Beasts Of The Southern Wild Can Teach Brands About Word Of Mouth Marketing

The Mouth That Roars

There are plenty of films with small budgets that have made their way onto the Oscar ballot. Some years have been better than others. 2008 saw both Slumdog Millionaire and Mickey Rourke’s The Wrestler take truly modest budgets to new heights of Academy recognition. This year was especially impressive for tightly budgeted movies. Beasts Of The Southern Wild was nominated in 4 major categories: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Actress. We’re not talking Best Sound Mixing here (all due credit to great sound mixers).

This was wide-sweeping, big-league attention and they accomplished it with a budget under $2 million. To put that number in perspective the eventual winner, Argo, had a budget of $45 million and Django Unchained broke the $100 million mark. Word of mouth lessons can be extracted from Beasts big success with small numbers.

Bricks From Sand, Dollars From Pennies

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Brands don’t need an enormous budget to market successfully. Piles of money or sand can be thrown into a tall pile, but the resulting mound won’t have the stability to hold anything up. You try to rest anything on top of it and the whole thing will collapse and be lost to the wind. An irresistible talking point creates shape and focus, and word of mouth fires that form into brick.

That’s something you can build a foundation of any structure on.

Something To Talk About

If you’ve seen the movie you know that then 6-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis got nominated for a reason.
Rolling Stones’ Peter Travers just about covers it by calling her performance “flat-out amazement.” It’s really that strong. It lead critic Roger Ebert to speculate if the movie could have even been possible without her. I think the film has more than her as a strength, but I do agree that the young actress is what makes the film irresistible.

Any conversation you have about Beasts will include Wallis, but it will invariably lead to the film itself: its tone, message, look, and the the overall feelings that remain long after you’ve left the theater. The talking point needs a context in order for it to solicit all of those responses, and even after those reactions have been brought out, they exist within the larger world created.

Your Best, But Not Only, Feature

Word of mouth can get people through the door, but once inside there has to be something that keeps them there. If Beasts Of The Southern Wild had simply been about a young actress making an impression, without any substance to the material she was working with, I don’t believe anyone would have been walking the red carpet. The quality of the performance created buzz and brought more awareness to the quality of the production as a whole. If you modeled a word of mouth campaign on that fundamental premise you could count on a solid base elevating your brand.