Crazy Rich Asians? Try crazy powerful Asians.
By the numbers, the success of the film, Crazy Rich Asians, has rightfully been a headline grabber. With a $30 million-dollar production budget considered “paltry” by Hollywood blockbuster standards, in its first 10-day domestic run the film has brought in over $76 million dollars.
Recent reports in Variety and the Hollywood Reporter suggest that the TV advertising budget for the film was also a less-than-normal number ranging from $11 to $13 million from May through the release in August. To put this in perspective, the average independent film, according to a report in Variety, earmarks $20 million in marketing budget, with that budget soaring to $150 million for a studio’s major release.
What was so different about this “little film that could?” Some point to the social and buzz campaigns capitalizing on the movie’s status as the first “westernized Asian cast” for a “western release” in 25 years – since the Joy Luck Club. Campaigns intentionally raising the “social imperative” for Asian moviegoers to throw their money behind certainly did some of the heavy-lifting as wealth and powerful VCs and Asian business leaders bought tickets, selling out showings in the first days of the release. Social campaigns touting the #GoldenOpen yielded some 3,400 mentions in the opening weekend…a movement spurred by non-studio buzz campaigns to call attention to the movie-as-cultural-phenomenon. Social campaigns from Warner Bros. also helped push buzz in the early days with the movie generating over 173,000+ social posts in opening week and #CrazyRichAsians was the most popular movie-related hashtag on social with 73,000 mentions. Without doubt, social campaigns and buzz helped call attention to a movie that some doubted would capture the attention of an audience beyond the Asian community.
But here is where fewer people are looking, but what I personally believe has fueled the success of this film: The Content. It all comes back to the content. Yes, I loved the book…the source content for the film and was relieved to see the movie stay true to that content and the irreverence and hilarious honesty of the book. But even the promotions had an authenticity to it…it allowed people to see behind the scenes, to get to know the relatively unknown stars, and to put themselves into lives and situations that, while set in the exotic locale of Singapore, is just as relatable had it been set in your own home town.
These promotions were not the cookie cutter movie trailers of studio tent-pole releases, and perhaps that ties back to a lack of budget spurring a wave of creativity and quality. From watching the cast make dumplings to viral interviews of what it meant to be part of a wave of Asian cultural pride were as engaging and entertaining as the movie. You started to root for the actors almost as much as you root for Rachel and Nick. You WANTED to hear more of the charming stories about the cast, director and author…the lead actor being discovered by the production team’s accountant…how the movie’s star and director are paying it forward and buying out theaters for the upcoming film Searching to continue drawing attention to Asian-led vehicles. All of it charming and endearing in a content climate that can often be controversial and divisive.
There are many lessons marketers will point to in the wake of the success of this film…from appealing to an under-served market to identifying micro-segments of culture to address and, perhaps, exploit. But for me, the marketing lesson to take away is that content is always Queen. Those who stay true to delivering exceptional – and exceptionally engaging – content regardless of vehicle or channel will trump vapid and often turgid big-budget blasts. As we build relationships with our audiences, fans and customers, our currency is not the channel, but the content we choose to exchange. When we lose sight of that…when we lose site of the creativity, authenticity and purpose of the content we are using, our customers loose site of us.
So…if you liked movies like Sweet Home Alabama, While You Were Sleeping or When Harry Met Sally…go check out Crazy Rich Asians. If you are like me…and you drop the rich and are just a crazy Asian…go, see this movie…if for no other reason than to catch the jokes about BEING a crazy Asian.
Till next month!
Hey…look down there…thumbs up…thumbs down…comment…you have options!