Random posts on all sorts of things designed to inform and provoke.
I understand branding and I support expanding the brand across multiple channels. Despite the horror that was John Carter, no one does this better than the Walt Disney Company and Universal Pictures would be smart enough to poach some Disney executives because Battleship, their attempt at multi-branding retail was a horror show.
The product is immaterial – there is no difference between Battleship and Transformers – they’re both brands that were past their prime. However, what does make a difference is how a company sets the groundwork for that product. For example, Paramount and Dreamworks created the demand for Transformers by making animated shows and then toys. Universal did the latter but since there was nothing on the television attracting people to those toys, that strategy didn’t work.
The second issue was the hiring of the right product manager, in this case, the director. Paramount and Dreamworks made the smart decision of going with Michael Bay while Universal went with the artistic Peter Berg. Say what you will about Bay – and there are plenty of people who have said it much better than me – but that man knows how to shoot a product, which makes sense given his marketing background. He knew what he was selling, who he was selling it to, and how to sell it. Berg, on the other hand, kept saying that he was making Battleship because it allowed him to get to his true goal, making Lone Survivor. Now, I don’t know about how Universal does business but if I am going to hire someone to launch a $200 million plus multi-channel franchise investment, I don’t want them to do it as a favor to me or to use it as a means of getting to their ultimate goal – this product should be their ultimate goal.
This attitude was obvious in the product which came across as cynical and shallow – even using WWII veterans became one more “marketing” move. That’s startling given the current hoorah attitude in the country. All of this was because the attitude behind the product was not about the pitching the product but about using it as a means to achieve other ends. The end result bears this out – this product cost over $200 million to product, likely another $150 to market and distribute, and made over $300 million worldwide. In addition, it also killed any hopes of launching a franchise or a multi-brand product. I believe Universal or Hasbro will pitch it to the public again but that likely won’t happen for a few years – one hope they will not repeat the same mistakes.
I realize that I haven’t talked about the merits of the acting and that’s because in a branding exercise such as this, no one gives two hoots about the actors. I do feel bad for Taylor Kitsch though, that guy’s career started and ended in 2012 – the Mayans were correct about that.