Content Marketing Lessons From Hollywood A-Listers

What lessons can marketers learn from the big screen? Columnist Quinn Whissen explores what movies and A-listers can teach you about content marketing.

Content Marketing Lessons from Hollywood
If I’ve learned anything in my line of work, it’s that content marketing insights and inspiration can be found in seemingly random experiences.

From troubled sports agents to hyper blue tang fishes, dating experts and baseball managers, let’s explore some poignant lessons I’ve gathered on content marketing from the most unlikely of places: Hollywood movies and their leading actors.

Tom Cruise In Jerry Maguire: “Help Me Help You.”

Help me Help you

This is the closest quote I have run across that encapsulates the grander philosophy behind content marketing. It comes during a great scene between Cruise’s sports agent character, Jerry Maguire, and his only client, a narcissistic NFL athlete played by Cuba Gooding, Jr.

Cruise emphatically implores Gooding, Jr. to help him understand how he can actually make his perpetually dissatisfied client happy.

This idea is what content marketing is all about: helping, not selling. It’s about embodying a new paradigm that includes words like “listening,” “teaching” and “educating” rather than “selling” and “pitching.”

Cruise’s character is way more in line with today’s marketing environment than the supposed sales guru played by Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross who proclaimed: “Always be closing!”

Forget “Always be closing!” Remember “Always be helping!”

Content marketing is NOT interruption-based marketing where you break into your audience’s day with your messaging, on your time. It’s about understanding the needs and wants of your prospective customers and giving them the information they need, when they need it, i.e., “Always be helping!”

Here’s how we, at our company, define content marketing:

  • Content marketing is the art of providing relevant, useful content to your customers without selling or interrupting them.
  • Instead of pitching your products or services, you are delivering information that makes your customers more informed before they buy.
  • If you deliver consistent, ongoing valuable information to your customers, they will ultimately reward you with their business and loyalty.
  • Great content works on its own behalf. It can spread, persuade and convert people without your help, just by virtue of being relevant and useful.

Listen to Tom Cruise when you’re creating your content strategy or brainstorming topic ideas, and utter it like a mantra under your breath: “Help me help you.” This is where the intention that drives content marketing comes from.

Brad Pitt In Moneyball: “You Get On Base, We Win. You Don’t, We Lose.”

Brad Pitt Moneyball

Brad Pitt knows all about content marketing when he plays Billy Beane, the Oakland A’s general manager, in Moneyball. Why? Because he knows that baseball, just like content marketing, is a numbers game. Consider this:

  • 1 in 4 at bats = hit
  • 1 in 36 at bats = home run
  • 1 in 1,691 at bats = grand slam

It’s not looking too good for your viral content grand slams, is it? Hitting a grand slam statistically is much rarer than getting on base with a hit, which happens 25 percent of the time.

Same thing goes for content marketing: The more you “get on base” with your content, the more chances you have to (figuratively) knock it out of the park.

Your content doesn’t have to be astounding, amazing, or so perfect it hurts. What it has to be is helpful by answering questions people are searching for… literally.

With more than three billion searches happening every day (and most likely more than that by now), you have great chances of being found. That is, if you optimize your content for search intent, not just for a sexy title.

Optimize your content for search intent, not just for a sexy title.

Come up with hundreds of content topic ideas by focusing on answering questions, not catering to keywords, and you have the making of a playoff-worthy season.

Will Smith In Hitch: “It’s Your Job Not To Mess It Up.”

Will Smith in Hitch

In Hitch, a fun movie with Will Smith at the helm, we learn the importance of nurturing our leads with content marketing. Sound far fetched for a rom-com? Let me give you some context.

Smith plays Alex “Hitch” Hitchens, a dating consultant who helps not-so-dating-savvy men court their desired women. He mentors Kevin James’ character, Albert, to aim high for a woman who would stereotypically be out of his league.

Albert successfully snags a date with Hitch’s help, and this is the advice he is given:

When you’re wondering what to say or how you look, just remember, she’s already out with you. That means she said yes when she could have said no. That means she made a plan when she could have just blown you off. So that means it’s no longer your job to make her like you. It’s your job not to mess it up.

You got a lead from your website. Now what? Do you let him or her sit there without hearing a peep from you? Bad move.

People buy from businesses they like. People like businesses they trust. Trust is built by providing useful, relevant information to people who are looking for it — and that’s especially true if they gave you permission to do so.

People buy from businesses they like. People like businesses they can trust.

This is the lead nurturing step of content marketing — a vital checkpoint and often an overlooked one. There are many ways to nurture a lead, whether it’s in the form of emails, free guides, videos, blogs, and on and on.

What it all comes down to is staying top-of-mind, increasing your brand awareness, proving your thought leadership, and most importantly — moving your prospect closer to a sale.

After all, you already did the work and got the lead; all you have to do now is not mess it up.

Ellen Degeneres in Finding Nemo: “Just Keep Swimming.”

Finding NEmo - just keep swimming

This sentiment can be, and has been, said in many different ways:

Keep on keepin’ on.

Done is better than perfect.

Progress is better than perfection.

But of course, one of the best quotes is told to us by a friendly, yet forgetful blue tang fish named Dory, voiced by Ellen Degeneres in Finding Nemo: “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming!”

In fact, this was one of the biggest content marketing lessons that our Vertical Measures team imparted when we asked them their most important takeaways from the past six years.

You see, this is the most daunting challenge we face when working with our content marketing clients: Sometimes, they just don’t get stuff done.

Don’t angst over punctuation, voice, structure and imagery for months when you could be reaping some serious rewards if you just published the darn thing already.

The stats don’t lie:

  • Adopting an inbound strategy doubles average website conversion rates, from six percent to 12 percent.
  • Inbound marketing-dominated organizations experience a cost per lead 61 percent lower than outbound marketing-dominated organizations.
  • B2B companies that blog only one or two times per month generate 70 percent more leads than those that don’t blog at all.
  • Brands that create 15 blog posts per month average 1,200 new leads per month.

Don’t angst over punctuation, voice, structure, and imagery… just publish the darn thing already.

To make these statistics your reality, it takes consistency and dedication to content production. It takes publishing content month after month, week after week for a good amount of time.

It’s about creating systems, not goals.

It means you’ve gained the trust of Google as an authoritative website source and the trust of your audience as a relevant, useful content provider. It means facing murky caves, scary predators and unforeseen obstacles to get to your end goal.

It means you have to stop waiting for perfection, because it’s never going to come anyway.

Create the content.

Press publish.

Rinse and repeat (and just keep swimming).

What other lessons have you learned from movies and A-listers that can be applied to content marketing?

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.

(Some images used under license from


Marketing Land – Internet Marketing News, Strategies & Tips


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.