What Marketers Can Learn From Avatar The Movie

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**Warning If you have not seen Avatar the movie yet this post will spoil some of it for you. My basic review is its well worth seeing although its very predictable. You have been warned. **

Last weekend I went to see the movie Avatar with my wife. The special effects and CGI are well worth the money but the story is amazingly predictable. So predictable I swore I knew the story from another movie…

Lets look at the basic plot of the movie…

Person poses as a friend to get to know the enemy.
Person is greeted as hostile at first by the enemy.
Person gets to know the enemy and they teach him their ways.
Person falls in love with enemy leaders daughter.
Person original clan attacks enemy.
Person joins and fights on the enemy side.
Person becomes the hero to the enemy.

It hit me on the way home from the movie theater. Its the same story as the 1990 smash hit Dances With Wolves (yea I know most of you are too young).

In that movie (for those of you under 30) – Kevin Costner gets in good with some Indians… they teach him their ways, he falls in love with the chiefs daughter, the us army attacks the Indians, he fights with the Indians, saves the Indians in the end.

There are also plenty of other movies out there with the same story or version of the story… like Troy or Donnie Brasco for instance.

So what does this mean? Well, in short- there really is no new stories, instead there are just creative alterations of the originals.

In the literary world Christopher Booker argues that there are only really 7 original story plots and everything else is just alteration of those. The 7 different plots he says are:

  • Overcoming the Monster
  • Rags to Riches
  • The Quest
  • Voyage and Return The hero or heroine
  • Comedy
  • Tragedy
  • Rebirth

Pretty interesting.

So what can we learn from this?

Well, no matter what you are doing, you can learn from this.

Just like with movies and books their are no new methods/ideas . Just alterations of what has worked for ever.

Was Google the first search engine?

Did eBay invent internet auctions?

Did Microsoft invent the operating system?

Did Nintendo invent the gaming console?

None of these companies were the first to market in their arena… they were just the ones who perfected their version of the story.

Seth Godin teaches us in All Marketers are Liars (now with an all new cover!) that people buy products not because of the actual product itself, but because of the stories associated with that product and specifically the stories we tell ourselves about that product. In the book Seth gives countless examples about products like the crockpot which were tried with many companies before one company told the right story.

In our case the best example of this is AuctionAds. On March 7th, 2007 we launched a advertising network built around the eBay affiliate system. But there were over 7 other companies doing the same thing… Well we had a great story.

  • Our publishers made a lot of money because we paid out 100% of the earnings to them.
  • We had net 0 payment terms meaning when the month ended you got paid for that month on the 1st of the month.
  • We had a great easy interface that got people up in running in minutes.
  • Amazing affiliate system built in.
  • Incentivizing publishers
  • Awesome cashing system developed by ddn
  • Many other things

AuctionAds was a pretty big game changer in the world of display advertising networks. Not really for the actual product but the methods on how we grew the company and ended up selling it in only 4 short months. It was a great story.

I think the biggest thing we did that made us succeed where so many others were failing is that we were willing to do what others wern’t or what they simply couldn’t.

A lot of times being the newbie startup has HUGE advantages because you can do things that others can’t (see Gmail starting with 1GB account while Yahoo and Hotmail had 15mb limits).

We are planning to change the entire “how to make money online” industry ShoeMoney System launching early q1 of 2010. In the ShoeMoney system we:

  • Walk complete newbies through every process of making money on the internet.
  • Have over $2500 in coupon codes from every major advertising network.
  • Will be at a very low pricepoint so people are not investing thousands just to find out its not for them.
  • Will WAY over deliver with hundreds of hours of content.
  • Teach from our many years in building successful companies

I don’t think the cess pool known as “how to make money online” is ready for something like we are going to offer and I believe our system will change that industry forever.

Whether you are launching a new company or are just an affiliate marketer ask yourself what *new* value are you bringing to the table? What are you doing that others are not ? What are you doing that others can not? What story are you telling?

56 thoughts on “What Marketers Can Learn From Avatar The Movie

  1. Static | ahnternet

    I think maybe a storyline some of the younger bloggers can relate with: The Last Samurai (although not quite the same at the beginning).

    By the way, I can’t wait to see how the ShoeMoney System launches off. It’s pretty evident that you’ve put a lot of heart into the project. Good luck with this 2010 Jeremy!

    1. Luis B

      Dances with Wolves is a better comparison because James Cameron wrote the scriptment for Avatar in 1994, 11 years before The Last Samurai was released.

  2. TradeProfits

    ..”7 original story plots and everything else is just alteration of those”.. Surely this is just a matter of how abstract your definition is. A story is also, just a story. A couple of month ago, one guy was in the news claiming there were 7 or 8 reasons for laughter as well, and everything else were alterations of those. I think there is more to it than that. Anyhow, I am going to watch the movie tonight, in 3D  Looking forward to the effects. And good luck on the system. I will be checking it out..

  3. Thomas Shay

    I agree that most marketing is still the same as it was 20 or 30 years ago. And most of it still works. Many off line salepeople have made the jump to online and they are doing great.

    Its always nice to be able to come up with something new and never seen before, but most people just starting out in Internet Marketing are learning the ropes.

    It’s good to know, we can still make money by using techniques that have worked for a while, and we can just make small changes to them.

    1. ZK @ Web Marketing Blog

      Yes if you are talking about new kind of marketing than I think Jurassic Park was new thing and Avataar is old one (Thanks to media and web 2.0 for creating such hype)

      For me Jurassic Park kind of strategy always work but this one is really rare to see.

  4. Anthony Crognale

    I really think one of the largest goals that I can go after is creating something entirely new; a new service that isn’t based on any current platforms. Innovation comes from ideas.

    Instead of basing future businesses off of the same business models that are consistently used over and over again (even if they are tried and tested), I believe that the goal of any business should be to bring something new to the industry that hasn’t been done before. Yes it’s a risky investment, but wouldn’t you rather be remembered as setting the trend for others to follow versus adhering over and over again?

    As Jeremy mentioned in one of his other posts that he thought he was “5 for 500″ when it came to successful business ideas, I second the notion that you’re going to have a lot of flops. Rather from having a flop based on a current business ideology, why not try something completely new so that you can take what did and didn’t work from your new business model and apply it to older principals you still believe in.

    The general philosophy of marketing will always be the same, but as the world evolves as a whole, the players will change as well as their tools.

    As a criticism though to current marketing methods, should we really be using these still? Look at the economy for crying out loud, sure a lot of it is not our fault as individuals but corrupt politics, businesses are consistently folding up due to inefficient use of resources and time. If what we’re doing now is causing this much unemployment and so many cutbacks, are we even in the right mindset to be continuing on a path of failure?

  5. Yousef SOLIMAN

    Ha, I remember my teacher telling me the same thing about 7 original stories although she had it pinpointed on 13. Good summary of questions at the end, making me think.. uniqueness = win. Of course, that’s not a rule of thumb to go by :).

  6. Agent Deepak

    Whatever you implied is completely true. I have the same conclusions as well.

    By the way I am looking forward to your new Shoemoney System.

    PS: I have not seen Avatar yet but unfortunately I know the story (the trailer revealed all the story)

  7. Taylor Marek

    Good stuff to think about Jeremy. I’d never seen Dancing with Wolves, and even though the story line may have been familiar, it was presented in a way that was new to me and I instantly fell in love with it. I even posted a review of it on my blog as well. ;)

    Keep up the awesome work Jeremy! ;)

  8. Huesuk Yang

    What makes something different from others doesn’t come from a big difference. Everyone of us has two brain, eyes, nose, ears and a mouth … but any of us is neither same nor predictable. On the other side of the coin, we are totally different one another except for those organs. I think it holds true for the movie Avatar. By the way, I’m quite impressed the way you think about successful business. I have to ask myself from your marketing perspective.

  9. S Ahsan

    It has become a political issue indeed. I had no idea you would relate it to marketing :), i am just waiting for the shoemoney system because I have been following you for a while and to be honest, your stuff is legit..Good luck shoe

  10. Alan Mater

    I’ve actually seen Dances with Wolves, and it’s quite good. I’m under 30, too. ;)

    But, no matter if the story line is the same or not, the fact that a movie is told in a different way still makes it unique.

    You’re right that we can take this same principle and apply it to our online businesses. It’s almost a necessity nowadays, especially with a highly competitive niche, that you stand out and be unique.

  11. Crotch Bomber

    I think Avatar was highly overrated… but do think it would be a VERY interesting movie to trip on mushrooms with!

    Get so tired of the preachy political messages and crap. Just make a damn movie showing shit getting blown up. Jesus

    1. Dilip

      Jermey you did not reply…. :-(

      But I did see AVATAR yesterday in 3D :-)

      It looks like robots are our future actors in movies… or atleast men/women in different shapes and sizes ;-)

      I would also want you to see 3idiots (if you can get to see with English subtitles) … Its really hilarious and funny and am sure you an your family will enjoy….

      Cheers!!!!

  12. Chris - Ocular Nutrition

    Excellent analogy to online business on the story delivery. I love how you summed up:
    “…what *new* value are you bringing …?
    What are you doing that others are not ?
    What are you doing that others can not? What story are you telling?”

    It relates to the is in the “Gold rush of 1849″, how many earned a decent income actually panning? How many more provided “tools’ for the panning and miners (or jeans, Levi’s)?

    Also summarized: How can you increase the “Service and/or Value” you are providing? and How well are you getting your message out?
    also found in the classic “Lead the Field” by Earl Nightingale

  13. U.S. Common Sense

    Not only marketers, but politicians as well. When I went to the Christmas night showing of Avatar at the IMAX, there was a Congressional candidate there subsidizing the ticket by offering $1.00 the face value. Never heard of the candidate before that night, but now I’ve read her website and even wrote an article about the experience.

  14. Paul Avery

    While watching it I was thinking ‘cowboys and Indians.’ Loved the film. I could not tell the CG from the real.

    How about there are no ‘new’ ideas, only evolution. The car was not invented out of thin air, many things had to occur before the car could be created.

  15. Jennifer

    Haven’t seen the movie but I can see the similarities. I’ve heard of the 7 similar themes before and it’s interesting to see it compared to marketing. Looking forward to following your blog into 2010. Happy new year!

    1. ZK @ Web Marketing Blog

      If you have not than I would recommend that you should go for.

      This is not only tech based but a great love story as well and Cameron shows it perfectly and tell how it grows.

      You will love it Jennifer.

  16. Mike

    See, this movie is just the epitome of what is wrong with the world today. We can wrap shit (the story) into a shiny wrapper (CGI) and make millions off of it. You can take the invention of the bath-robe, turn it around and call it a Snuggie and America goes crazy for these stupid ideas.

    This is the only reason Paris Hilton is allowed to live.

  17. SEO

    Many, many recent movies have success since all it takes is to hype the movie up on the net and let it go viral, let everyone and their mama talk about it.

    This is especially annoying if its a really c**py movie like “paranormal activity”…or similar.

    Although, i think Avatar deserved the praise its gotten, for various reasons.

  18. Jason

    Great comparisons Dances With Wolves was one of my all time favorite movies. Tatonka lol love that line where the Indian guy is trying to explain Buffalo to Kevin Costner.

    I like your line there are really no new story lines just creative alterations of the original.

    We as marketers need to be creative in our online business ventures. We need to ask ourselves the question what seperates me from the competition. And develop a healthy work ethic.

    That’s what I try to do in my affiliate marketing business. Great blog post!

  19. iLearningglobal

    Yeah! you have a point and lets just face reality, most of the people right now are after the visual effects and the characters of the movie. Still Avatar rocks the scene and Marketers loves it. Hope it will have a sequel. ehehe.

  20. shaun sayers

    I recently read Herd: How to Change Mass Behaviour by Harnessing our True Nature, by Mark Earls. I was reviewing it for a magazine I contribute to. Anyway, it was interesting in that it described just how suggestible we all are, and how easily we can be affected by ground-swell. From a marketing perspective it contrasted the approach of developing a great product and supporting it with great customer service, individual attention and so on (in some ways “classic” customer service) to the approach that suggests that treating people as individuals is pointless because they don’t act like individuals. As animals we are unique in that we can be made to want things for which we have little earthly use, and incorporating that attribute into the marketing strategy would appear to be the Holy Grail. Who could argue? Someone once told me that you need to sell benefits not features, but is this true of, say, an i-phone? It is marketed almost exclusively on the wide range of “Apps” the need for which most of us did not honestly know existed. BUT I WANT ONE!

  21. Joshua Chatten

    I really like the Avatar 3D movie, especially the story line, not solely it brings a completely new feelings however inspiring ideas of humanity. I heard the New Avatar 2 is comming soon, cannot wait to see it again…!

  22. Zachariah Karner

    I really like the Avatar 3D movie, particularly the story line, not solely it brings a totally new sensation but inspiring ideas of humanity. I heard the New Avatar 2 is comming soon, can’t wait to see it again…!

  23. SnowBall

    You could say the same thing about songs. A lot of the songs made now are just regurgitations of old blues. Everyone wants to be Zeppelin, Sabbath, The Stones, or The Beatles. But most of it is still good, so I guess I forgive them.

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