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The Basic Principles of Film Marketing: Engaging & Understanding Your Target Audience

Updated: Sep 17, 2023

You can spend an immeasurable amount of time and dough on a movie's marketing campaign, but if your promotional materials don't engage your target audience, you'll waste your investment. That's precious time and money. And, ain't nobody got time for that!

Engaging and Understanding Your Audience

As an independent filmmaker, before you can effectively engage your audience, you have to be aware of who makes up your audience. In part one of "The Basic Principles of Film Marketing," you learned about the fundamental pillars of "Identifying your Audience" and how the core principles of marketing intertwine with the filmmaking process.

Let's do a quick recap of Identifying your Audience:

  • Marketing is the activity for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for your audience.

  • It is crucial to start preparing your marketing strategy and promotional material very early in the filmmaking process's development phase.

  • The emphasis and methodology of creating a smooth campaign strategy focus on these crucial fundamentals – business, culture, technology, and creativity.

  • Audience demographics specifically breakdown into these groups: Target audience, Secondary audience, Tertiary audience.

  • Other audience considerations are psychographics which speak to the audience's lifestyle, income, political inclination, shopping interest, and a host of other factors.

"Identifying your Audience" is a precursor to this blog, so you might want to read that article first.

PS: Some of these are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I may get a commission for recommending the product to you.

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Now that you're all caught up on "Identifying your Audience," let's dive into "Engaging and Understanding your Audience."


Two essential functions of film marketing are: Audience Awareness and Audience Interest. These two methodologies are the cornerstone of a successful marketing campaign. Awareness and interest are quite different from one another, but they are interdependent. Understanding the two methods will help the filmmaker decide on what kind of movie they're making— meaning are you targeting a specialized segment of the audience, or are you going BIG, wide commercial?

Determining these factors early will help you define the level of awareness and interest you will have to consider for your film's successful release.

"It is useless to be a creative, original thinker unless you can also sell what you create."

How to generate awareness?

If your audience doesn't have an apparent reason to be interested in your movie, you need to tell them why they should watch it. And now, you have many ways to reach your audience.

Here's a breakdown of how to generate awareness of your movie:

  • Media – broadcast television, billboards, digital advertising, radio

  • Publicity – talent appearances, influencers, promotions, top tier print, fast-breaking blogs, editorial, niche trade platforms

  • Distribution – trailers, lobby displays, influencers and word of mouth screenings

Here's how to generate interest in your movie:

  • Creative advertising – use a blend of still images, posters, trailers, memes, and videos to create bite-sized content to reach diverse audiences and broaden interest

  • Social Media – Organically seed social media influencers and 'like-minded' communities to engage with your content (i.e., repost, retweet, share, etc. from cast, fans, and followers)

  • Word of mouth – friends and family

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We live in a world where there is so much media content out there, like games, movies, streaming, and television, that it has created an enormous challenge when it comes to creating awareness and interest. It's almost dizzying.

Before the rise of the internet, marketing and advertising were quite simple. Television commercials, radio ads, billboards, and print were the go-to methods of advertising. Audiences didn't expect much more. But now, the audience expects production companies and talent to be engaged in conversations and relationships with them. You have to nurture the audience.

Three Types of Media in Film Marketing

Media helps create awareness of your movie. Being aware of the different media platforms can help you differentiate which platform would work best for your project.

  • Paid Media is generated through the licensing of advertising slots.

  • Earned Media is generated through content that people discover, talk about, and share.

  • Owned Media is content that has been created during your production such as, behind-the-scenes footage and interviews.

As you prepare your film's marketing materials, you must consider whether your awareness will be broad or targeted. Most indie films employ Targeted Marketing. This refers to an audience with a specific interest in your movie. For instance, horror and sci-fi are specific target audiences.

Most big blockbuster films employ the 360 Degree or Integrated Marketing method to bring awareness to the film. This method includes all of the media options we have discussed.

In the internet age, effective engagement is vital to turning strangers into movie-goers and movie-goers into brand ambassadors.

Create Your Film's Website with Squarespace


Once you have identified the audience for your film and have decided which avenues are best suited for spreading awareness, the next step is to figure out what your audience desires or needs. To do that, you must go through the process of determining the viability of your film by conducting Market Research, which consists of collecting opinions and other feedback from consumers about their interest in your movie's concept, messaging, and themes. Do those elements resonate with potential ticket buyers?

Here are five tips for conducting market research:

  1. Capability - What's the ultimate potential at the box office?

  2. Playability - How well does your film resonate with movie-goers?

  3. Marketability - How easy is this film to sell to buyers? Is it controversial?

  4. Buzzability - Does this film spark conversation? Will people spread the word?

  5. Theatricality - Will consumers actually go to the theater to see it, or should it go straight to streaming?

Effective engagement begins with a devotion to serving your audience. When your marketing plan is founded upon a wish to suit your target audience's desires and needs, the audience will naturally show up.

The Basic Principles of Film Marketing: Engaging and Understanding Your Audience is a segment of a three-part blog series. Be on the lookout for:

Final thoughts…

In this blog, I've shown you how independent filmmakers can utilize a specific set of guidelines when learning how to engage and understand their film's audience.

  • You've learned how to generate awareness.

  • You've learned how to generate interest in your film.

  • You've learned three different media types you can use to generate awareness.

  • You've learned the difference between targeted marketing and 360-degree marketing.

  • And, you've learned five tips to conduct market research.

An excellent exercise for you would be to pick a movie that came out recently and create a breakdown of its target audience's characteristics. Generating and learning the audience's personas is a great way to understand your target audience's desires and needs.

Here are some questions to answer:

  1. What are the most significant pain points, goals, and motivations of the audience?

  2. On what social platforms are they spending their time?

  3. Why do they follow specific brands on social media?

  4. What kind of answers or values are they hoping to find from the content they follow?

  5. What type of content resonates with them?

If you've never created a characteristics breakdown for your target audience, click here for a simple guide to getting started: Target Audience Characteristics

Once you complete that exercise, do the same for your own project. Remember, this is not a pointless exercise. Strategizing for your film begins in the development stage. This would be your second step in figuring out your target market.

Good luck!

Oh, and let me know how this exercise works out for your project.

Tips are appreciated


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Of course, Diversity in Cinema Academy has many other resources that I love to share with you, but I wanted to keep this blog strictly about engaging and understanding your audience.

If I had to pick two resources I couldn't live without for my marketing campaigns, it would be these two tools.

Tool #1 - Canva

Aside from the tools above, I also use many other resources to help me prep for a movie production. Some of them are FREE and some are paid.

You can check out some of the other resources that I love using on Diversity in Cinema Academy's resources page. You can view all of the resources for Filmmakers, Content Creators and Screenwriters from the links provided.

From filmmaking tools, to content creation tools, to screenwriting tools... they all can be found in the tools section of Diversity in Cinema Academy's website. I highly recommend that you check out our tools store! :)

If you like it, please help me to share the resources link with a friend. I would really appreciate it!

Okay, that's all for now. I hope that you have found the information I provided helpful!

Enough information, start researching!



Diversity in Cinema Academy is an online digital media company that primarily uses web-based applications, such as an interactive website and social media platforms, to offer aspiring filmmakers and screenwriters an entertaining and educational place to interact with each other and professional filmmakers.


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