03/22/2012 12:56 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Film Studio Marketing Tricks That Will Help Your Business: The Press Mailer

Market Your Business Like a Hollywood Movie is a series of articles that apply film studio marketing and promotional techniques to your small business.

The Press Mailer, Part One

Every business owner knows of the importance of a 'leave behind.' It is that business card, brochure or gift that will continue to make an impression long after you have left the room. In Hollywood, the Press Mailer has long been a staple of every marketing campaign. It is the film world equivalent of a 'leave behind.' A Press Mailer is a clever package that is sent to the news media. Included with a press release, one may find a T-shirt, a hockey stick or a Burberry bag. You can apply the concepts of a Press Mailer to your business. Create a leave behind that sends a very clear and clever message.

A Press Mailer sounds like legal bribery and that is a good way to think of it. Instead of cash, you are sending an item or an idea of value. This value represents your product or service. This value signifies your position against your competition. Clever always wins.

A film critic is asked to review many, many movies. A newspaper entertainment editor must decide on which films he wants to write an article. What makes a film more exciting than another? The Press Mailer may help you decide. It will also help your potential customer to choose you.

For the film True Grit, Paramount Pictures with the help of Massive Marketing, a promotional merchandise company, created a rustic wood box filled with packing straw. The lead character in the film, Marshall Rooster Cogburn is quite a drinker. Inside the box was a handsome flask with the film title emblazoned across it. This was a clever and practical press mailer. Clever for we get a sense of the Old West period and a comedic insight into the film. It is practical because a flask is always cool and welcomed. This Press Mailer could have invoked another sense, the sense of smell. If a little bit of sage, mesquite or real hay had been placed in that wood box, the recipient would have experienced the smell of the Old West. The skill of a Press Mailer is to make as many impressions as possible, on as many levels and senses.

For the DVD release of Quentin Tarrantino's Kill Bill, I created a Press Mailer for Disney who was marketing for Miramax. Presentation is everything. The recipient received a glossy black garment box that was centered with a colorful sticker. Upon opening the box, the recipient unwrapped the blood red tissue to find a stylish Asian lounge jacket, one size fits all. The long tear-away label at the neck stated the film title and the release date of the DVD. How cool is that? Would this make an impression on you?

Twentieth Century Fox offers another example of creating multiple impressions. For a Jack the Ripper thriller with Johnny Depp, the studio sent out a black box with the films From Hell title embossed on the lid. Opening the box, you are aware of a sweet perfume smell. Sitting atop of blood red tissue was a small, full-color card that read: "This fine French milled soap is cast from a vintage mold and scented with a fragrance popular in the Victorian era." The film logo and a blood-spattered graphic enlivened the card. Inside the tissue were two pieces of soap. A woman's hand, made of soap, holds a small soap heart. In this box, you have an impression of the whole film. The era is Victorian. The film is scary and bloody. There is romance, regret, tragedy and sex.

Usually the studios develop two Press Mailers per film, one high end for a selected audience and something low end for wider distribution. To the annoyance (and a little pride) of the studios, these Press Mailers pop up on eBay.

In future articles we will get into the details of creating a successful Press Mailer. The first step is to investigate all of the impressions that your product or service can have. Then decide which is the most valuable one.


GORDY GRUNDY is a marketing and promotional specialist. With over twenty years in entertainment, he has discovered that Hollywood marketing tricks can have an amazing impact when applied to small businesses.

Film Studio Marketing Tricks That Will Help Your Small Business