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What retailers can learn from the success of Downton Abbey

The film adaptation of the award-winning period drama, Downton Abbey, made its highly anticipated debut in cinemas recently. The film, which follows the lives of Downton Abbey’s well-loved residents – the Crawley family and its household staff – has currently amassed £27.3m, topping the cinema box office at home in the UK as well as abroad in the US.

Film Monitor, which measures film audiences, predicted a majority of Downton Abbey’s audience would be aged 45+ (52%). Alongside this, we know that 63% of those aged 55+ go to the cinema every year, with their visit driven by the release of specific films.

The success of films such as Downton Abbey and Judy shows that there are huge opportunities in cinema for retailers and brands to target this key audience through advertising.

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The cinema and the shopper

Cinema, in comparison to other platforms, has a unique appeal for brands and retailers. It is a captive environment with fewer distractions for consumers, and there is no option to skip ads or change channels. Advertising on the silver screen appears bigger, glossier and more ‘cinematic’ by nature.

However, more crucially, a trip to the cinema can often be part of a wider trip out for the consumer. In fact, 12% of 55+ cinemagoers include a shopping trip around their film visit, and 30% will shop on the day after their cinema visit. This gives brands and retailers a perfect opportunity to get in front of this audience and stick in their minds prior to making their next purchase.

Consider your film and audience

Marketers are aware that in order to target a specific demographic effectively, it is key that your brand and message is perfectly tailored to that audience.

Retailers and brands looking to better target an older demographic should start by understanding their shopping behaviours and spending habits. Data from TGI reveals that those aged 55+ are 20% more likely to regularly purchase premium range products than other demographics. Films like Downton Abbey and Judy, would therefore be a worthy investment for luxury brands and retailers to invest in.

The experiential element

Brands and retailers can enhance their cinema campaigns by investing in bespoke film partnerships to encourage audience engagement. This could take the form of a bigger event that offers audiences an experience, allowing them to taste or try your products before the film screening.

For example, if you are a luxury drinks brand, consider partnering with a film that fits with your brand image to offer filmgoers a specially themed tasting session prior to a film screening.

Alternatively, consider getting audiences engaged by offering coupons or launching an exclusive competition that can be promoted in the ad reel or even in the lobby prior to and after screenings.

An example of a retailer that did this to great effect is Marks & Spencer. In 2015, the British retailer partnered with the film The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

To celebrate the launch of the film – which features Judi Dench and Maggie Smith – the retailer rewarded shoppers with a 2-for-1 film ticket deal for Mother’s Day. It also ran online competitions with shoppers to win a trip to India (where the film is set) as well as tickets to the world premiere in London.

This partnership is a great example of the opportunities around film and expanding beyond the immediate cinema or online environment.

The retailer also decked out the windows in all its stores with artwork from the film and adopted signage and displays inspired by the film in-store too. As a bonus, the retailer also supplied Champagne for the premiere party, with branding featured on the party invite and cocktail menu too.

There are huge opportunities for brands and retailers to reach an older audience through the power of the silver screen. Focus on how the cinema can act as a platform for your brand, and how campaigns can naturally complement your chosen film.

Consider how your brand can actively engage with the audience by extending promotions with experiential activities within the wider cinema or even the retail environment. Downton Abbey is just one example of a successful film that attracts an older demographic. Stay ahead of the curve on upcoming film releases, and you could be onto your next winner.


Kathryn Jacob CEO of Pearl and Dean

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