I don’t know anything about how to market a Hollywood movie. But I like to think I can spot an opportunity missed. Enter: The Namesake, the upcoming movie based on one of my favorite books.So here’s an open-letter to Mira Nair, the Executive Producers of The Namesake, and the marketing executives at Fox Searchlight. (If you know any of these people, please forward my angry missive on!) Begin:

Given that The Namesake is more art film than blockbuster, I get that we won’t see a lot of TV commercials. What I don’t get is why you’re not taking advantage of “social media” to market to the young, connected potential market. I don’t consider the current effort, 10-post-over-7-months “blog”,  as anything of substance. I can picture the executives sitting in their office: “Hey, we should do one of those Blog-type things.” Executive number two, “yeah, that’s a great idea—the kids love that stuff. Let’s have the guy from Harold and Kumar do something with it.” End scene with a high-five. Then like most stuff thrown against the wall, it’s quickly forgotten about.

Here are a few suggestions:

1) Use Jhumpa Lahiri. The author of The Namesake, is a serious writer. Pulitzer Prize winner and all the trimmings. Instead of leveraging her, she’s nowhere to be found. How about you get her to blog for the movie and actually promote it. She could do anything from blogging from the character’s POV about incidents from the book, or even extending forward into the present day. Engage past readers who already care about the characters to build excitement. Or she could blog about the themes and topics covered in the book. I know I’d love to read (and likely link to) more from her in the vain of her “My Two Lives” Newsweek article from a year ago.

2) Release video clips. You’ve got a passionate and engaged user base of readers who have already read and loved the book. Releasing snippets of video on the website, YouTube or whatever keeps this top of mind and gets people to send this around. This is pretty simple stuff that the producers of the comic companies have nailed—whet the appetites of a rabid fan base to encourage word of mouth and buoy a big opening weekend. Instead you’re doing the opposite: neglecting them.

3) Make the official website interactive. Create a discussion board/forum where people can share their real-life stories of ‘two worlds. one journey’, the tagline of the movie. I know my mother has a story. If you create a community where people are actually engaging, it is only natural these stories will travel and you’ll be drawing new visitors to the site who have never read the book. More importantly, these real-life stories have a powerful undercurrent that will go far beyond the original audience of just South-Asian Americans. The story of an immigrant’s journey shares enormous parallels and passions regardless of the country. If you don’t think this will broaden your base of interested viewers—you’re crazy! And if interest is low in the community, sponsor a contest where the authors of the top 5 stories (determined by reader vote) win a trip to the premier.

Good luck!

love, surya.

End diatribe.

2/21/13 – Definitely something I wouldn’t write today. I did like the movie, but as often the case, the book was better. This letter kind of makes me want to slap 2007 Surya.

3 Responses

  1. The movie release is pretty bizarro because wasn't it supposed to be released last year and then it got delayed? At the end of the day I feel like the people who are marketing it never actually read the original book because they're realize that while it's a pretty incredible story for Indian ABCD's it really strikes a cord with any first generation kid trying to balance the pressure of a preserving your family's culture and yet wanting to be like all the other kids. The reason I bring that up is that the commercials I feel like don't appeal to any of those demographic groups. If I hadn't read the book I don't tihnk I would've been drawn to the movie.

    It seems like a simple commercial would be getting quick snibbits 7-10second segements of things regular people related to in the book, and by having indians and non-indians alike you kinda hit the point….. of course that's just my opinion. It just seems like a book that meant so much to me that I don't wanna see them mess up.

  2. Hey Surya,

    I'm a big fan of yours! I agree with you, and so I've forwarded your message to Gitesh Pandya, a media consultant for Namesake. Hope this helps. I'm still in the midst of reading the book, and looking forward to the movie.

    I'm rooting for you on the Apprentice.


  3. Namesake's one of those 'life' books, with no real plot or deux ex machinas, just simply, life being transient. i live all the way in singapore, and its showing here. marketing here was reserved to huge posters in the train stations. really, the way they marketed the movie, you'd think it was a movie for only those who'd read the book. like the disaster of marketing they did for ' hitchhikers guide to the galaxy'. which was a fantastic book and whose audience shouldnt have just been reserved to those who read the book.

    on a totally unrelated note, i rooted for you on the A. 🙂

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