Let’s get this out of the way real quick.
That is an electric self-balancing scooter. Not a hoverboard from the Back to the Future franchise. Hoverboards don’t have wheels. They hover. Great, glad we had this talk.
Tomorrow is “Back to the Future Day,” Oct. 21, 2015. The date Dr. Emmett Brown and Marty McFly travel to at the end of the 1985 hit, Back to the Future (which then kicks off the 1989 sequel, Back to the Future Part II).
As a child of the 80s, Back to the Future was one of my favorite movies. My family had the soundtrack — on a cassette tape! — and I vaguely remember having my first girlish crush on cutie Michael J. Fox. Thirty years have passed, and yet people are still wild about the movie.
I knew I wanted to write about Back to the Future because the timing is prime. But I was stumped on how to tie in the cult classic to marketing. Googling the term “Back to the Future Marketing” nets 525 million results.
Those results include everything from a Hubspot infographic looking at the accuracy of the movie’s future predictions to articles and blog posts often using the phrase “Back to the Future” in the headline, but weakly delivering once you’re there (Bad Marketers! Bad!).
If you drop the word “marketing” from your search, you net 1.66 billion results.
These results include everything from local movie times for the special showing on Back to the Future Day to IMDB results, articles from popular consumer sites about what the movie got right about 2015, as well as plenty of Facebook Events for parties. Oh, and this Toyota commercial.
Looking at all this, and my own fandom, I had a realization: Back to the Future was a success in 1985 — being the top grossing film of the year — and continues to be a success because it’s authentic. Not in the sense of getting predictions right, but because everyone working on the film knew exactly why they were doing what they were doing, and when needed, weren’t afraid to say “no” and make better decisions.
Perfect example: Michael J. Fox was the first choice for the role of Marty McFly, but Family Ties Producer Gary David Goldberg would not give him time off to work on the film. Instead, Eric Stoltz was cast as McFly. Four weeks into shooting, Director Robert Zemeckis knew the fit wasn’t right. So what did he do? Released Stoltz (who also felt he wasn’t delivering the kind of Marty Zemeckis was looking for) and approached Fox and Goldberg again. This time, scheduling was possible for Fox, and he took the role.
This added $3 million to $14 million budget, but since the film grossed $389.1 million worldwide, I’d say the decision was worth it.
As Marty says, “If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.” If marketers are willing to make tough decisions, stay authentic to who they are, and can say “no” in some of the toughest moments, then they will set themselves up for success. Just as the Godfather of Content Marketing, Joe Pulizzi says, “Be authentic.”
Side note: I [gladly] re-watched Back to the Future and Back to the Future Part II in preparation for writing this post, as well as listened to the soundtrack constantly. My colleagues most likely saw me bopping my head along to “The Power of Love,” and that’s okay.