Monday, 9 February 2015

50 Shades of Grey - A Valentine’s Day Cash Cow

(Source: 50 Shades of Grey YouTube Channel)

You’d have to be living under a rock if you haven’t heard of the 50 Shades of Grey (5SOG) series, read it yourself, or at least observed the thousands of commuters that were unashamedly reading it on public transport back in 2012. I for one have read but a page of one of the books (out of sheer curiosity), and don’t intend to read any more pages, or see the movie. But in an effort to remain completely transparent in writing this post, I will say that I personally don’t see the appeal of this series, and perhaps that may be due to the fact that I’m not the intended audience. Whatever it is, I can’t deny that it is a commercial success (book sales reached 100 million units this time last year), and that come Valentines Day 2015, the movie will no doubt dominate box offices around the world.

Now from a marketing perspective (because that’s what we’re here to talk about), what I find interesting about the movie’s release is the advertising opportunity it provides to certain industries (namely condom manufacturers, speciality sex shops and the lingerie market). Ordinarily these industries would target adult only events (club nights, festivals or trade shows) or more boutique gatherings, but nothing comes close to the scale of operation that the 5SOG film brings to the table. Putting aside the obvious restrictions that brands in this domain have in promoting their product to the public, there’s nothing really stopping them from cashing in on the hype (but not obviously the IP) surrounding the release of the film on February 12.

Just before Valentines Day, February 12 provides the perfect contextual background for the release, as well as official (and non-official) branding tie-ins. Already several condom manufacturers have keyed in with parodies of the 5SOG series; an E.L. James (author of the book) approved adult toy line is available for purchase; cinemas around the world are curating special viewing experiences; and a slew of hotels have also checked in with 5SOG themed packages.

Whether you’re a fan of the series or not, it’s sure to be at the front of all media and advertising agendas this Valentines Day, and so as the old adage goes, if you can’t beat them, join them (but don’t expect to see me at a cinema near you).

Salil Kumar
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

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