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A Better Time at the Theaters: IMAX Wants to Be a ‘Consumer Brand’ in 2012

Want to know who appreciates a good time at the theaters?

Me, that’s who!

I love the magic of film, and I love the communal atmosphere that movie theaters provide filmgoers. Enjoying a flick at home is convenient, but the experience is a bit more captivating on the big screen.

And when it comes to “big screens,” most moviegoers know that it doesn’t get much better than IMAX.

IMAX movie theater marqueeThe term “IMAX” itself is practically synonymous with “size,” and the average dimensions of an IMAX theater screen (72 by 52.8 feet) probably have something to do with that.

When I get excited about an upcoming movie, one of the things that factors into my excitement is the possibility of seeing that movie at the IMAX. I suppose I’m just a brand loyalist in that regard.

As such, I’m particularly excited about the following:

An article from MediaPost News recently indicated that IMAX “wants to establish itself as a consumer brand and will launch a marketing campaign in the first half of [2012].” According to the company’s CEO, “the concept will focus on the company ‘providing the most sensory engaging moviegoing experience possible,’ while looking to convey a ‘powerful and visceral message that will connect with consumers on an emotional level.’”

Personally, I find it interesting that IMAX has gone this long without a traditional marketing campaign to call its own.

Sure, we often see the IMAX logo attached to end of big-budget film trailers, and we see brief promotional spots played inside IMAX theaters before the main feature begins, but we never see commercials on TV or on the web that focus solely on IMAX itself.

Even more surprising is that the brand has gone so long without so much as a mascot or catchy jingle to promote it. Heck, its logo is nothing more than the bolded letters, I-M-A-X!

IMAX logo theaterAll things considered, IMAX has relied heavily on consumer word-of-mouth to market itself over the years.

The approach has worked well for the brand thus far. A quick look at IMAX’s corporate overview will reveal that as of August 30, 2011, “there were 560 IMAX theatres (417 commercial multiplex, 25 commercial destination and 118 institutional) operating in 46 countries.”

There’s no doubt that the company is doing well for itself, but if IMAX is going to “connect with consumers on an emotional level,” as the above article indicates, it’ll need to project a brand image that goes beyond the bigger-is-better approach. Pushing the “sensory experience” angle is a good way to start, but in doing so, the company will need to explain why such an experience is vital to our appreciation of cinema as a whole.

IMAX movie theater audienceFor someone like me (who is already a “big screen” devotee), the brand will be preaching to the choir, but for someone less interested in paying the extra cost for the IMAX experience, the company will need to appeal to deeper human needs – the need for immersion, the need for escape, etc.

A traditional marketing effort (whether that entails TV commercials, web-based ads, viral campaigns, giveaways, or any combination thereof) might be just the thing IMAX needs to fully develop its brand image and convey that it provides an experience consumers can’t find elsewhere.

People love to be wowed, and it’s difficult not to be impressed by the kind of sheer, visual spectacle the IMAX format already offers. The heads at IMAX’s marketing division most likely understand that already. What remains to be seen is whether they understand how to communicate that such spectacle isn’t just about having a better time at the theater, but about having a better time.

Will IMAX pull it off in 2012? Will the “sensory experience” make it a brand that consumers can’t be without? Share your thoughts below!

Image credit: glenngould, laffy4k, The Wu’s Photo Land, and kobakou


Joseph Giorgi

Joseph is the head of the Media Team at Quality Logo Products. He's a video specialist, blogger, perfectionist, and all-around likeable guy. When he's not busy focusing on the nitty-gritty details of his written and visual work, he's normally listening to bad 80s music and scouring the internet for useless information on useless subjects. You can also connect with Joe on Google+.

Comments

  1. JPorretto

    If IMAX REALLY wants a successful marketing campaign, they should just lower case the “I” ;)

    Believe it or not, I’m not a big fan (he he) of IMAX 100% of the time. If I can’t get a seat close enough to the bigger screen, then I might as well just sit closer to a smaller screen, ya know?

    But the one at the museum in Chicago is amazing, as it wraps around you. Now that is something special for moments like when the camera does fly-bys of a canyon or something like that. I can feel that in the pit of my stomach (in a good way of course)!

    • Joseph Giorgi

      I enjoy sitting close to the screen as well, though in an IMAX theater it’s less of an issue, since the screen is so massive that a seat in the middle of the theater is still pretty fantastic in terms of the viewing experience.

      I haven’t seen the panoramic screen in Chicago that you’re talking about, but it sounds like I’m gonna have to check it out. Is it at the Field Museum?

      • JPorretto

        Museum of Science and Industry. It’s truly a spectacle. It takes up your entire field of vision. I’m a big fan.

  2. amy

    A very interesting post, Joe. I had no idea that IMAX didn’t currently have a marketing campaign, I honestly thought they did or had in the past. I’ve never been to an IMAX theater, but I’ve heard of them and know where I can go to one without having to research ahead of time. Now that’s pretty powerful word-of-mouth advertising!

    • Joseph Giorgi

      It’s amazing that they’ve gone this long without a traditional “campaign,” so it’ll be interesting to see how they go about it in 2012. And yeah, I agree: word-of-mouth advertising has been very helpful to IMAX over the years.

      You seriously haven’t been to an IMAX theater yet? You need to fix that! :)

      • amy

        I shocked Mandy with that news as well today hahaha I’ll be sure to check one out soon and report back to everyone ;)

  3. Mandy Kilinskis

    I usually reserve IMAX for the those amazing blockbuster movies that I know I’m going to love – like Harry Potter. While I love everything about the experience, I can usually only justify the extra cost every once in a while.

    But then again, I’m a sucker for marketing, so if IMAX starts telling me that I need a fully-immersive movie experience, I’ll probably believe them.

    • Joseph Giorgi

      The latest Harry Potter was pretty epic in IMAX 3D! But I completely agree: with IMAX costing a bit extra compared to regular theaters, it’s best reserved as a once-in-a-while kind of experience.

  4. Jenna Markowski

    I can’t even remember the last time that I went to an IMAX theater, but I do remember the first time that I ever went to one. It was at the time that IMAX was first introduced, and I believe it was for some sort of school field trip. Before the movie started, there was a little tour of the theater that pointed out all of the cool features.

    That happened years ago, and I still remember it vividly. So it makes sense that IMAX has been able to hold up simply based on word-of-mouth advertising for all of these years. In fact, it’s pretty impressive that IMAX has never had a traditional marketing campaign! But now that 3-D is becoming a fierce competitor, it also makes sense that IMAX feels the need to step their marketing game up.

    • Joseph Giorgi

      That’s so cool that you got a tour with your first IMAX experience. I think I saw my first IMAX movie about 15 or so years ago when I was at Six Flags. There wasn’t a tour, but I remember how overwhelming the screen seemed back then. It almost seemed unreal. Now, I’m sorta used to it. But I still love it.

      I think 3D has probably helped boost IMAX’s popularity over the past couple years. Yeah, it is pretty awesome that the brand has come this far based largely on word-of-mouth advertising, but if there was ever a time to “step their marketing game up,” now is that time — as they can promote the heck out of the “3D” in order to get people into the theaters.

  5. Jen

    I enjoy the occasional trip to the IMAX theater, but it’s to expensive for me all the time. It’s more of a treat if I don’t go very often too. I think that makes my experience even better, because I’m in the mindset that this is an extra special event.

    Great post Joe!

    • Joseph Giorgi

      I agree: the IMAX experience is something to cherish only once in a while. Getting used to it by going too often would defeat the purpose. Plus, you’re right: it’s pretty pricey — especially the 3D IMAX movies. (Still totally worth it though.)

  6. Jill Tooley

    I never realized how simple IMAX’s logo was, nor did I realize they don’t have a mascot of some sort! Wow.

    I’d frequent my local IMAX theater if tickets weren’t so damn expensive! It’s worth the extra dough if it’s a movie I really love, but otherwise I feel like it’s a waste. The Dark Knight was awesome in IMAX because there were actually scenes filmed for that format. :)

    I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt — I’m ready for them to make next year’s movie experiences unforgettable!

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      Oh my goodness. Avengers in IMAX? Yes please…

    • Joseph Giorgi

      “I’m ready for them to make next year’s movie experiences unforgettable!”

      Same here. Between The Avengers, The Hobbit, and The Most Unimaginatively Titled Sequel Ever (a.k.a The Dark Knight Rises), it should be quite a year for IMAX 3D.

  7. Cybernetic SAM

    ahhh geez! You and your IMAX! Great post! my only complaint is they should not bother selling the seats in the front section, as for viewing purposes it leaves the poor saps (usually me) out. It is sensory overload and not in a good way because you don’t get quite the same effect. Regardless, I can’t complain too much, as I have never had a terrible experience, just and “it could have been a little better.”

    • Joseph Giorgi

      True, the ‘very’ front of the IMAX theater is usually bad news. It hurts the overall experience when you can’t even view all of the screen without turning your head every few seconds.

      But other than that, IMAX is the bees knees. :)

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