How do you market an $80 million movie headlined by actors who are hardly household names in the U.S.? If you’re Columbia Pictures and you’re trying to lure adult women to see the adaptation of Arthur Golden’s best-seller Memoirs of a Geisha, you call Banana Republic.
”It seemed like a perfect movie to do that, [given its] beautiful fashion aspect,” says Columbia Pictures head Amy Pascal. Especially since Geisha, a visually lush fairy tale starring Ziyi Zhang, Gong Li, and Michelle Yeoh, doesn’t exactly lend itself to Happy Meal tie-ins. Banana Republic VP of brand management Chris Nicklo needed little convincing to accept Columbia’s pitch. ”Our customers really appreciate…fashion, culture, and art, and this film brings all three together.” (It also allowed the chain to continue experimenting with TV and movie tie-ins following its involvement with Bravo’s Project Runway.)
In addition to Banana Republic, whose limited-edition, ”Asian-inspired” line includes purses, kimono-like shirts, and dresses that have almost sold out since debuting last month, the studio has tie-ins with cosmetics company Fresh, luxury candle brand D.L. & Co., and the Republic of Tea, among others.
These types of deals can be as risky as greenlighting an $80 million low-wattage movie. Moulin Rouge benefited from a partnership with Bloomingdale’s in 2001, which helped keep the film in the public consciousness — but probably did more for corset sales. Von Dutch, however, did nothing for Universal’s Cinderella Man last summer. Regardless, expect to see more of these pairings. ”The industry is fragmented, so brands have to be very innovative to engage the consumer,” says Claire Rosenzweig, president of the Promotion Marketing Association. ”The audience is no longer just sitting in front of the TV set.”