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7 Lessons Broadcasters can learn from Jim Cameron

The records broken by James Cameron keep mounting.  Last week, Cameron's Avatar – already the biggest movie of all time – broke the record for first-day Blu-Ray sales – for a 2-D version – with no special features, i might add.

So what can broadcasters learn from the likes of "King of the World Cameron"?  Several things at least:

1.  Passion is infectious

Cameron doesn't create a film because he is trying to pander to the audience.  He does it because he is passionate about it.  He's keenly aware that his passions must convert into something commercial, but he doesn't place commerce ahead of passion.

Passion is palpable.  Audiences can feel it. 

So is pandering.  And audiences can feel that, too.

2.  Stand for something

When production costs for Titanic blew well past expectations, Cameron gave back his director's fee, essentially working for free with the idea that he would profit only if the movie actually rang the cash registers – as, of course, it did.

That's called putting your money where your mouth is.

3.  Spectacle wins

Broadcasters spend a lot of time trying to give people what they want, but a lot less time is spent giving people something that amazes and sparkles.

Cameron's movies are spectacular events, and that spectacle is a key part of their success.

4.  Stoke anticipation

A Cameron movie does not open by surprise.  It opens after months and years of build-up, during which anticipation is stoked.

This requires having a clear sense of your audience and the best ways to engage their interests over the long term.

Cameron presented twenty minutes of Avatar at Comic-Con in San Diego last year, six months before the movie opened.

Build-up counts.

5.  Exceed expectations

Remember when fulfilling expectations represented a job well done?

No longer.  Now expectations are the starting point, not the finishing one.

Virtually every new product which generates explosive buzz does so because consumer expectations are exceeded.

6.  Add novelty

What's new in your offering?  What's fresh?  What's innovative?

The buzz on Avatar is that it would change the nature of filmmaking, and there's plenty of evidence that this buzz is correct.  And part of the reason is that the film, like many of Cameron's movies, is packed with filmmaking innovations, all of which are designed to convey to audiences something dazzling and fresh.

Don't underestimate the importance of novelty.

7.  Invest in a strong vision

If you're not willing to invest you can only hope for mediocrity.

Cameron's movies are spectacles – big, hairy, audacious events.  And those don't come cheap.

You don't need to put up Cameron-sized dollars, of course.  But you do need to support passionate weirdos with strong visions and the skills to turn those visions into the kinds of products and services that will dazzle audiences.

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