From prequels to sequels to remakes, the past couple of years has seen multiple well-known films get a fresh makeover.  

The new musical version of ‘Mean Girls’ has been relatively successful so far, grossing over $80million worldwide and becoming a mainstay at the top of the box office. 

Meanwhile, long-awaited sequels such as ‘Top Gun: Maverick’, and prequels like sugary-sweet Wonka, have had huge worldwide box office earnings, with the former hitting nearly $1.5billion in total

Lessons from movie success stories can be applied beyond the film business too – here’s what brands and comms teams can learn from the latest box office hits, from communications strategies to audience retention. 

Capitalising on nostalgia 

Successful films have large audiences built up over the years. The first ‘Top Gun’ film was released in 1986 and became the highest grossing film of the year

Despite negative critic reviews, the audience reaction to the film was overwhelmingly positive, resulting in it becoming a cult classic. 

The highly anticipated sequel, ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ became the second highest grossing film of 2022, with trailers leaning on the nostalgic angle via the iconic soundtrack. 

Nostalgia marketing associates memories from the past with a new product or service. Brands can capitalise on this to establish emotional bonds with consumers, from limited edition retro packaging, to re-releasing older products. 

To mark the 25th anniversary since the release of the first Furby, Hasbro announced a new return and re-design of the fluffy robot creature.  

Marketed towards Gen Alpha (born 2010 – present) and their parents, Hasbro utilised 90s nostalgia, hoping to entice people who had a Furby as a child to buy one for their children. 

@furby

Furby back and better than ever! What Kah miss? Been long time since we chat but we already noo-lahs 😊

♬ original sound – Furby
Furby on TikTok

By capitalising on nostalgic memories from the past, brands can learn to re-engage older audiences by reminding them of previous products or services they bought and were fond of, and find new audiences for a product or film within a current context. 

Finding new audiences  

Younger people may not have seen the original version of a movie (or had a Furby the first time around!), so re-making and re-imagining something can be a great way to tackle any stigmas around something being ‘dated’ while tapping into a new audience. 

However, some films and TV shows are coming under fire when younger generations are watching them, due to language and behaviour which is no longer considered acceptable. 

In November 2023, Friends fans were split over whether a drowning joke directed toward Chandler Bing, played by the late Matthew Perry, should be removed from future re-runs of the show. 

While these productions might have been a cultural smash the first time around, they often don’t land as well with a modern audience. This, however, provides an opportunity for writers to refresh a winning formula for the next generation, with re-developed storylines and jokes to ensure a fresh and current feel. 

While the 2004 release of ‘Mean Girls’ was mostly been seen by millennials and Generation X, the new, musical version of the film puts Gen Z at the forefront. 

It attracted people who watched the film the first time around for the nostalgia factor as well as appealing to a new audience.  

While posters for the 2004 film were focused around the stars involved, promotion for the musical version took a different approach. With the tagline “This isn’t your mother’s Mean Girls”, trailers for the new film heavily feature TikTok-style clips, to draw in a social-media obsessed Gen Z audience. 

Re-developing and finding new avenues to reach younger audiences is something that brands have been thinking about a lot over the past few years. 

As well as films and TV shows, some clothing brands have been teaming up with the online game and Metaverse platform, Roblox, with Tommy Hilfiger asking users to reimagine their classic pieces as part of a virtual clothing collection. 

This expansion into the Metaverse has introduced classic brands with existing recognition to a new Gen Z audience, boosting their longevity and appeal to a new generation of consumers. 

Similarly, the communications industry needs to constantly adapt to new technology advances and ways of working, to make sure it stays relevant to changing audiences.  

Keeping existing audiences happy 

While 2005’s ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ strayed away from some of the concepts of 1971’s ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’, the new ‘Wonka’ origin story goes back to the ideas of the original film. 

The bright orange Oompa Loompa design was brought back for the prequel, and the song ‘Pure Imagination’ featured in both the film and the trailers

Over the last 25 years, Disney’s live-action remakes have allowed well-loved stories to be given fresh-looks using new technology that was unavailable at the time of original release, from 101 Dalmatians to The Little Mermaid.  

Ensuring the most popular aspects of previous versions of movies are kept in the new releases will keep audiences interested. Why fix something that isn’t broken!  

Brands and the comms teams can learn from these trends too. Retaining high levels of service by doing what they do best will keep both consumers and clients happy. 

Maintaining the same brand values and standards of work will ensure clients continue to come back, and updating working methods to reflect technological innovations will help draw new clients in and keep campaigns fresh and relevant. 

Interested in finding out more about what your brand can learn? Get in touch with us