Whether or not you read the book (did you?) there has been no escaping the 50 Shades of Grey publicity wagon as it rolled into action before the official release of the film on 14th February. It was greeted with the same hysteria as a new Star Wars film or the potential of a Breaking Bad sequel, although perhaps with more intensity thanks to Jamie Dornan in the role of Christian Grey. However, as we have since discovered, the film might have been a staggering success in its opening week in the US ($85.1 million) but ticket sales have since dropped an eye watering 73%. Although perhaps that’s not surprising – if any movie was going to finish too fast and then disappear it was this one (sorry…).

With any momentous marketing success it’s always worth taking a look at what it was that made it such a rip-roaring winner and whether that’s translatable into other sectors. So, what lessons can be learned from 50 Shades that don’t involve a blindfold and a whip?

Marketing can be more powerful than perfection

Let’s face it, the reviews for 50 Shades the book were pretty shocking from a writing perspective and before the film was released it was already being criticized for everything from too much sex to not enough. However, such was the furore around the film that it was an unstoppable tidalwave thanks to some very cleverly placed teaser trailers and a marketing campaign that stimulated the public enough to overcome any hesitation about buying a ticket.

Lesson: develop a marketing strategy that focuses on the most positive salient points and maximise those points in your communications. Accept that we all have imperfections and develop a strategy to deal with the negatives as well – complaints, disputes or trolling. If you can think quickly it’s often possible to turn these into positives too.

There’s no such thing as too much publicity?

Well this depends on your sector obviously but if your product is salacious and sex-based then, no, there probably isn’t. Not for some time has a film been swathed in so much gossip and scandal months before it was released but all this did for potential viewers was to make them want to see it and judge for themselves. The point here is that the film was being hyped, gossiped about and anticipated by many different sources, including by the author who has a huge Twitter following.

Lesson: don’t skimp on the marketing, get everyone involved. Choose the marketing channels that allow you to best access your target audience and then focus on understanding them and breaking them open.

Who’s the star?

It has to be said that the producers were onto a winner when they picked Dornan (even though he was a second choice). He is the perfect marketing strategy star and – if they’re honest – many cinema goers might admit that perhaps they just bought a ticket to spend 125 minutes enjoying his shirtless scenes.

Lesson: do identify a star for your marketing strategy i.e. those elements that really sell the business and make it unique and more appealing than the others on the market. You don’t have to take your shirt off unless you think it will help.

This blog first appeared on the Huffington Post.

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