If you live in the western world, you’ve probably heard of the absurd comedy-horror movie, Cocaine Bear.
If not, let me catch you up: it’s based on the true story of a black bear who ingested 30 pounds of pure cocaine in the Chattahoochee National Forest in the summer of 1985. by Elizabeth Banks imagines the bear…top of its gourd—on a merry rampage, terrorizing a rogues gallery of sleazy drug dealers, horny park rangers and bumbling cops.
Are you still paying attention? If you’re in the brand marketing business, you should be. Because Cocaine Bear has already recouped its production budget on opening weekend. It is on its way to becoming one of the most profitable movies in Hollywood. A new cult classic. And a probable frankness, if the buzz is real.
The film’s outstanding performance is even more impressive when you consider that its title means Cocaine Bear is banned from advertising on most mainstream platforms. Rather rely on omfg-can-you-believe that? ! Word of mouth and Saatchi’s age-old marketing philosophy: brutal simplicity.
Here are five things agency builders and brand marketers can learn from the runaway success of 2023’s wildest movie:
Keep it simple.
Cocaine bear. A two-word movie title so telegraphic it doesn’t even need a tagline. The Saatchi brothers would approve. In a world where no one cares about your ad campaign until you get their attention, how can your message be cut, cut, cut? Be ruthless. Because your audience is. Perhaps the best example is “Just Do It”, but there are many other examples where it’s “keep it short, be bright, go”.
Gen Z consumers don’t hate advertising, they just hate being treated like a click. They’ll be playing as long as they’re in it, so let them in. This film is entirely itself, from the key art to the end credits. Brands must also be fully themselves. If you’re Crocs, be ugly and comfy. If you’re Listerine, be the taste you hate twice a day. If you’re Diesel, be silly and sexy.
When it comes to reaching young consumers, “They like things with a strong taste. That’s the word I hear a lot in my marketing meetings,” Banks says. Within the limits of their own authenticity, brands should strive to be big, lively and strong on the palette. Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, Liquid Death and RuPaul’s Drag Race would be brand neighbors with Cocaine Bear.
Go big with nostalgia.
One of the funniest (not a word of it, we know) elements of Cocaine Bear is the faithful nod to the top of the 80s. From Depeche Mode to Air Jordan 1s to a gorgeous baby blue jacket reserved for members. It’s funny nostalgia: it’s disarming, even for an audience born after the time. Look no further than Stranger Things and Ready Player One. How can your brand play into its own version of retro sentimentality?
Yes the film is hyper-violent, but our hearts are in good hands. Keri Russell plays a fearless nurse to find two lost children (all of them wearing plot armor). We quickly learn that only the loathsome characters are torn limb by limb, while Russell and the child actors form the core of the film. What about marketing your brand that connects on a human level? Even in the surreal context of Zilllow’s Monsters Or The extraterrestrial love story of John Lewis, we see strong examples of how the public cares in a real way.
Future researchers will no doubt study the virality of Cocaine Bear. But you don’t need to wait. Line up some lessons from this hit, take a deep breath, show your claws, and push your branding work forward.
And in the meantime, feel free to join the internet in speculating whether record drug seizure in New Zealand waters will fuel a sequel. Cocaine shark anyone?