What is Movie Trailer Testing?

Promoting a movie requires a massive marketing campaign, from posters to online advertisements. However, movie trailers remain one of the most powerful forms of movie marketing, and provide audiences a crucial first impression of the movie. Movie ...

Promoting a movie requires a massive marketing campaign, from posters to online advertisements. However, movie trailers remain one of the most powerful forms of movie marketing, and provide audiences a crucial first impression of the movie. Movie trailer testing is a way to gauge audience reactions to multiple versions of a movie trailer, better understanding how the trailer is perceived and whether or not it achieves the goal of engaging viewers.

How does it work?

Traditionally, these sessions would occur in-person, where small groups of participants would be shown various trailers and asked for their opinions. Today, movie trailer testing has moved mostly online, with trailers being streamed to select participants and their responses collected digitally and analyzed in real time.

Invoke recruits a pool of participants, making sure to accurately represent a diverse audience. Working with the production company, Invoke researchers devise questions to figure out what the audience felt about the trailers shown – and more importantly, why. Finally, the participants are shown the numerous variants of the trailers – in the form of monadic testing – and respond to the research questions. The responses are analyzed in real time, as it is received, and presented on the Invoke dashboard.

Benefits of movie trailer testing

Movies are extremely expensive to produce. Studios, production companies, and distributors have a lot of stake in these enterprises, and therefore bank on a strong marketing campaign to promote their movies. The highest-grossing movie of all time, 2019’s Avengers: Endgame, grossed over $2.7 billion worldwide. For that, a whopping $200+ million was spent promoting it, and that’s excluding the hype built up in the 21 preceding Marvel films.

Movie trailer testing is a way for studios to understand how audiences respond to their trailers and how to adjust these trailers to better capture a wider audience, appeal to their loyal fanbase, and set an exciting, alluring tone for the movie without giving away too much. Since trailer testing can be designed to represent various types of audiences, the results can accurately inform studios how specific markets might react to their trailers.

Limitations of movie trailer testing

Trailer testing, like any form of qualitative research, is not definite. It is simply a practical method of small-scale sampling in order to paint a larger picture of audience behavior. Hence, the accuracy of the results from trailer testing are generally proportional to the sample size. The larger the sample size, the higher the accuracy. That said, a larger sample size also equates to greater cost. Studios have to find a balance between how much they are willing to spend on trailer testing and how accurate they want their results to be.

Additionally, trailer testing can be more difficult for international markets. China is the world’s second-largest movie market, and is expected to overtake the US in the next few years. India is the largest producer of films and also has a steadily growing movie market. American studios are constantly looking at foreign markets as a major source of revenue, and therefore have to adapt their trailers for those audiences as well. Due to cultural differences, a popular trailer among American audiences might not have the same impact in China or India. For a market research company, finding international participants can be logistically tricky and much more expensive.

Movie trailer testing case study

A mid-sized studio is releasing an action-comedy film in December and is producing two trailers as part of their marketing campaign. Trailer A is dark and gritty, with suspenseful music, lively action sequences, and bits of humor sprinkled in. Trailer B shows a lighter side to the film, focusing more on the comedy and dialogue, spliced with high-octane action. The studio hires a market research company to find out which trailer audiences are more drawn to, and what aspects of each trailer audiences like and dislike.

The researchers stream both versions of the trailer to a select group of participants and conduct a brief survey at the end. They gather and analyze the data, finding out that the majority of audiences prefer Trailer B because the light-heartedness appeals more to families who might be watching movies together during the winter holidays. However, they also discover that audiences prefer the music in Trailer A, as the added suspense is engaging. The studio takes these results and alters Trailer B slightly based on the responses.

How Is Invoke Different?

  • Invoke Is Big Qual. An Invoke LIVE session brings every stakeholder together on a consumer-led journey that leads to a real-time decision.
  • It’s inclusive, bringing together marketing executives, producers, showrunners, brand managers, business executives, and insights teams on an hour-long conversation with your target audience
  • It’s conclusive, enabling you to probe audience sentiment, test concepts on the fly, attain clarity about strategy and message – and make the right decisions, often by session’s end
  • It’s organic and illuminating, offering rich and sometimes unanticipated insights into how your audience view you and their world: the Why behind the What
  • It’s qual and quant simultaneously, with audiences of many hundreds in a single session

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