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When Marketing Gets Spooky: 6 Lessons About Marketing from Nightmare Before Christmas

One of my favorite Halloween movies is Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas (and yes, I also watch it at Christmas; why contain joy to just one holiday?).

This year, when watching, I must have had my marketing hat on because I realized something I hadn’t before – Nightmare Before Christmas is a treasure trove of marketing lessons critical for financial planners and business owners.

Don’t believe me? Let’s dig in.

Lesson One: Own Your Expertise

The opening scene of Nightmare Before Christmas is legendary. My entire family loves the This Is Halloween theme song. One thing I particularly love about this scene is the unabashed bragging everyone in Halloweentown is doing. From the ghost hiding under the bed up the chain of command to our primary protagonist, Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King, everyone fully owns how great they are at being spooky, creepy, and/or generally terrifying.

I am the shadow on the moon at night //Filling your dreams to the brim with fright

Is much more powerful than

I am the person you see sometimes // 

You might be afraid of me

In other words – own your expertise. Use language that maximizes your expertise.

If Jack can hop out of a cart with a pumpkin on his head, light it on fire, dive into a fountain, and then emerge from it in all his skeleton glory, you can own your expertise with a little flare. This is me giving you permission to go all in.

Lesson Two: Beware the Boredom Bug

Now we’re getting into the meat of the story – we’re privy to Jack Skelington’s darkest secret: he’s bored.

That’s right – Jack is bored of his expertise. Can anyone relate to this? I know I can! I love all things marketing, yet every once in a while, when I sit down to write a blog post or record a video, I find myself second-guessing. Is this information valuable? Is my expertise exciting me anymore?

Jack’s boredom leads him to Christmasland, and the rest of the disastrous plot unfolds. While getting bored in your marketing might not have cult-classic-movie-worthy implications, it’s still problematic. When you get bored, you’ll likely try to step outside your lane.

You’ll likely try something a little too wild to shake things up and end up with a big old marketing mess. At best, it dilutes your brand and takes the attention away from your core competencies. At worst, it distracts and turns off prospects you’d love to work with because they’re unsure of what you do.

So, how do you avoid getting bored with your marketing strategy? I recommend strategically planning “new” things when you know you’ll have time to tackle them and then setting up a continuous feedback loop to vet the different strategies you have in place.

For example, 2023 was the “year of yes” for my business. Like Jack, I had gotten bored with my marketing. Newsletters felt meh; I wasn’t excited about any of the blog topics in my content calendar, and I was ready to try something to shake things up. Rather than wildly taking on new projects, we calendared in new ideas and said “yes” to things that broke us out of our mold.

Here are a few things we did differently:

  • Our team worked to get on other people’s podcasts and webinar platforms.
  • I applied to new speaking events for organizations we don’t typically interact with.
  • We sent written content out to publications to reach a new audience.
  • We took the core elements of our consulting program and created The PPC Marketing System to educate people in a different way.
  • I gave myself permission to write “fun” seasonal posts (like this one!) about marketing.
  • We zeroed in on LinkedIn for social strategy because the analytics showed it was our highest-converting social channel.
  • We tested a “question-based” email marketing and webinar strategy that empowered our audience to ask the questions they had without shame or fear – and we answered them.

A few people I’ve spoken to have asked how we picked different initiatives to tackle. Let’s be clear – not everything we tested worked.

However, because we’ve been carefully tracking the following metrics, I was able to determine which initiatives we launched from production to reality and which we’ll carry on into 2024:

  • Website traffic – after a new initiative, it’s helpful for our team to check our website traffic. Did we get a pop in site visits after a new podcast dropped?
  • Email list – Did our new initiatives effectively add people to our newsletter list?
  • Engagement – Particularly in email marketing and social media, did a new strategy increase engagement? This could be a larger reach, likes/comments on social, or open/click/reply rates for email marketing.
  • Call bookings – Did certain events or content releases directly result in a surge of new prospect bookings?

Having a feedback loop in place allows you to vet what strategies are getting traction and can help you circumvent boredom because you’re excited to continue pursuing what’s working.

Lesson Three: Break Communication Down to a Beginner Level

 When Jack is awestruck by his trip to Christmasland, he returns to Halloweentown ready to explain exactly what they’ve all been missing out on their entire lives. He tries to break down everything he’s seen – the lights, gifts, snow, and jolly red suit – and falls flat. He sees that his community members are engaged and excited, but they’re not getting it.

The truth is, it’s hard to communicate a new concept to people. Financial advisors run into this all the time. Complex financial planning topics often soar over people’s heads, and in-depth content may not resonate with them. The same can be said for a jargon-filled sales spiel.

If Jack had taken the time to break the concept of Christmas down to a beginner level, the Halloweentown community members might have been able to pull off their takeover. But because he was describing things using terms they didn’t understand (and that he was a little shaky on himself), the mission fell flat.

Likewise, ensure that your content is speaking to where your audience is now. Even if you work with high-net-worth clients who have some knowledge about complex financial planning topics, you can’t assume they’re experts in the space. Speak to their pain points clearly, and use common terminology they’ll understand.

Not sure if you’re committing the too-advanced-communication faux pas? Record your meetings. Does your language match the language your prospective or current clients use? Or does your recent blog post sound the same as a casual conversation with a long-time client? If not, you may have some adjustments to make. 

Lesson Four: Ditch Time Crunches

Another key reason Jack Skellington’s Operation Christmas Takeover didn’t work? He was working under a time crunch. I feel like this isn’t given nearly enough weight in the movie. Halloween is over, and Jack is despondent. So of course, the idea of Christmas (just two short months away) is appealing – it’s the perfect new, shiny idea to dive into rather than face 365 days of planning for Halloween.

If Jack had had more time to familiarize himself with a new holiday, he may have been able to pull it off.

Similarly, don’t try to pull off quick-hit marketing initiatives. The time you spend in pre-production and development mode before going live with a new campaign is critical. This is true whether you’re launching a blog, starting a new email marketing initiative, or completely revamping your brand and website design. Give marketing initiatives the time required to be done exceptionally, and you’ll see better results.

Lesson Five: Stay In Your Lane (Or Stick To Your Core Competencies)

Let’s set the scene.

Jack has gone through the whole disastrous process of taking over Christmas. He’s had Santa kidnapped, enlisted the entirety of Halloweentown in “making Christmas,” and has gone down in flames when he went to Christmasland to deliver gifts.

He returns to Halloweentown, tail between his legs, only to realize something critical – taking over Christmas was a mistake.

Jack Skellington is the Pumpkin King, baby.

He’s great at all things spooky and scary.

The second he strayed away from his core competencies, everything went downhill.

Playing at being Santa served nobody and got accomplished nothing (other than a fantastic movie that’s now part of our cultural lexicon). The second Jack embraces who he is, he can save the real Santa, conquer the Boogeyman, and start planning a killer (pun intended) next Halloween.

The lesson here is simple – know what you’re great at, and stay in your lane. Let your expertise shine and leverage it to create a niche that sets you apart. Halloween is Jack’s secret sauce, what’s yours?

Lesson Six: When Santa Drops Marketing Knowledge (Hire an Expert When You Need One)

This may be my favorite part of the movie, but I hadn’t paid much attention to this particular exchange until recent years.

Jack had effectively saved Santa and Sally, who he will inevitably wind up with since she’s the levelheaded heroine we all need and deserve. We’re winding down the plot.

But not before Santa throws in his two cents.

Jack: I hope there’s still time.

Santa: To save Christmas? Of course there’s still time. I’m Santa Claus.  

At this stage in the game, Santa has hours to pull off undoing Jack’s nightmare of an attempt at Christmas and set things right. And you know what? He’s not sweating it because this is his zone of expertise.

Applying this to your business may feel tricky because it’s easy to think that even if something new takes you a little longer, and even if it’s not quite right by the time you’re done, it’s still better than reaching out to a professional. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

Teaming up with professionals can help you move the needle effectively in your business, and you’ll ultimately spend less time and less money to get the job done – with better results. If you have questions about your business operations, sales process, technology, automation, or HR, it pays to work with a professional consultant or service business to help you complete a project or to work with you to ensure results. If you need referrals to experts who work with financial planners, don’t hesitate to reach out.

Of course, if you ever have any marketing questions, we’re here to help with that, as well. Schedule a call with me today to learn more about how Perfectly Planned Content can power your RIA into the new year.