Ask someone who knows: André Hedetoft

Branding - in every sense of the word

Filmmaker André Hedetoft could switch careers right this instant and launch a promising business as a marketing consultant. The marketing and personal branding strategy of André Hedetoft and his project “Extraordinaries!” reads like a manual on how to fund, promote and market products in the year 2010. André makes use of several of the most powerful tools in the toolbox: Crowdfunding, Storytelling, effective market positioning and segmentation as well as Personal Branding and transparency. He leverages the possibility of personal artist-to-fan connections, he delivers unique custom made experiences and perhaps most important, he makes it personal.  Very personal.
André reaches out to his audience and invites them to “join the adventure”. Using the Crowdfunding service IndieGoGo as his platform – he asks the world to support his project financially.

André, can you please tell us a little bit about how you first came across the Crowdfunding idea?

– A couple of years ago when I first started out, crowdfunding was totally unheard of. For  a young man just starting out in the industry, without any experience or more importantly connections it seamed that financing happened through some mysterious investors one could never hope to reach or by filling out application after application to different institutes and keeping your fingers crossed. But with the dawn of the new technology that made possible new ways to connect and distribute, the introduction of cross media and looking and learning from what the music industry just had gone through, something incredible happened. Someone somewhere out there looked at what was going on and asked a simple question:
What if we could sell the movie BEFORE we make it to the audience that really WANTS to see it?
Taking it even further. What if we could seek out and engage that audience (one by one if we have to) and instead of just offering them a piece of plastic, selling them on an unique experience? Crazy? Indeed. Brilliant? Undoubtedly so.

– I still don’t know much about the industry. I never met any of those mysterious investors and sending applications and keeping my fingers crossed is still a bit scary for me. But I do know what kinds of movies I want to make, I know who my audience is and where I can find and connect with them. Knowing that, you can count on me to make the best movie I can while taking them on one wild unique adventure. THAT I can do. THAT I will do.

So how do you connect with your fans?

– I started my fan club. It’s simply a way for me to start up a relationship with my audience. You know. The people I actually make the movies for and in that extent the only people I actually care about. I don’t really care about the middle men. I care about that ONE person who wants to see that little movie I’m about to make and I really want to get to know him/her, I want to take him/her on as cool and exciting and unique adventures I possibly can. It’s as simple as that. Like I state on the Fan Club sign-up page over at
Signing up basically means that you becomes one of the most important persons in my life and that I will do everything to treat you as such. So what are you waiting for?

What is the thought behind the personal questionnaire on your fan blog? Why do you want this information, and what do you intend to do with it?

– I’m trying to be really transparent on why I want the info and what I intend to do with it. First of all I call it “20 questions (so I can get to know you better)” and that is really the gist of it. This Fan Club is not just about me, in fact, it’s all about them. The more I know, the more I can do for them. If they trust me with their facebook/twitter/blog I’ll befriend them and connect with them for more casual and daily interaction. I used to have a facebook fan page but quickly gave it up when I realized that I didn’t get to see what they were up to or interact with them. It was all about me. So now I just have my regular profile instead.

– If they trust me with their address I will start out by sending them a personal handwritten snail mail and in extent I might connect with them this way when the occasion calls for it. For example on their birthdays, etc.
It’s ALL about getting to know my audience better and connecting personally with each and everyone of them. Be they 5, 50, 500, 5000 or 5 000 000.

How did you come up with the perks for your fans? Why the 1000 exclusive dvd’s?

– In reality I could think of 10 000 things I would like to offer as perks. But at the same time I really wanted to keep it simple. So I decided that I was going to offer ONE thing. And that ONE thing became 1 of 1000  signed, numbered, extremely limited, awesome special edition DVD:s. But: The awesome DVD:s is absolutely just the beginning of an adventure I will take them on. Because here is a lesson I had to learn the hard way and live by these days: Under Promise and Over Deliver. THAT I intend to do.

You seem to be as much a storyteller in marketing and branding as you are as a filmmaker. Why, in your mind, is this approach still the exception rather than the rule?

– I think most people grow up with (I know I did) the romantic/exciting notion of what an artist should be like. I mean who didn’t dream of living for the arts, poor and preferably suffering, sleeping during the days, partying during the nights, create whenever inspiration hit, only to one day be miraculously discovered and thrown into the superstar life. I mean that sure sounds a whole lot more exciting then waking up early, sitting down each day to create, putting in the hours, doing the hard work, incrementally making your way forward. Sure you can choose that first life and you may get really lucky. Some do. Me? I don’t care much about luck and I sure don’t care for one hit wonders. I much rather go up early, sit down each day to create (inspired or not), put in the time and care to connect with my audience, figure out ways to sell them a unique experience, get to make THIS movie and another one and another one and another one

There’s really no question that André is very conscious about the story he’s telling. When I asked him about the whole deal with the tattoo, I received a cut-and-paste answer. Rehashing the same pitch available in several locations on the Internet. I’m sure he knows it by heart:

– I was born 7 weeks early in an elevator and had to spend a lot of time in hospitals where I found my salvation in the geek culture. A while ago I combined my love for the geek culture with my lifelong dream to make movies that I myself would like to see and made a promise: When I have 1000 fans I will tattoo in Geek Movie Director on myself and make a superhero-series that is going to spread all over the world, for free, on the Internet.With that said and done, we created a short teaser to generate interest in the project. We got the 1000 fans. I got the tattoo. Now it’s time for “Extraordinaries!”.

That’s about as effectively “branded” as anyone can hope to be. A compelling story, an effective pitch, and he went and got himself inked, for heaven’s sake.

Do you think this way of funding, promotion and marketing is scalable (i.e do you think it could work for large scale projects as well?)

– Great question. Could they have funded, promoted and marketed say the $170 million dollar production Iron Man 2 this way? Why not? At the end of they day we are all only selling to our audience. Could they have found a way to connect with their audience, offering them not only the chance to see it at the cinemas and buying the DVD but also a whole range of unique experiences? Why not? Would this audience maybe spend double or triple what they would have on just the cinema tickets and DVD? You bet. Could they have cut their HUGE marketing budget ($150 million dollars) by  half and still made more impact by leveraging it to just their audience? Indeed. Are there 1 million other factors to consider in all of this? Absolutely. I’m not preaching that crowdfunding and audience building is the answer to all and everything. Just that we all have so much to learn from it. Be it a $170+$150 million dollar hollywood blockbuster or a small independent superhero-webseries.

We hear much about how creatives need to become more entrepreneurial in order to survive. Do you agree with that and if so, do you think this will change the film industry in any way? Will it change what films get made?

– By putting creatives and audiences together something incredible can happen. Remember the old expression “Everyone has a story to tell”. Well, now they actually can! No matter how niched a story you want to tell there is an audience for it out there and if you can connect with them, together you can bring it to life. We live in exciting times.

Indeed we do! And when will you release the first episode of “Extraordinaries”?

– The script will be ready in a week or two. Then plan is to shoot later this summer and after post production start releasing them in Nov/Dec.

All in all, marketing guru Seth Godin would be proud. In Linchpin, Godin wrote this, which resonates well with the marketing work of André Hedetoft:

“One author I know is willing to watch his books sit unsold, because that’s a better outcome for him than changing the essence of what he’s written. He has passion for his craft, but no real passion for spreading his ideas. And if the idea’s don’t spread, if no gift is received, then there is no art, only effort”.

With André, we get the art, not just the effort. And that’s pretty cool.

More about André on these pages:

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