Marketing Lessons from Die Hard

Die Hard is one of those movies that has become a popular culture icon, even being selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry. It also launched the careers of both Alan Rickman and Bruce Willis and made the two of them household names. But what most people don’t realise is that there’s plenty of stuff in Die Hard that we marketers can learn from if we want to be at our best.

Back in 1988, when the film was released, content marketing wasn’t as widespread as it is today, but people were still hungry for content and the movie industry was happy to provide it. For content marketers, Die Hard is a reminder of the power of storytelling and a masterclass in pacing, so film-makers and copywriters alike can benefit from studying it and finding ways to integrate what works well into their marketing materials.

Even John McClane’s famous “yippie kai yay” catchphrase is an interesting reminder of the power of slogans in the marketing industry. The words that we use have power, and we have to select them carefully if we want them to have the biggest impact. McClane’s catchphrase comes from the fact that during a conversation, he says he’s a fan of Roy Rogers. If he just randomly said it, it wouldn’t work. The same is true of your brand: if you just randomly say things instead of thinking carefully about your approach to communication, you risk pushing people away.




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Another lesson is that we can think outside the box when it comes to seasonal marketing. After all, Die Hard is technically a Christmas movie in that it takes place during the holiday season, but it doesn’t fall into cliché. If anything, it rethought what a holiday movie could be, and good seasonal marketing does something similar. It cuts through the noise by doing something innovative.

Then there’s the fact that the movie has become a cult classic, which is a reminder that it’s the fans who determine whether something is successful. This is just as true when we’re talking about a tangible physical product as it is when we’re talking about a movie or some other piece of creative work. In the case of Die Hard, the franchise was able to cater to this fan appreciation by making multiple movies, while brands can imitate this by launching new products to cater to demand.

But arguably the most interesting of all is the way in which each of the different factors comes together to make the movie work. The music, scriptwriting, acting and editing are all top-notch, but if any individual one of them wasn’t up to scratch, the film as a whole would have been a disaster. The same is true of multi-channel marketing – simply being active on different platforms isn’t enough, you need to make sure that they’re working together and not fighting against each other.




We’d love to say that Die Hard is unique in offering insights to the marketers who are ready to learn from it, but the truth is that most books and movies have a little something in them that we marketers can take to heart. The important thing is to make sure that we’re open to learning and that we go out of our way to find the lessons that life has to offer. Good luck.