Lessons From “The Guilt Trip”

The Guild TripBy Zach Dugan, Director of Creative Production

This past Mother’s Day, I sat down with my mom to watch “The Guilt Trip.” While this movie only mildly entertains, it does have a few important marketing and PR lessons in it.

For those of you who have not seen it, the plot is simple. Andy (Seth Rogen) is a chemist who has developed a new organic cleaning product that is completely non-toxic and cleans better than its competitors. His mother, Joyce (Barbara Streisand), has been a single mother since Andy’s father died when Andy was eight years old. Since then she has incessantly doted over her son. While telling Andy about her lover from long ago, Andy finds him in San Francisco. This leads to Andy asking his mother to join him on his cross-country road trip, while he sells his product, in hopes she can reconnect with him.

Great plot summary, Dugan, but what the hell does any of this have to do with PR?

Content Is King

When Andy is initially pitching his new product, he is no Don Draper. Getting bogged down with facts like PF balance and what products make up the chemical formula of the product, he looses his audience immediately. On top of that his product name was confusing and unpronounceable, as well as visually unappealing on the bottle.

The important lesson here is that people don’t buy things because it is the best; they buy things that interest them, appeal to them and fulfill their need. Take Febreze for a real world example. Febreze was originally invented as an odor-killing product that did just that, killed odor completely. However, the market determined that people preferred a fresh scent on top of just eliminating the odor, because they couldn’t smell the results (they couldn’t smell anything). The point is, you need to make things appealing to the consumer.

When I’m making a video for PRSSA, I am always concerned on the content of the video over anything else. The reason: if you have a cool concept, the editing is sharp and the music fits, then you can even make a video about 13 students going to San Francisco seem cool.

Play With The Hand You’re Dealt

This is something I often tell people, but in our profession especially: we need to go with the flow. Streisand’s character in this film emulates this to a point. While she does constantly nag about the most pointless things, she does seem to have an air of taking the current situation and just dealing with it.

The important thing here is that things will go wrong. Let me repeat, they will go wrong! So just take that and run with it. If that means having a stripper fix your car problems and then ending up staying the night with you ex-girlfriend (this makes no sense unless you see the movie), then go with it. Do what you must to get the job done.

Stop Living In A State Of Denial

Throughout the first half of the film, Rogen’s character is constantly lying to his mother that the product pitches are going well. This is a dumb move. The same can be said if you tell your mom (or anyone) that your interviews are going well, your sales are going well or your life is going well, and it isn’t.

What is the #1 rule in PR? DON’T LIE. Besides the obvious fact that the truth will eventually come out, there is no gain out of lying about failure.

Accept Criticism

When Andy is pitching to Costco, the Costco representative and his mother are in agreement that the bottle and name need to be changed. This infuriates him and causes him to scream at the rep. Bad thing to do in a pitch.

I am not perfect. My ego might say otherwise, but I am not and neither are you. Learning to accept and welcome constructive criticism is essential. If you are able to gain from someone else’s insight, then do so. As Jay Z said, “I’m far from being God, but I work God damn hard.”

Unfortunately, Mom Is Always Right

This sucks, but it is true. Some how, some way, your mother is always right to one degree or another. In the movie (SPOILER ALERT), it is when Andy finally shows the amazing benefits of his product being safe to drink by drinking it in the pitch like his mother suggested. So when in doubt, know that mom will be right, despite all evidence going towards the contrary.

With that being said, go see this movie with your mother. Other than that, don’t see this movie with anyone else. Hopefully this blog helps to show that you can find strange PR tips from anywhere.

***Important note: Immediately after watching this movie, my mother and I watched Red Dawn. The lesson learned from that movie: good-looking teenagers with guns are unstoppable, USA!***

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