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Pixar Marketing: 6 Marketing & Design Lessons To Learn

You can learn something from the places you least expect it to be. As long as you are ready to learn, the world is truly an oyster. The key is to keep your eyes and ears open so you don’t miss any lessons. 

One such place with abundant lessons is the American computer animation studio – Pixar. Pixar marketing can be a great source of inspiration for brands.

Confused? How can an animation studio teach you about marketing? Well, when someone sets out to do something great and achieves it, why not learn from them? But why are we recommending you learn to market from Pixar? The design makes sense, but marketing? 

What comes to your mind when we speak of Pixar? The movies? What is the one thing common to the Toy Story franchisee, the Cars franchise, and the movie UP? 

They make you feel. Don’t they? Irrespective of the subject, the plot, and the movie – Pixar’s movies make people feel emotions that no one can do. 

And what is marketing if not leveraging the same skills to take your brand’s message to the audience? As we have iterated a lot of times, emotive design makes marketing effective and impactful.

Pixar is the king in both these domains. So Kimp brings you the lessons in marketing and designs that our team thinks everyone must know. 

So let’s get right into it. 

Pixar Marketing- Brand History

Many know about Pixar. But you may not know everything. For the marketing lessons we list to be effective, a little backstory is essential. Of course, we have to do this Pixar style. 

So how did Pixar begin? Was it always a bed of roses? What is their growth story like? 

If you look at the studio’s history, you know that the story is one grit, perseverance, and determination. George Lucas of Star Wars fame started Pixar and initially called it The Graphics Group. The company went through a lot of turmoil and financial losses when Steve Jobs stepped in big time. 

Even after continuous losses and selling the hardware unit, Mr. Jobs did not step down. He kept the faith and hoped the tide will turn after the Toy Story movie since the studio had a 3-movie deal with Disney. 

Well, the rest, as they say, is history. 

Toy Story was the first feature-length movie that a studio made completely with the computer, and it became the highest-grossing film in 1995. They earned $374 million over an investment of $30 million. 

Why learn marketing and design from Pixar Marketing?

Since its inception, Pixar has had 24 feature films under its belt as of June 2021, with gross earnings of $14 billion as of 2019. Fourteen Pixar movies feature on the list of 50 highest-grossing animated movies of all time

It is not just the money. The company’s technical expertise in design and storytelling is unparalleled as well. Pixar has won 23 academy awards, 10 golden globe awards, and 11 Grammy awards, to name a few. They have also bagged countless nominations and awards for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. 

With all this, you know they are doing something great. 

If you look at Pixar carefully, you understand that whatever they do has their customers at the center. That coupled with their dedication to technical excellence in design and storytelling makes them a marketing playbook, willing or unwilling. 

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Source: Fast Company

A good story isn’t just about entertaining people, it’s about transforming people. And this isn’t just for a film or a book — it’s for a great pitch, and telling people what your company is about or what your products can do.

— Matthew Luhn, Story Consultant at Pixar

What does a marketer or brand want from their campaigns? For the customers to connect with their narrative and engage with them. Well, all that will become easy if you implement these lessons from Pixar. 

So with no further delay, let’s get into it. 

6 Marketing and Design lessons from Pixar Marketing Approach

Everything that teaches you to engage your customers and connect with them emotionally is a marketing teacher. And Pixar has done this consistently for over 27 years now. People of all ages relate to the movies and are willing to stay invested in the brand even after they no longer fall into the ideal target audience group.

It is fascinating, to say the least. 

If only you could understand how they do it, you can do it too for your brand. Yes? 

Well then, all you need is right here. 

1. Storytelling design 

What do you think is the reason for Pixar’s success? The animation? Well, aren’t there a lot of animation studios? What makes Pixar unique? 

Well, the secret is that Pixar is a master storyteller besides being an animation studio. They know people want a reason to watch their movies over other feature films, and it can only be via stories. 

Pixar has got the formula for storytelling down to a science and understands that creativity cannot be about one person alone. It needs a system that storytellers can follow and fit their narratives into. 

Every typical Pixar story has the same structure. People talk about it all the time. 

It goes : 

“Once upon a time”

“Every day…”

“But one day…”

“Because of that..”

“And then…” 

“Finally..”

They set the stage, show the character’s routine, bring in the disruptor, show the impaction, and then end with how the character overcomes it with the transformation. 

Marketing takeaway : 

If you look at the structure, it is quite universal. You can employ it in your marketing campaigns too. 

Studies have shown us that customers relate to campaigns that employ storytelling and feature the customer as the hero or pivotal character. 

A typical marketing video or story with this structure goes like 

  • The day of the customer in absence of your product/service. 
  • They encounter a problem to which there is no solution in sight 
  • Enter the product with the solution to their issues 
  • The transformed experience. 

Kimp Tip: Visual storytelling is more effective than other formats. Video of all formats is the most successful and allows you to demonstrate your point easily. So pick visual formats and apply the structure for best results.  

Connect with the Kimp Video team to set your story in motion today! 

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2. Emotional connection 

The meme world believes that Pixar makes all of its money by giving inanimate objects feelings and making the world connect with them emotionally. It’s funny because it’s true. 

A lot of Pixar’s success centers on its ability to crack the code to emotional storytelling and marketing. And we know that marketing and sales rely on the same science. Buying is a very emotional process, and customers decide based on their feelings and biases even if they don’t realize it. 

So master emotional marketing, and you will build your community in no time. 

The team at Pixar has spent a lot of time understanding the neuroscience behind people’s emotions and their reactions to different colors, shapes, facial expressions, and so on. 

This research became the foundation of all character designs, stories, and so on. 

Matthew Luhn, the chief Story consultant at Pixar tells us they worked with psychologists and neurologists to perfect the emotional concepts in Toy Story and Inside Out, respectively. 

Marketing takeaways : 

As a brand, if you can understand what emotion you want to evoke in your customer, marketing and design become so much easier. You are no longer blindly groping in the dark, but have a path and end goal in sight. You can leverage marketing and design mediums to emotionally influence your customer. 

Do you want to understand design psychology in detail? Check our guide here

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Source: TechCrunch
3. Leverage colors and other design cues to influence 

We have spoken a lot about marketing lessons, but Pixar is an animation studio that leveled up the standards for animation and design worldwide. So, how can we not take design lessons from them? 

Have you noticed how every Pixar character is likable and attractive? How is it that everyone, right from kids to adults alike, appreciates and adores these designs? 

This is all thanks to the Pixar team’s in-depth research into their audience and the design elements they will appreciate. 

Like most visual marketers, the team works with colors that bring out the desired reaction in us. And bright colors on the screen keep the audience focused and engaged throughout. This is why you cannot look away from a Pixar scene at any cost. 

The Pixar team also goes to great lengths to recreate an environment or nostalgic memory with the design aids. For example, to get the ambiance right in the movie Coco, the photography director took multiple trips to New Mexico and drew from childhood experiences. 

They added a green fluorescent light in the background to make the experience authentic. This color added flair to the screen and made the setting 100% more effective. 

Design takeaways : 
  • Take time to understand your audience, the setting, and the story before designing. 
  • If you are a brand looking to create an animated video, ensure that you provide a lot of photographs and examples for the designer to draw from. Check our guide on the design brief to know more.

Kimp Tips: Colors, shapes, textures, and tones have a lot of significance in the success of any design. Pay attention to these design elements to provide the best experience to your customers. 

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Source: Pixar
4. Authentic and representative content matters 

Inclusive design is not a design trend nor can it work if you apply it just as a marketing gimmick. It has to go beyond that. 

The current generation Gen Z and Millenials demand actual representation that goes beyond any lip service. 

This change can be seen in Pixar movies as well. The company has repeatedly tried to include stories and narratives that are outside the mainstream world. But they go one step ahead and make these stories an authentic experience. Like the house in CoCo, Merida’s hair in Brave also posed a challenge for the team. But they stuck with it and got it right at the end. Because it matters. And the customers love them more for this. 

Customers want to see themselves in your campaigns, and that will only happen when you understand authenticity the right way. 

Marketing Takeaways : 
  • Practice inclusivity and authentic representation on all fronts. Use alt-text in your image on social media and websites. Upload closed captions for all your videos.
  • Include people from all walks of life in your campaign. Use custom illustration styles to depict the world as is and make your customers feel welcome in your brand. 
  • Like Pixar, get the details correct. Representation for representation’s sake will not fly and must have sincerity in it. 

Looking for a design team to step up your content styles? Connect with Kimp Graphics and Kimp Videos today!

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Source: Vanity Fair
5. Build up your brand identity via content 

Do you know that Pixar movies have Easter eggs in them? Now you may wonder that leaving Easter eggs in the movie is an age-old technique, what is so special about the one from Pixar? 

Well, Pixar’s Easter eggs in the movies are more about their brand and brand story than about the actual story itself. Intrigued, right? Yes, if you have noticed carefully, “A113” comes up in Toy Story, Up, and Ratatouille. It is an ode to the studio and classroom at CalArts that most Pixar employees are alumni of. 

By leaving this across the movies, Pixar has ensured that everyone knows their brand origin story and connects to them deeply. This is a huge win for brand identity and recall, don’t you think?

Customers today want to see the real face of the brand and not the manicured version of brand projects. That is why BTS content and live videos are becoming so popular. The rise of influencer marketing is also because of this want from the audience. 

Marketing takeaways :
  • Build a meaningful brand connection with the audience. Talk about your origin, your purpose, values, and mission so that they understand you.
  • In all your content, your branding identity must be at the forefront. Branding design elements like logo, brand name, symbols, colors, and fonts must appear consistently to build recall in the market. 

Kimp Tip: Before you go live, check the presence of branding-related design in all materials. Understand how your logo will react with the design and choose placements well. 

Or you can work with a professional design team like Kimp Graphics and Kimp Video so that you know it will be handled well. 

6. Design Thinking 

The team at Pixar has a system for everything. They believe that everyone big or small has space to contribute and must have a voice. Many experts strongly feel that this is why we see some of the best works in terms of design and storytelling coming from Pixar. 

The company has built a space called “brain trusts” where passionate people can come together and solve issues to perfect them over time. This gives Pixar a unique advantage of working with some of the best minds of all time. 

Pixar team embodies design thinking : 

  • They build solutions that focus on the customers: In this case; it is meaningful and diverse stories. 
  • The company believes in iterative processes – we know designers spend hours and hours to just get the design of water correct. 
  • Brain trusts allow them to finalize a design or project from a collaborative approach. 

If the success of Pixar has shown us anything, it is that Design thinking can change the way you work for the better. 

Marketing takeaways : 
  1. Involve your team in campaigns. Do not curtail it to just the sales or marketing teams. Maybe the product team has better ideas on how to market a feature. Listen to them.
  2. Keep the customer at the center always. Think of their pain points and design campaigns to address those. 

Leverage your Pixar Marketing Inspiration with Kimp

Innovation and creativity are two important elements of any brand’s success. But they cannot work well without systems and inspirations. From this blog on Pixar, we hope we have filled you up on these. 

Pixar is a huge studio with abundant resources at its disposal. However, you can replicate these results for your brand with the right team with you. 

Kimp is happy to collaborate and be that team for you. We have worked with countless brands worldwide in providing solutions to their unique challenges and enhancing their campaigns with visual aids. 

Our plans (Kimp Graphics and Kimp Video) offer unlimited design requests, revisions, and expertise across a wide range of design categories. 

Sign up for our free trial now.