Psycho Marketing 101

I recently watched Hitchcock, great film about making of Psycho. The movie is notable not just because of great roles by Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren. The movie also reminded how great marketer Hitchcock was. Besides his directorial duties, Hitchcock handled also the promotional duties for the film.

Psycho was controversial movie, breaking boundaries in depiction of sex and violence. Because of the risky content, the film was majorly funded by Hitchcock himself. Psycho was filmed and promoted with equally low budget. Without big advertising support from Paramount, Hitch had to rely on word-of-mouth to make Psycho a hit. That required equally cunning and cost-effective marketing methods:

Five Marketing Tips from Master of Suspense:

1. Spot the emerging trends
Hitchcock bought the rights for the novel Psycho (by Robert Bloch) with only 9000 dollars. After that he bought every copy of the book he could find so people would not read it and find out the surprising end.

2. Utilize the “own media”
Because bought media was scarce for the film, Hitch concentrated the marketing efforts to movie theatres. This was also easily done, because Psycho did not open in that many theaters in the beginning.
Psycho had own queues in front of the theaters and in many places theaters had also police staff to underline the shocking nature of the film. All the theater owners got manual on how to screen Psycho.

3. Do not just sell the product, sell the whole experience

Psycho Marketing 101

“Psycho Policy”

Marketing of Psycho went against the grain of typical movie marketing. The main emphasis was not in the plot or leading actors, but in the “Psycho policy”. This policy dictated the way Psycho should be watched to get the full experience.
The center of the policy, that theatres did not allow anyone to the screening late (as can be seen in below trailer as well). This had interesting consequences. The audience was already seated, anticipating and in the right mood when the movie started. Also it resulted in visible queues outside the theatres.

4. Tease and hype but do not reveal too much


The main part of Psycho is the whole vibe. Therefore the trailer was completely different, even funny at points. Only the last seconds give glimpse about what kind of terror to expect.

5. Change the rules
The main actors of Psycho did not give interviews about the movie. Psycho was not shown to film critics beforehand. Although this had an effect (and not entirely positive) to the first ratings of the movie, it also ensured that also the critics could get the full Psycho experience. Also the plot would remain secret for longer period.

With his clever marketing schemes Hitchcock ensured the buzz around the film. Psycho was the most successful movie from Hitchcock in box office and remains an influential movie masterpiece still to this day.

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6 thoughts on “Psycho Marketing 101

  1. Just watched the movie on HBO and had the same idea and found your post. What a great example of marketing. Great post.

    • Kip Sperber says:

      “Hithcock” is a truly brilliant film. So stylish, witty, smart. Bizarre how some critics had their knives out for it. Wrong, as usual. Should have had several more Oscar nominations.

  2. […] by that I precisely mean create. It was just as much a part of Hitchcock’s shrewd marketing plans, or perhaps more, as it was the film’s shocking events that created this […]

  3. Paul Klenk says:

    What a treasure! I never knew this existed and am thrilled by the find. Hitch was so clever, funny, mischievous and masterful. I knew of the policy, but this film makes its historical nature fully real. Thank you for sharing!

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