Marketing dilemma

As companies struggle with ways to take advantage of the Net, it’s nice to know you’re not alone.

Hollywood, the ultimate promotion machine, still has a lot of room for improvement, according to a report by Forrester Research.

With fall here, entertainment marketers are gearing up for a season packed with blockbusters, bestsellers and new music and video game titles. While most Web marketing budgets promote prerelease awareness using flashy sites, new online marketing tactics hold enormous promise for Hollywood, book publishers and the rest of the entertainment industry.

”Bigger Hits With Net Marketing” demonstrates how the industry can accelerate online word of mouth and control post-release buzz to increase sales by as much as 100 percent.

According to Forrester’s interviews with 21 top entertainment companies, entertainment marketers are struggling to use the Internet to its maximum marketing advantage. They are willing to employ Internet strategies when they feel the demographic match is right, but they’re not expecting big Internet-driven change.

”Marketers understand that the Internet and word of mouth can help generate buzz, but they don’t know how to foster it to extend awareness of a product beyond its initial release,” says Eric Scheirer, analyst at Forrester Research. ”By shifting just 1 percent of a marketer’s Web budget to fund online word-of-mouth efforts, entertainment companies can help move consumers through the product consideration and buying cycle faster, doubling a book’s sales or boosting box office grosses by as much as $15 million per film.”

Studios and design shops commonly spend $200,000 or more to build bloated Web sites for new entertainment offerings. These sites often confuse or frustrate visitors. By spending remarkably little (just 1 percent of their online budgets), marketers can reap big returns by encouraging consumers to actively contribute to a dialogue online about a variety of entertainment products.

Forrester believes marketers should invest online marketing dollars to foster online discussion, accelerate word of mouth and speed up customers’ awareness-consideration-purchase cycle. How to reach: