The Martian – the surprising elements of marketing that contributed to its success

The Martian

On October 2, The Martian movie, featuring Matt Damon will launch with a Hollywood extravaganza of marketing and promotion. However, the behind-the-scenes story of The Martian is even more interesting – with all the makings of the American Dream.

The movie is based on a novel about how astronaut Mark Watney survives after being stranded alone on Mars. It’s software programmer Andy Weir’s first self-published effort. Originally, it was a series of chapters on Weir’s blog. Then he offered it on Amazon for 99 cents – and the book took off! It debuted at #12 on the New York Bestseller list and very soon Weir built an impressive fan base. Then, literally in one week, Weir landed both a publishing deal and a movie deal. He was an overnight success.

But with all great stories, there is much more in the background. And this great story is about marketing – in the true essence of the word – an unrelenting focus to deliver value to a target audience.

What did Weir do right that all of us can learn from?

  1. Weir focused his efforts. Weir is a self-described science nerd. He wrote about what he loved and focused wholly on making the story realistic. “His earlier attempts at writing pretty much flopped, but “The Martian” took off, partly because it captures Weir’s enthusiasm for science and space exploration.”1

    I believe that in business and in marketing, passion comes through when the owners, and the management, of a company are truly dedicated to their efforts. They set the tone and get everyone onside and working toward a common goal. It’s not manufactured or imitated.

  2. Weir involved his audience and edited his work. Part of Weir’s success is that he didn’t settle for his first draft. The online forum of the blog was interactive and people came forward to tell Weir scientific errors in parts of his story that needed tweaking. Weir listened to the comments and made changes. The #1 message I learned from Journalism school is that every writer needs an editor. To this day, I have one or two people read my work before I publish or email it. I can’t count how often I’ve seen mistakes – big mistakes – on marketing materials because the author didn’t get open feedback. If you write something for an external audience – always have someone edit it.
  3. Weir stayed true to his vision. He did endless research and had reams of data but the main goal was to entertain his audience. “It was a constant internal battle to remind myself that the book should be fun to read, not a testament to my ability to do math. So I frustratingly had to leave the bulk of that information out. Though it did make me feel good inside my geeky little soul to know all the math checked out.”2

    We work with some very smart people in our business and showcasing what they know is important…to a point. Once your client knows and trusts what you are doing, then stop providing information. It’s time to focus on presenting your client with the solution they need.

  4. Weir ignited his readers’ imaginations. Weir was a stickler for making the storyline as scientifically accurate as possible but he was also able to create suspense and get the reader behind the plot. “Like any thriller, The Martian relies on providing increasingly poor odds of survival. Like any good thriller, The Martian navigates Watney out of these situations by the skin of his teeth, and through believable means. Every page is filled with either the promise of Watney’s demise, or a clever solution to a situation that seemed hopeless.”3

    Everyone wants to feel inspired to go to next level with their business. So paint a picture of where you are going together. Marketing is all about telling that story and helping your client “see” the vision.


In just a few weeks, The Martian will be out in theatres and I am looking forward to seeing it. But Andy Weir’s story will stick with me for even longer because his remarkable success had all the right elements to launch him into a new stellar career.

For more, check out the links below or drop me a note to chat about the lessons of The Martian ([email protected]).


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