Brand Review – Cineplex

One brand that I’m constantly exposed to – and scrutinizing – is Cineplex Entertainment, Canada’s largest movie theatre operator.

As an employee under the golden rings, I also act as a brand ambassador while working, and while off the clock. Using the checklist from Oct 20th’s lecture in New Tools: Marketing,  today we’ll review the nationwide empirical brand that is Cineplex.

What are some ways to understand a brand’s personality? The four key points are: general human trait checklist, core personality dimensions, completion tests, and brand relationships.

1. General human trait checklist. This test is essentially taking a look at your brand and figuring out whether or not the brand features that human trait. These traits anthropomorphisize your brand (give them a human personality). Some traits that apply particularly well to Cineplex include welcoming, community oriented, reliable, and friendly. Cineplex tries to position themselves as a friendly neighbor who cares, emphasized by numerous charity campaigns (Free the Children, War Child, local food banks) and the annual community day, where select movies are shown for free and numerous concession items can be purchased for just $2 each. Like any brand, the traits assigned to Cineplex could vary depending on who you ask. A guest who regularly goes to one theatre might be influenced by the staff at the location, and could reposition the brand as “caring”, “hard working”, or “high class” if they had a particularly good experience, or “scummy”, “error-prone”, or “rude” if they had a bad experience.

2. Core brand personality dimensions. There five dimensions, developed by Jennifer Aaker, outline what core personality a brand possesses. A brand will frequently only score highly on one or two sections, as there must be a predominant personality dimension to the brand. Each dimension is rated on a scale of 1-5, with 1 being “not at all descriptive”, and 5 being “extremely descriptive”. Below are each of the five dimensions, a quick definition of what they mean, Cineplex’s score in this dimension, and an explanation:

  • Sincerity (honest, cheerful, down-to-earth) 2. In the service industry, most consumers experience their brand engagement face-to-face with customer service. While an employee force driven by students working part-time jobs at the theatre level, most cast members lack genuine sincerity with the guests they serve, and often “go through the motions” of guest service. In some order, cast members will greet their guest, ask if they have a SCENE card, ask if the guest wants to try a combo today, and complete the transaction. Besides for a select few cast members who are genuinely happy and enthusiastic with guests, the Cineplex brand becomes known as insincere because of the robotic mechanisms cast members go through. Cineplex’s pricing tactics may also be perceived by many guests as insincere, as they’ll get upset at the rising costs of ticket prices (“$8.50 for an old fart like me to see a movie? That’s your senior’s discount?”), expensive concession items ($7 for a bag of popcorn; $3.60 for a bottle of Dasani water), and the absolute scam that is combo offers (items bunched in combos end up costing exactly the same if you buy them all separately, but you get 75-150 SCENE points when purchasing the combo, if you are a SCENE member. The monetary value of 75-150 SCENE points is between $0.80-$2).
  • Excitement (imaginative, up-to-date, daring) 2. While Cineplex does keep as up-to-date as possible with new technologies, including 3D, IMAX, and D-BOX seating, it’s hard to say if the brand is really “daring” or “imaginative”. They generally aren’t the developers of these technologies, and much of the excitement that comes to guests going to the movie theatre is from what movie they’re going to see, not where they’re going to see it. In my time working at Cineplex, I’ve never heard anybody who was pleased with seeing their selected film at Cineplex over another theatre distributor. Few, if any, people tell their friends about the great night they had at Cineplex while using their theatre experience, and not the movie they saw, as the highlight of the night.
  • Competence (reliable, successful, intelligent) 5. Cineplex’s dominant personality dimension is surely competence. With very few exceptions, you can always expect to see the Cineplex pre-show, trailers for upcoming movies, and then your actual film, all scheduled exactly as they were planned. A movie theatre operator would be nothing without their competence, and as Canada’s leading operator, Cineplex is no exception. Cineplex also has a wide range of offering beyond movies, including The Metropolitan Opera, National Theatre Live, Family Favourites, the Classic Film Series, and your favourite Canadian movies.
  • Sophistication (upper class, charming) 3. This is the most varying personality dimension for the Cineplex brand, as it can change drastically from one theatre to another. On a national scale, Cineplex attempts to brand itself as a sophisticated movie theatre chain, where you can catch any new films or events (as listed above), or kick back and relax in comfy seats. Of particular help for their sophistication campaign is the recent introduction of VIP theatres, where guests can experience an age-restricted audience (19+ only), unbelievably comfortable chairs, a dining lounge with restaurant-quality menu offerings, a full bar, in-seat food services, and the highest quality picture possible. While these tickets cost around $20 just to get in, it’s an amazing experience that needs to be tried by everybody at least once (Stay tuned for the opening of Cineplex Cinemas Dow’s Lake, coming summer 2015 at Lansdowne Park in Ottawa). The issue with sophistication is that a number of older, much more run down theatres still exist under the Cineplex chain, and while they could seriously benefit from some upgrades (like new seats), it’s unlikely they’ll ever get a modern Cineplex makeover.
  • Ruggedness (outdoorsy, masculine, tough) 1. This category simply does not fit Cineplex’s branding. Nothing about theatre operations is outdoorsy or tough.

3. Completion Tests. These tests are used to describe a brand’s personality as though they were a real person, where you’re left to fill in the blanks using the brand as the subject. For example, here we will describe an elevator test and obituary test for Cineplex.

  • Elevator Test: You walk into an elevator and are amazed to see that you’ll be riding with Cineplex. What does it say? What does it look like? I enter the elevator and notice my friendly neighbor, Cineplex, standing there in a big cozy sweater. He gives me a polite smile and says, “Hi Kevin! Do you have a SCENE points card?” While I find this introduction kind of rude, Cineplex thinks it’s the best way to start an interaction, even though it can essentially be boiled down to “Hi there, are you buying anything today?” Cineplex asks me lots of other questions, but really, he’s just being helpful and trying to make my elevator ride as nice as possible. He promises that I’ll get to my floor in 26 seconds, and 26 seconds later, the door opens. Right on time as always, Cineplex.
  • Obituary Test: Your brand has passed away. Write an obituary. Today Cineplex has passed away after decades of hard work as a theatre operator. After years of success, the massive Hollywood collapse of 2024 marked the beginning of the end for Cineplex. Gone are the days where big budget blockbusters would draw in hoards of people to gaze upon the technological marvels, and in are the days where every consumer is too frugal to spend a single cent on something that they can get cheaper, or even free, on the internet. Cineplex will be fondly remembered for open doors, cushy seats, and the smell of delicious popcorn that convinces you to overpay. Cineplex is survived only by long lost cousin Netflix, which years ago overtook Cineplex as viewer’s top option for watching a movie.

4. Relationships. There are a number of different relationships that consumers can have with their brand. These include childhood friend (for the brand that you go back to if you want to feel like a child), rebound relationship (for the brand that you move on to after a rough breakup with another similar brand), or an arranged marriage (for the brand that you’re force to use by somebody else). Cineplex most often would fall under the relationship of casual friend, which consists of low involvement, few expectations, and sporadic engagement. As a casual friend, Cineplex will be there for you when you need it, but you don’t have a dependence on it. It’s very easy to go to Cineplex and have minimal involvement, as you can buy your ticket online or through the machine, have your ticket ripped as you’re directed to a theatre, and not have to deal with any other human interaction for your visit. All that you ask of Cineplex is to show your movie on time, and maybe have some fresh popcorn for you to much on. Likewise, you’re a casual friend to Cineplex, as it see you once or twice a month, hopes you decide to get a combo when you come, and tries not to disturb you as you enjoy your film. Of course, Cineplex would be open to a closer friendship, maybe one day you’ll even get a SCENE card.

So, what do you think of Cineplex now? Have a different opinion on the brand’s personality? (Ed note: some of the views in this review may be subject to bias, as I do work at Cineplex and likely have a different view of the company than the average consumer)

A few sources:

Oct 20 Relationships with brands slide deck

My own work experiences and knowledge at Cineplex South Keys


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