Don’t Make Me Think, Harley Quinn Edition

The Verge reports on the disappointing market performance of a recent Warner Bros. movie:

Birds of Prey’s opening weekend wasn’t the success that Warner Bros. had planned for a movie about a popular DC character being portrayed by Margot Robbie. The film only generated $33 million domestically, coming up short against investors’ $50 to $55 million projection. The low box office return came as a surprise to industry insiders who noted that Birds of Prey was one of the best-reviewed DC movies in recent years, earning high scores on Rotten Tomatoes.

So what went wrong? One industry executive with knowledge of the matter referred to the rollout as a disaster. Like a domino effect, a few things went wrong at once: bad marketing, bad trailers, and bad title decisions.

Among the latter, the article notes the film’s title, BIRDS OF PREY. The problem? It doesn’t mention the movie’s popular central character. Warner Bros. has now changed the film’s name to HARLEY QUINN: BIRDS OF PREY.

Steve Krug’s 2000 book Don’t Make Me Think argued that websites shouldn’t make users stop and think about what to do next. Interacting in these environments should feel natural and effortless. Clear, obvious labels play a big part in making these places more understandable.

Obvious labeling is essential in other domains as well. With so many sources of information competing for people’s attention, you want your message to get through. While you could argue that BIRDS OF PREY is a more interesting and perhaps artistically sound choice (disclaimer: I haven’t seen the movie), it’s undeniably more obscure.

When seeing the movie’s name among several other choices on a box office marquee, the theater-goer shouldn’t have to think about his or her decision too much. For new intellectual properties, this requires investing in marketing to build name recognition. But when a property already has name recognition, it makes sense to use that name in the labeling. Don’t make me think.

Harly Quinn has better SEO, so Birds of Prey is getting a new name