Summer is here, and big budget blockbusters aren’t far behind! Industry watchers believe sales of movie-related merchandise will reach new highs in 2009 [1] or as Yogurt says in the blockbuster Spaceballs, "Merchandising: where the real money from the movies gets made." With so many dollars in play, it’s worth considering how your online marketing strategy can set up your business for success.

Toy retailers are hoping that a pair of toy-inspired movies will transform 2009 into a banner year for toy sales. Despite poor reviews, "Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen" is already on pace to dramatically outsell 2007's "Transformers" at the box office. The first movie drove a tremendous surge in sales of Transformers toys, from $100 million in 2006 to $482 million in 2007. This year’s sales could top $600 million. [2] Meanwhile, toy companies are counting on renewed interest in GI Joe action figures stemming from next month’s release of the live-action “GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra.” Conservative estimates put GI Joe toy sales at $150 million this year. [3]

Book, music, and DVD sellers also have a big opportunity to cash in. “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” has already broken midnight ticket sales records and shows no signs of slowing. Interest in the movie will spark incremental sales of the book and the entire series. The DVD version of the new movie is expected to sell well this holiday season, as consumers have demonstrated continued interest in owning big titles despite the recession. [4] Though soundtracks and video games tend to be a tougher sell with consumers, there is still opportunity for incremental gains. [5]

So if you sell toys, books, music, DVDs, or any other kind of movie merchandise, how can you capitalize on this summer’s hot movies?

First, timing is everything. Use Insights for Search to see how demand for past movie products has grown leading up to release dates. For example, check out the worldwide search volume on ‘transformers toys’ leading up to the movie’s release dates in 2007:

Some analysts are using Insights for Search as a leading indicator of a movie’s box office sales. Keep in mind that when search volume surges so dramatically, it’s important to make sure your budgets are set high enough to accommodate the additional traffic.

Second, make sure you haven’t overlooked any relevant keywords. If you’ve left out important keywords that shoppers use to find products, you’ll be missing out on “virtual shelf space,” and customers may find your competitors instead. Fortunately, you don’t need to be clairvoyant to figure out what users are searching for. The Search-Based Keyword Tool will help you identify keywords that are relevant to your site but missing from your AdWords account. The tool may even help you discover interesting product variations you don’t currently carry but for which there is lots of consumer demand.

[1] “Hits at the box office are creating retail blockbusters,” Dawn C. Chmielewski, Los Angeles Times, July 13, 2009
[2] Ibid.
[3] “Analysts see films boosting Hasbro sales,” Michael Caprio, Providence Business News, 7/16/09
[4] “Hero Complex,” LA Times blog, 6/22/09
[5] “Videogame sales in June expected to show another decline,” Dan Gallagher, Wall Street Journal, 7/14/09