#1 at the Box Office

So, Tom Cruise devoted the last year of his life to promoting a movie that will be #1 in the US for exactly 14 days.

To be replaced by another movie, even more hyped than Cruise’s, that may just triumph for three weeks instead of two.

Lulu.com just released a study of bestselling books. It turns out that in the last forty years, the length of stay of a typical bestseller at #1 is down by more than 85%. In other words, bestsellers used to be bestsellers for seven times as long as they are now.

That’s an awe-inspiring figure.


Because the base of the pyramid is so much bigger (ten times as many books published every year, at least) you would expect that the winners would win bigger and longer to make it worth the journey. Not so.

And awe-inspiring because the effort necessary to get to #1 is far greater than it used to be. From co-op (bribes) to retailers for shelf-space and advertising to the extensive touring and cross promotion that’s necessary, it’s a lot more work and a lot more risk to get there.

Now, we’re seeing authors building permission assets and timing all their promotion so they can be #1 on Amazon for an hour—an hour! Allen Drury had a #1 bestseller for a year.

Of course, it’s not just movies and books. Just about any style-based business (and what business is no longer style based?) sees the same phenomenon. The lesson I draw is this:

If your marketing strategy requires you to hit #1 in order to succeed, you probably need a new marketing strategy.