5 Digital Marketing Lessons from 2018-19’s 5 Biggest Hollywood Blockbusters
2019 has been a solid year for movie buffs: much-awaited releases from the Marvel Cinematic Universe such as Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame, the first of Disney’s classic reboots such as The Lion King, Dumbo and Aladdin, sequels that have been a long time coming such as Toy Story 4 and Men in Black, and franchise films such as Fast & Furious’ Hobbes & Shaw and X Men’s The Dark Phoenix.
2018 was yet another memorable year – from Avengers: Infinity War and Black Panther from the MCU, the return of Jurassic Park and Mission Impossible, and even Bohemian Rhapsody and DC’s Aquaman.
Great marketing for these movies meant money in the bank – after years of using traditional, boring, and even desperate ad campaigns – Hollywood is learning how to leverage modern, digital ways of creating a buzz, driving footfalls, and getting great ROI.
There’s a lot that businesses, small or big, can learn from the blockbusters of the recent past. Read on to pick up on some marketing lessons from the greats that you can apply to your business:
The Highest Grossing Movie of All Time
Box Office: $2.79 Billion
The promotional budget for Avengers: Endgame was $200 million, the highest for any Marvel movie so far. Despite the guaranteed success of the much-awaited movie – Marvel chose to spend so much to connect with a broader audience. Marvel tied up with brands such as GEICO, Coca-Cola, OPPO, Google, Hertz, Audi, and Stand Up to Cancer, to name a few. As affirmed by Mindy Hamilton (SVP, Global Partnerships and Marketing – Marvel Entertainment), the purpose was to not appeal just to the traditional Marvel fanboys, but millennials, teens, multicultural audiences and families as well.
The pre-buzz and trailers for the movie were focused on creating a mysterious aura – the initial trailers were focused on the characters and scenes already seen in Infinity War, without giving away too much information. There were rumours of multiple endings being shot, misleading posters and fake leaked scripts that all led to greater anticipation and much discussion online.
Social Media was leveraged to the hilt – a unique, well-timed campaign across the official Instagram handles, working closely with the film’s star-studded cast, and consistency in look, feel, and hashtag usage led to some serious social media amplification.
Note that all the characters alive have colour renders whereas characters that were neutralized by Thanos have monochrome renders.
- Find opportunities for collaborations and partnerships to expand your existing user base
- Create an aura of curiosity-inducing mystery when releasing big campaigns. Add hints at the end of your content about the valuable content coming up.
- Maintain consistency in look and feel of your campaigns – customers should be able to recognise your branding anywhere.
- Leverage nostalgia or humour in your content – the human mind remembers those feelings the most.
- Leverage influencer marketing – internal and external! While external influencers can do wonders for a brand, internal employees can be advocates within their own social circles.
Timing is Everything
Box Office: $1.6 Billion
For the third time in six months, Disney released a remake of a beloved classic. “We had a very carefully planned out ‘pulsed’ campaign,” Disney president of marketing Asad Ayaz tells The Hollywood Reporter about a promotional push that began in earnest in November of last year. “The Lion King is a beloved property. At the same time, you’re bringing in new audiences around the world who may not have seen the original.”
The campaign featured not just the usual mix of advertising, but also an extensive collection of promotional partnerships and offline appearances starting 2017, two years before the scheduled release date. Since then, strategically timed promotional efforts took place – “Circle of Life” showcased at D23, CinemaCon and CineEurope, extended commercial debuted during the Oscars, TV spots debuting Beyonce as Nala, and sponsorship of the “Wearable Art Gala” with the theme “Journey to the Pridelands” and opening by The Lion King on Broadway.
Notable promotional partnerships included Linkedin’s #JustCantWaitToBe contest, McDonald’s Happy Meals, Jeep, Google, General Mills, and Pandora. Disney also utilised its vast media holdings and theme parks to promote the film. On the social media front, the cast along with Favreau and the composers participated in a conversation hosted by Twitter in a custom-designed space featuring movie branding. That event was attended by select “influencers” and ended with a live performance of music from the movie. There was also a location-based AR filter featuring Rafiki’s drawing of Simba released on Snapchat.
- Design campaigns with distinct phases and touch points such as behind-the-scenes and making of, pre-release buzz, and launch
- Use music to create remembrance – Science Daily found that 73% of its test audience created an emotional connection between a brand and the music that played for that brand’s advertisement. You can use licensed music or attribution-free music.
- Timing is everything – depending on your means and budget, time campaigns and their phases to unlock their full potential
- Take advantage of all your channels to reach your audience – offline and online experiences can be used in conjunction to drive traffic.
An Immersive Experience
It Chapter Two
It: Chapter Two’s eerie marketing has been so effective that in the US and Canada, it broke Fandango’s record for most advance tickets sold by a horror film.
To promote IT, Stephen King’s classic horror tale reboot, a 16-bit game was developed featuring Georgie’s infamous paper boats through the sewers and can be played on Snapchat or its dedicated website.
In July, an immersive experience called “The IT house” was opened in LA, a miniature version of Derry Canal Days and its funhouse – the central location in the movie. While tickets were sold out instantly, a 360-degree video on Youtube takes you inside the funhouse. An AR experience featuring the spine-tingling Pennywise in the UK.
“Reaction videos” to the trailers and the funhouse are splashed all over the internet – focused on selling the experience and the movie and creating anticipation. A viral marketing campaign features billboards and the stars of It: Chapter 2 being haunted by the red balloon. It: Chapter 2 also boasts of partnerships with Carl’s Junior, AT&T, Shell, Postmates, and more.
- Don’t be afraid to experiment! Use AR, video, social media – play with different mediums and see what works for your brand.
- Dominate the social media game with frequency, quality and interactive experiences
- Audience interaction is a great way to drive engagement – don’t just communicate, invite participation
Engagement is Key
Mission Impossible: Fallout
Box Office: $791 Million
MI: Fallout’s ad campaign included rolling out banner ads that click to a pervasive and effective virtual 360 degree virtual reality experience that takes takes audiences behind the scenes with Tom Cruise as he performs larger-than-life stunts. Viewers sit right next to Mr. Cruise while he pilots a helicopter through narrow passageways and provides commentary on the experience alongside the film’s director, Christopher McQuarrie. MI: Fallout banked on its stunts and released a series of featurettes.
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Marketers have found that 360° VR content adds experiential storytelling to their arsenal of marketing tools, while also seeing performance uplifts. The more you can involve your audience, the better – younger demographics like to post, share and discuss their experiences.
Mission Impossible:Fallout also partnered with BMW, Uber, GfyCat and Eurotunnel for promotions.
- Audience Interaction leads to potential emotional connections
- Behind-the-scenes footage always strikes a chord
- If you do just one thing, do it well. A series of featurettes here kept audiences engaged and on-the-hook for more
- Sell your USP – your message should be loud and clear and singular. Confusing your audience with too many messages may backfire.
Play To Your Strengths
Box Office: $903 Million
Bohemian Rhapsody is a rags-to-riches story in itself, costing just $52 million to make and grossing over $900 million worldwide, making it the most successful biopic ever. Queen’s content, ie their music, was king here – and was made more relevant and shareable.
Prior to the release, fans were invited to contribute to the movie by recording Bohemian Rhapsody and sending it to the sound editors. The “Put Me in Bohemian” initiative was interactive and popular – it’s a must watch!
Flashmobs, street art, pop-up shops and murals were used to create an omnichannel buzz. At the core of the digital strategy were the trailers, revealing progressively more about the plot and creating a social media buzz. Few weeks after its opening, this video of “Live Aid side by side” (real footage vs movie reconstruction) pushed even more people to the theatres. Within a month, Queen and Adam Lambert also announced their “The Rhapsody Tour”
The movie also generated revenue in terms of music royalties. The most impressive feat? Bringing Queen music to a new generation – during the “Bohemian Rhapsody” campaign, Queen surged to the worldwide Spotify Top 20, peaking at #13, among all artists of present generation. “Bohemian Rhapsody” the song became officially the most streamed song of all times, with almost 2 billions streams cross-platform.
- Content is always, always king
- Play to your strengths when planning a campaign
- A campaign doesn’t just end with launch – it needs to be tweaked and revised post-launch. Have a digital strategy in place for all possible results.
- Omnichannel strategies are the need of the hour
Digital strategy should have a clear cut direction to reach different demographics – existing customers and new customer acquisition. Differ your outreach and communications based on demographics and behavioural patterns of your TG as well.