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Harry Gardiner

How Blockbuster Movies Can Inspire Your Content Marketing Plans

20th Feb 2014 Content Marketing 5 minutes to read

Movies and popcornFilm marketing has advanced in leaps and bounds in the last few decades. Promoters now have a wealth of exciting and versatile tools at their disposable when it comes to generating interest in their new feature.

These days it seems that wherever you are, you’re unable to escape an advert for an upcoming movie, whether it’s in the papers, plastered on billboards, on every TV channel or all over your computer screen.

But what makes film marketing so special? Let’s take a look at some of the more notable examples that have cropped up quite recently, and evaluate what we, as content marketers, can learn from them:

Dark Knight/ Dark Knight Rises

Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy is considered by fans to be some of the most exceptional filmmaking of the 21st century, so it stands to reason that the promotion efforts behind the series were just as stellar.

Both The Dark Knight and its sequel The Dark Knight Rises relied heavily on audience interaction when it came to advertising themselves. The first film in the sequence, Batman Begins, had already established the diverse vision of a city suffering from within, so all the subsequent promotion efforts went into further fleshing out Nolan’s twisted vision of Gotham city.

This was done through various cross media campaigns, including both online and offline efforts. The offline included handing out badges for a fictional electorate campaigns, and projecting the bat symbol onto the side of a building.

The online efforts were as diverse as they were entertaining. During 2007’s San Diego Comic Con, 42 Entertainment, the company in charge of running the Dark Knight promotional efforts, launched the teaser-filled site WhySoSerious.com. Utilising what would become the film’s most popular catchphrase; the site was filled with clues to follow, along with audio snippets and hidden messages. From this, they built other sites, such as the eerily sinister Rent-A-Clown.com, which urged users to send in photos of themselves in clown make-up to receive more information about the upcoming feature. An equal parts creepy and ingenious marketing tactic.

The prize for investing all of this time? Tons of content relating to the new film and a sneak preview of the trailer before anyone else. Take a look at the video above and presentation below to get a better idea of the scope of the this project.

[slideshare id=12700281&doc=thedarkknightmarketing2012-120426080137-phpapp01]

For the trilogy’s final film, The Dark Knight Rises, the producers once again turned to fans, and launched what was described at the time as the “biggest ever brand push”. They utilised their audience to promote intricate online and offline campaigns. Examples included sending fans on a hunt to find graffiti hidden around real world locations and discover secret URLs, and having users decrypt an audio file to discover which hashtag to follow on Twitter.

They understood who they were talking to and utilised them to the best of their abilities. By building off of the existing fan base of both Batman and Christopher Nolan’s films, they were able to craft an amazingly intricate campaign.

Did it work? Well both films now rank in top 10 of the highest all-time US box office chart, so I’d say that’s a big resounding yes.

Anchorman 2

It wouldn’t be a valid post about film marketing without mentioning the valiant effort from the team behind last year’s hit comedy Anchorman 2.

By the time the movie was released it was almost impossible not to have seen Ron Burgundy’s (the franchise’s lead character, played by Will Ferrell, in case you had somehow missed out) face on some kind of media. Some said that the public may have been over-exposed to his character, but it certainly kept the Anchorman brand in the forefront of everyone’s mind for a few months.

The character of Ron Burgundy was so popular, they even carried out cross promotions, and used his personality to help other brands. Sales of the Dodge Durango, which an in character Ferrell advertised brilliantly in 60 second slots such as the ones above, increased by nearly 40%. According to The Wrap, the videos (numbering a whopping 70 in total) gained over 21 million views across all channels on YouTube, and visits to the Dodge Durango website went up by almost 80%.

So the campaign was incredibly successful for cars, but how did the film do?

It’s grossed well over $120,000,000 so far, which is considered a box-office smash on all accounts, so the intense marketing effort definitely paid off.

Anchorman 2’s film marketing campaign was so diverse, and split across so many different channels, that personally I don’t think just one or two paragraphs would do it justice. Luckily, the folks over at Econsultancy have created this great piece detailing everything content marketers can learn from the laugh a minute flick.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Another superhero film example? Terrible, I know, but in truth it’s these kinds of films which lend themselves nicely to expansive and intricate campaigns. They build off a rich and pre-established world, utilising nuggets of information such as names, locations and storylines from the original subject matter in order to tease and entice their audience. The same goes for film sequels, such as the aforementioned Anchorman 2.

When it comes to ASM2, both a sequel and a pre-established franchise, there’s a wealth of inspiration to draw from for marketing. Instead of just focussing on the previous film instalment though, they’ve chosen to instead think much bigger, and have begun to craft an expansive universe, using blog posts on Tumblr no less.

Sony Pictures have a created a Tumblr profile named after the newspaper that employs the titular hero within the Spider-man universe. TheDailyBugle.tumblr.com posts news stories that act as a bridge of sorts between the first and second films, whilst also name-dropping different characters from Marvel comic lore. This act alone sets headlines ablaze with speculation as to whether they’ll appear on the silver screen.
Amazing Spider-man 2

The popular blogging platform, which was acquired by Yahoo last year, is the perfect way for brands to interact with their audience in a seemingly natural way. Not only is Tumblr a completely free platform to use, but by posting tantalising snippets of news accompanied by GIFs and pictures from the first film, Sony are giving fans a new way to effortlessly connect with, share and enjoy the upcoming movie.

We’ll have to see how well these efforts work when the film is released this summer.

Marketing Is Marketing Is Marketing Is Marketing

How can all the above information be applied to everyday marketing I hear you ask? Quite easily actually. Film Marketers utilise portions of the content they’ve previously created in order to convert perspective audiences into actual viewers, and if the end product is produced well, this turns them into fans.

The same should go for content. Use your existing knowledge, including previous content and information from your current campaign, to seduce prospects into using your brand.

Ok, so we might not all have the budget and resources of a huge film production company behind us, but by continuously producing quality, relevant content and sharing it exclusively with fans via the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, brands are able to build an often very loyal following.

Coercively Converting

Converting these followers into leads is the next step on the road to successful marketing. The art of increasing conversions is so intricate that in all honesty it deserves its own entire blog post, so for now I’ll just take a look at a general overview.

In film marketing, a successful conversion would be someone who purchases a ticket to see the film, and subsequently invests in related merchandise. In social media content marketing, you may be selling a brand, service or an experience, but the same rules apply.

There are a few steps you can take to help spur on your audience:

Keep your profiles up to date – There’s nothing more disheartening than checking a business’ social media profile only to see that it’s not been updated for the last six months. It’s instantly off-putting. If you can’t be constantly active on social media, then at the very least try and update your account once a day. If you can’t think of anything interesting to say, share what you’ve already created, framing it in a new light.

Give to receive – Giveaways, offers, exclusive content and shout outs all help to further connect you with your audience and transform people from passive viewers into active participants. Give followers the ability to unlock certain content by sharing particular pieces with their own social circles. Reward those who promote your brand and reply positively to those who get in contact with you (ignore the trolls; help the haters – because they could always become fans).

Shout to action – Make it as easy as possible for users to consume, share, interact with and invest in your services. Your CTA needs to be as clear as possible, as do your contact details so that potential customers can register interest.

What Can We Learn?

So what can successful film marketing teach us about everyday content marketing?

Share the wealth – If you have access to content you think would be useful to people, get it out there! There’s no such thing as a boring niche, as there will always be someone who’s interested in what you’re saying, as long as you find an exciting way to say it.

Ensure your content is seen by the right audience – Know who your audience is, know what they like and utilise that. Communicate with influencers and advocates within your industry using online social tools such as the newly revised Klout in order to get your content seen by the people who care about it most.

Utilise your audience – You don’t have to crowdsource your content, but asking for opinions and perspectives from your online community, and listening to what they actually want, now that’s doable. Get on forums and comment threads (you have no reason not to be on Reddit), reply to Tweets and Facebook posts from followers, and reward your audience for investing time in your brand. Do this and watch your fanbase grow.

Utilise your source material – If you’re working on a film adaption, you’ll already have plenty of information to work with, and an established fan base to market to. If you’re producing a completely original piece of content, study related subject matter for inspiration as to how to market your work. Look at what others have done and look at what else your audience are into.

Take from what you know – Repackage, repurpose and reshare previous content, as long as it has a purpose. No one wants to see your article on ‘The Most Exceptional Mobiles Of 2009’ for example, but if you had an insightful, evergreen piece on why mobile marketing is essential that you published a year ago, that could prove useful.

A Social Landscape

Young People at cinemaSo how comes these film promotion techniques apply themselves so well to other aspects of marketing?

When you look at it from afar, filmmaking and marketing really aren’t all that different you know. Both utilise the latest technology to project a message to their audience, and both are becoming progressively easier to be picked up by anyone who has access to smartphone (with varying results, of course).

Both mediums have also been heavily affected by the rise of Social Media. Platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have given brands inventive new ways to interact with their followers on entirely new levels; and social networking has had such an impression on filmmakers that it’s even had movies made about it… ooh meta.

There you have it, social media really has changed the face of film marketing, and marketing as a whole. Brands now have an accessible, cost efficient (practically free) method of communicating with their audience.

Is there a particular film campaign that stuck in your mind? Seen any adverts for upcoming features that really blew you away? Sound off in the comments section below and let me know.

Image Credits:

Film Reel courtesy of Bigstock
Connors Found Guilty (Page Snippet) taken from www.thedailybugle.tumblr.com
Young people at cinema courtesy of Bigstock

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Harry Gardiner

At a statuesque 98ft tall (or 6ft 7”, whatever) Harry’s head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to social media. He’s also got mad DJ skills and is a lover of Pugs, bacon and if you tell him you haven’t seen a certain movie, he will make you watch it. You’ve been warned.

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