The Silver Screen On YouTube: Interactive Video Marketing The Hollywood Way

Film mar­keters are using YouTube to engage key influ­encers and increase reach.

Pat Hong By Pat Hong from Linkdex. Join the discussion » 0 comments

New cam­paigns from film stu­dios to pro­mote their movies on YouTube and via inter­ac­tive con­tent is show­ing mar­keters from all indus­tries, how to engage fans, deliv­er excep­tion­al, immer­sive cus­tomer expe­ri­ences and win new audi­ences.

In the world of film mar­ket­ing, build­ing aware­ness is cru­cial. Block­busters are a tru­ly inter­na­tion­al prod­uct, with movie reels shipped to every cor­ner of the globe, and all with­in the time­frame of a lim­it­ed release dura­tion. In many cas­es, a few weeks can whol­ly define whether a movie is a fail­ure or a suc­cess.

That’s why for decades now we’ve seen the bill­boards plas­tered on build­ings, the posters on bus­es – the unvary­ing mar­ket­ing hype that accom­pa­nies every major release. The box office is a num­bers game in which aware­ness is every­thing; the more peo­ple you get into the fun­nel in the first place, the more that will even­tu­al­ly pick up those tick­ets, and make up those vital audi­ence num­bers.

Film mar­keters do have one major advan­tage to play on: peo­ple love going to the movies. Mar­keters have the lux­u­ry of work­ing with a huge­ly mar­ketable prod­uct. Films, by design, have all the appeal, sto­ry­telling, and pull nec­es­sary to engage con­sumers, ampli­fy cam­paigns, and inspire stun­ning con­tent nec­es­sary to get peo­ple into the the­atres.

Marketing For Movies

Film mar­ket­ing has tra­di­tion­al­ly been focused on ful­fill­ing one major touch­point: entice­ment. A con­sumer might become aware of a movie after see­ing an impres­sive bill­board, with a neat, exquis­ite­ly craft­ed tag line. Lat­er, they might seek out or catch a trail­er, and based on those inter­ac­tions a con­sumer will decide whether they want to see that film or anoth­er one.

When you apply the stan­dards defined by dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing in recent years – with mar­keters nur­tur­ing and re-enforc­ing all along the pur­chase fun­nel – to that of film mar­ket­ing, it sud­den­ly strikes as some­what odd that we don’t see more con­tent, and specif­i­cal­ly dig­i­tal media, being pro­duced to build on the engage­ment gen­er­at­ed by tra­di­tion­al media hype.

At the moment, a con­sumer might seek out a review to find out more about the film, but that has long been the remit of tran­si­tion­al jour­nal­ism. What about brand ini­tia­tives that dri­ve engage­ment – the user-gen­er­at­ed con­tent, the influ­encers? After all, film rec­om­men­da­tions have been a pow­er­ful dri­ver of cin­e­ma goers for years. Why should­n’t that be true of an pow­er­ful online influ­encer such as a pop­u­lar vlog­ger on YouTube?

And what about brand­ed ini­tia­tives? Inter­ac­tive and inno­v­a­tive con­tent cer­tain­ly has a great deal of poten­tial, espe­cial­ly when pow­ered by Hol­ly­wood sto­ries.

Film mar­ket­ing fol­lows tried and test­ed, and an undoubt­ed­ly effec­tive mar­ket­ing mod­el. But could film stu­dios be doing more with dig­i­tal media?

Using Digital Media to Build Influencer and Audience engagement

The sim­ple answer is yes. As a Google Think Insights study has recent­ly revealed, film mar­ket­ing is becom­ing increas­ing­ly inno­v­a­tive in the way it mobi­lizes influ­encers and engages com­mu­ni­ties.

While the flag­ship con­tent for any movie is invari­able the trail­er, video-shar­ing plat­forms means that with a lit­tle encour­age­ment, a whole legion of fans, crit­ics, and review­ers can be mobi­lized into cre­at­ing con­tent that spreads addi­tion­al aware­ness and rec­om­men­da­tions about a film. As the study says, “whether through real-life recre­ations of weapon­ry, elab­o­rate musi­cal lip dubs, ani­mat­ed alter­nate end­ings or even just peo­ple’s reac­tions to films”, fan con­tent can gen­er­ate a lev­el of cre­ativ­i­ty and pas­sion that rocks peo­ple’s worlds, and the scale is lim­it­less.

Accord­ing to YouTube’s Head of Cul­ture & Trends Kevin Alloc­ca:

Fans can engage with, dis­cuss, remix, reen­act and oth­er­wise be a part of the block­buster movie phe­nom­e­na, where pre­vi­ous­ly they had been only pas­sive observers. And the hur­dles to becom­ing this type of fan­boy or fan­girl are much low­er, thanks to our con­stant­ly con­nect­ed world.”

Film Marketing On YouTube: 5 Blockbuster Examples

Here are five stun­ning exam­ples of film mar­keters using YouTube to cre­ate inter­ac­tive con­tent expe­ri­ences.

1. Godzilla Invades YouTube

When Warn­er Bros. and Leg­endary Pic­tures part­nered with YouTube Space LA to tap into the cre­ativ­i­ty of the YouTube com­mu­ni­ty. In an open “cast­ing” 28 chan­nels were cho­sen to shoot their own take on Godzil­la using actu­al sets from the movie. Tak­ing on a fine tra­di­tion for Godzil­la minia­tures and recre­ations, the videos have drawn a stag­ger­ing 8 mil­lion views on YouTube.

2. May The 4th Be With YouTube

Rather endear­ing, and cer­tain­ly a spe­cial occa­sion for “Star Wars” fanat­ics, May 4th is Nation­al “Star Wars” Day. Ahead of the much antic­i­pat­ed new install­ments of the epic space opera, Lucas­film looked to inspire a whole new gen­er­a­tion of fans.

Twelve Los Ange­les-based YouTube chan­nels were select­ed, with each team pro­vid­ing a pitch to cre­ate a “Star Wars” inspired short film. Lucas­film then picked four favorites to go into pro­duc­tion, with the win­ners giv­en the oppor­tu­ni­ty to film their videos on the set of the Mos Eis­ley Can­ti­na, the infa­mous loca­tion where Luke, Han Solo, and Chew­bac­ca first meet. Film­mak­ers even had access to offi­cial “Star Wars” props, cos­tumes and music.

The case study was a great way to intro­duce new audi­ences to the cult of “Star Wars” and the videos gained trac­tion on pop­u­lar video-shar­ing sites includ­ing Yahoo and Col­lege­Hu­mor.

3. The Hunger Games: District Voices

Fans want to iden­ti­fy with the uni­vers­es cre­at­ed by their favorite sto­ries, and like the hous­es of “Har­ry Pot­ter”, fans of “The Hunger Games” (or Pane­ma­ni­acs, after the land of Pamen where the sto­ry is based) love to imag­ine what dis­trict, and what spe­cialisms and skills, they would fit into best.

To pro­mote the upcom­ing fea­ture release of “Mock­ing­jay Part 1” Lion­s­gate com­mis­sioned “Dis­trict Voic­es,” a five-episode YouTube series, in which influ­en­tial YouTube video cre­ators expe­ri­enced a full Panem makeover.

Hav­ing been dressed up in the lat­est Panem fash­ions, cre­ators shared the tal­ent rep­re­sen­ta­tive of their dis­tric­t’s indus­try. For exam­ple, YouTube’s Thread­Banger rep­re­sent­ed Dis­trict 8 and spoke about their pro­fi­cien­cy with tex­tiles. Lion­s­gate sup­plied authen­tic cos­tumes, set designs and props from the Hunger Games films to com­plete the visu­al trans­for­ma­tion of YouTu­ber’s trans­for­ma­tions into cit­i­zens of Panem.

4. A Journey Through Middle-earth

The eager­ly await­ed “The Hob­bit: The Des­o­la­tion of Smaug” was Warn­er Bros. Pic­ture’s most impor­tant releas­es for 2013. Fol­low­ing the mas­sive suc­cess of “The Lord of the Rings” tril­o­gy, hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars in invest­ment meant that a equal­ly huge box office return was both nec­es­sary and expect­ed.

To ampli­fy the mar­ket­ing cam­paign the stu­dios cre­at­ed “A Jour­ney Through Mid­dle-earth”, an immer­sive web expe­ri­ence that allows users to nav­i­gate through a 3D envi­ron­ment that lets them explore the char­ac­ters and loca­tions of the Tolkien uni­verse. Designed in Google’s Chrome brows­er, the inter­ac­tive map gen­er­at­ed buzz and excite­ment about the movie. For a film in which the loca­tions play such an impor­tant part, pro­vid­ing an inter­ac­tive map is both exhil­a­rat­ing for fans, and a great exam­ple of using inno­v­a­tive tech­nol­o­gy to pro­duce fun, engag­ing con­tent.

5. Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy

To pro­mote Mar­vel’s lat­est super­hero install­ment, “Guardians of the Galaxy”, Dis­ney cre­at­ed a fic­tion­al trav­el agency, cre­at­ed to show off the exot­ic des­ti­na­tions present in the film. Offer­ing the ulti­mate galac­tic vaca­tion, fans will be thrilled to explore the “Guardians of the Galaxy” uni­verse.

Wel­comed by the Galaxy Get­aways trav­el agent, the con­tent was designed in HTML5 and allows users to explore real­is­tic-look­ing des­ti­na­tions using Google Street View. Users can also explore weath­er reports, trav­el quizzes, and more. Fur­ther­more, vir­tu­al trav­el­ers had the abil­i­ty to inte­grate their expe­ri­ences via their pre­ferred social media plat­forms and share their jour­ney’s trav­el cards on Face­book, Twit­ter, and Google+.

Movie Touchpoints

The cam­paigns show what can be achieved when you com­bine excep­tion­al sto­ries, fic­tion­al uni­vers­es, and inno­v­a­tive dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing prac­tices. Excep­tion­al con­tent, on the chan­nels con­sumers are brows­ing, or using to eval­u­ate deci­sions, helps to ful­fill those cru­cial touch­points that ulti­mate­ly lead to a con­ver­sion – just as dig­i­tal mar­keters have been prac­tic­ing for years.

In a way film stu­dios have always spe­cial­ized in con­tent. Using video and inter­ac­tive con­tent has sim­ply brought sto­ry­telling to the mod­ern age, to a gen­er­a­tion of new audi­ences. Lever­ag­ing fanat­ics, the fin­er ele­ments of the prod­uct they are mar­ket­ing, and imag­i­na­tive ways to use the lat­est tech­nol­o­gy, there are lessons here that all mar­keters can ben­e­fit from.

And it’s a trend that’s catch­ing on. Stu­dios have all the resources to con­duct more excep­tion­al cam­paigns. From a con­tent per­spec­tive, stu­dios have every abil­i­ty to take on con­tent mar­ket­ing like a duck to water; they will engage pow­er­ful influ­encers, and make sure the sto­ry-rich con­tent finds it’s way onto organ­ic search results and social media.

By cre­at­ing con­tent that’s share­able, engag­ing, influ­en­tial and inte­grat­ed, film mar­ket­ing is show­ing the poten­tial of inter­ac­tive video mar­ket­ing. It seems now that the old stu­dios can teach dig­i­tal mar­keters a thing or two of their own.

Do you think brands can learn from film mar­keters in engag­ing influ­encers and audi­ences on YouTube?

Pat Hong

Written by Pat Hong

Editor at Linkdex/Inked, Linkdex

Pat covers the SEO industry, digital marketing trends, and anything and everything around Linkdex. He also authors Linkdex's data analysis and reports, analysing the state of search in various industries.

Inked is published by Linkdex, the SEO platform of choice for professional marketers.

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