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+.
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?