Photo: Bloomberg Markets magazine
For many years I have told clients to think like a movie producer. We see “teasers” (movie trailers) before the movie is released. Tidbits of compelling shots and information that drum up the excitement and desire to see the film. Then, after the film is released, producers look to prolong the share of voice by reinforcing and quoting what people are saying about the movie … “Siskel and Ebert say, ‘Best film of the year’.”While movies have always created a great example for brand marketing, “The Hunger Games” just set a new bar for the use of social media to spawn pre-reveal buzz. In doing so, their opening weekend scored an impressive $155 million at the box office last weekend – the third best opening ever outside of summer launches. Granted, “The Hunger Games” has an established fan community with the book trilogy’s success, but certainly that provided added incentive to leverage social media.
As a brand, this is exactly what you want to accomplish; increase the magnitude and length of time that people are talking about your brand. Imagine your brand has a “reveal” period – that time when you have a product launch or other key event. Focus on activities in both the “pre-reveal” and “post-reveal” periods that elevate the brand’s voice. Think about using social media to rally your target audience and ignite word of mouth. Like “The Hunger Games,” it is likely you have an existing base for your brand as well.
Lionsgate, the independent film studio behind “The Hunger Games,” focused on the platforms used by their target audience – namely Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, GetGlue and iPhone to drive pre-release attention and buzz. The team was meticulous at setting a content calendar and distribution points to orchestrate their story and marketing activities. Social efforts started early by promoting casting news on Facebook. Fans were called into action with a Facebook contest anda Twitter scavenger hunt. They were also asked to vote, rate and share their opinions and reviews via social media. All of these actions then got shared with the participant’s friends and network, adding to awareness and excitement around the film premiere.
And yes, Lionsgate provided the sneak peek trailer online, but more importantly, they listened to the reaction of the released film clip in the social space. People liked it but complained very loudly … it was too short; they wanted more. Thus, footage was released that included a Twitter prompt that allowed fans access to a Web site for the movie, TheCapitol.pn. (The Capitol is where the Hunger Games take place.) The site provided more content and allowed visitors to make digital ID cards symbolizing that they lived in Panem, the movie’s futuristic society. Then there were other activities that those with digital ID cards could participate in.
But it did not stop with their Facebook and Twitter presence. Lionsgate was smart to not only consider their own digital assets, but also focus on digital influence and outreach to fan blogs. Another important aspect of their social plan was to spark user-generated content. They did this by running a sweepstakes where the winners were brought to the movie’s set and no reporters were invited there.
There have been numerous other digital activities choreographed around the Hunger Games, but I won’t list them all. If you are social, you can discover them on your own like the real Hunger Games audience has. All of these activities produced word of mouth marketing and drew one million mentions of “Hunger Games” on Twitter over the past month.
Clearly, the power of social does not mean dropping traditional marketing. Social must be integrated with marketing that has proven results over the years. Lionsgate used traditional media and PR as well. They gave away 80K posters, secured almost 50 magazine cover stories and advertised on 3K billboards and bus stops.
As a social media marketing executive, I look at measured results. The box office sales were a huge success, but how would I know that social had some contribution to that success. This correlation is always difficult to measure. I typically look at various brand metrics that show the degree of awareness, consideration, loyalty and advocacy generated from social channels. If we see strong results in these categories, we know that the other component (the transaction) of a sales cycle has to be strong.
I’ll give you one example. Yesterday I looked at The Hunger Games Facebook page. I found an impressive 3.5 million likes. Everyone measures likes, but that is only part of the story. Anyone can drive a gazillion likes … just give an iPad away to everyone that likes your brand. But you have to keep people engaged. Facebook shows this parameter in something they call “talking about this.” Usually, when I look at brand pages I see one to four per cent engagement. The Hunger Games had 767K talking about this, 22 per cent engagement – wow. Granted this is for an entertainment category, and you would expect a higher percentage than for a consumer brand, but this is still damn impressive. And if almost one in four of their likes are talking about The Hunger Games, you can be sure they are also not only going to the movie, but they are telling their friends.
In the end, there is much to learn from Lionsgate and their social play. First, they understand their target audience. They understand their digital behaviours and places where they engage. Lionsgate produced compelling content way beyond the movie itself. The content calendar was well planned to produce increased excitement and sharing integrated with all aspects of the movie’s marketing strategy. When the audience responded negatively (not enough content), they listened and put a new plan in action to satisfy “the hunger.”
This approach and mentality can be accomplished by any brand. What is your brand story? What is distinctive about what you do that is perceived to be most valuable by your target audience. Plan your pre-reveal, reveal and post-reveal activities such that you have a choreographed, orchestrated continuous roll of information that is valued by your customers and potential customer. Tell your story, listen, engage and react.
Make It Happen.
Steve Goldner (aka “Social Steve) leads the social media practice at MediaWhiz LLC, a Hyper Marketing Inc. company. You can follow him on Twitter @SocialSteve.
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