Viral marketing, with its potential for exponential growth, has become a mainstream approach to getting the word out for many brands. With today’s technology and the ability to spread news fast, radio, TV, and print aren't necessarily the most cost effective approach.
Marketing teams want to get the public immersed and excited for what is to come. Here's three and a half of the most memorable movie marketing campaigns that just might turn your entire perspective on marketing, upside down.
When The Blair Witch Project came out, it was said to be the film that changed movie marketing. The purpose of this movie was to get viewers wondering whether this footage really was found, and whether or not the people in the film really were dead.
Before the release of the film, there were missing person leaflets passed out at college campuses as well as photos from police reports. The marketing team even had fake news stories written up by local newspapers about the missing people in the film. There was also a website, created by the students, with the history of the Blair Witch as well as biographical information about the now-missing filmmakers. The producers of the film also manipulated the IMDb records so that if someone were to look up the actors, it said they were missing and presumed dead.
Needless to say, they knew what they were doing, and it worked. With an initial budget of around $25,000, the film went on to gross $249 million worldwide.
Due to the huge success of the Batman series, the marketing team for this movie had quite the budget to work with, not to mention catchy taglines like, "Why So Serious?" Most of the viral marketing was done in California where fans found vandalized joker cards in comic book stores that led them to a website, IBielieveinHarveyDent.com, which was a fake election campaign for Harvey Dent. This fake election campaign was complete with brochures and election buttons. After the website was vandalized by Joker himself, the fans were able to see the first picture of the infamous Joker. Next, dollar bills with Joker faces drawn on them led fans to an air show at San Diego’s 2007 Comic Con, which spelled out the message, “Ha Ha.”
Another viral marketing campaign at Comic Con, involved a fan dressed up as the Joker, who got into a black SUV with a Gotham City license plate. The fan started screaming, and the SUV sped away. Later, the fake Gotham City Newspaper reported that a man who was believed to be the Joker was beaten to death. Included in the fake newspaper article were photos from the crime scene and a Joker playing card in the “dead” fan’s hand with, “See you in December,” written on it. There were even some accidental bomb threats, when the website related to the film sent out several cakes from the Joker containing cell phones, which made them vibrate and had wires sticking out. Other offline marketing stunts included mass gatherings of Joker fans, scavenger hunts around the world, and "voting" for political offices in Gotham City.
Considered by many to be one of the best superhero films ever, it received eight Academy Award nominations, winning two. Setting numerous records during its run,The Dark Knight earned over $1 billion worldwide, making it the 24th highest grossing film of all time.
This movie may have had a bit of a head start, considering The Simpsons is America's longest running sitcom, and scheduled to finish its 28th season next year. The marketing teams for this movie created a website that allowed fans to create Simpson-style avatars of themselves, play games, explore Springfield, and enter a contest to be in a Simpson’s episode, or even have their hometown host the movie’s premier, which was a real crowd pleaser.
There was also a release of customized Vans shoes which had fans lining up at the door to purchase. The best part of the viral marketing campaign was when 7-Elevens around the country transformed into Kwik-E-Marts. The Kwik-E-Marts were even given actual products that the Kwik-E-Marts in the show had, including Buzz Cola, Squishees, and pink frosted doughnuts. Other tie-ins included Burger King, McFarlane Toys, EA Games, Samsung, Microsoft, and Ben & Jerry's, all producing some kind of Simpson related merchandise.
The movie went on to set box office records, in the U.S. and overseas, eventually earning a worldwide gross of $527,068,706.
Although this movie hasn't been released yet, the marketing campaign has been incredible. Even the existence of the movie can be attributed to a marketing ploy, the accidental "leaked" footage. The CGI clip, voiced by Ryan Reynolds, created such a viral stir that Fox listened to the demands of the masses and finally gave the movie a green light.
Then the teasing began, from an April Fools' Day rating prank (it's R, not PG-13), a testicular cancer PSA, to Reynolds aggressive social media campaign, Deadpool is in everyone's face. A Valentine's billboard, Deadpool Halloween video, trailer teaser, and a hijacked trailer have all earned millions of views, creating plenty of buzz. "The 12 Days of Deadpool," and the wildly popular Deadpool Instagram account both highlight the humor, and fourth-wall breaking aspect of the character— not your average super hero.
With such an aggressive social media and marketing campaign titillating fans for months, The Merc With The Mouth already has a predicted gross of $775 million. Since the final numbers won't be out for awhile, we've only given this one a half count for our list.
Love it or hate it, viral marketing is here to stay.