You know a film has made its mark when its marketing budget has recovered within the first weekend of its release. Greta Gerwig’s cotton candy-coloured Barbie achieved this and became a summer blockbuster. Unless you are living under a rock, there is no way you have not come across an ad or a product with the pink hue of Mattel dolls.
It all started during the CinemaCon in 2022. The makers released a solitary image of Barbie seated in her Corvette within the enchanting world of Barbie’s land at São Paulo’s CCXP. It turned out to be one of those instances that gained independent momentum, capturing the imagination of its own accord.
What followed was a frenzy. The world saw a fuchsia Xbox (geared towards STEM Barbie), a Malibu Airbnb house, Barbie-themed enhancements on Google search results, a Balmain cropped hoodie priced at $1,350, a line of Barbie Crocs, Burger King’s pink burger and more. The film has additionally spurred a surge of moviegoers donning matching costumes, further attesting to its cultural impact.
Like Barbie, there have been some seriously cool flicks that showed us how it is done – they didn’t just rely on the movie being great but also built up excitement way before it even hit the big screen.
Here are six Hollywood movies that totally nailed this marketing game :
1. The Dark Knight:
Christopher Nolan’s ‘The Dark Knight’ stands as a prime example of a movie with an unforgettable marketing campaign. Capitalizing on the enigmatic portrayal of the Joker by Heath Ledger, the marketing team used the viral ‘Why So Serious?’ campaign. Mysterious clues, teaser websites, and scavenger hunts intrigued and engaged fans.
The makers kept Joker cards in the comic stores that gave them clues for the website whysoserious.com. On the website, these fans could erase the pixels, which led to the unveiling of the first public image of Joker.
In San Diego city, people found ‘Jokerized’ dollars with clues that brought fans to a place where an aeroplane skywrote a phone number. Upon dialling the phone number, it gave a conspiracy theory. A newspaper called ‘The Gotham Times’ was also published with clues. The Joker cake containing a phone number was another hit.
The idea behind giving clues in various forms was to gather the fans in Chicago and New York, where they would see Bat Signal lit up on the city skyline. On the batwings was written ‘HA HA HA’, Joker’s main words.
The immersive campaign saw 11 million participants from 75 countries. The movie went on to make over $1 billion at the box office.
2. Avatar: The Way of Water :
James Cameron’s groundbreaking sci-fi epic, Avatar, relied heavily on its mesmerising visuals. If Avatar’s marketing saw partnerships with companies like Coca-Cola, LG, and McDonald’s and the video game trailer, the sequel ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ went one step ahead in highlighting the film’s cutting-edge 3D technology and immersive experience.
The Mercedes-Benz took a leaf from the movie and launched the Vision AVTR, a sustainable vehicle powered by organic battery technology. The vehicle was there at the sequel’s Hollywood premiere too.
LG unveiled an anamorphic 3D billboard in ultra-high definition showing scenes from the mesmerizing world of Pandora at Times Square. Amazon Alexa’s Avatar theme had visuals and sounds from the picture synced to timers, alarms, and the weather. L’Oréal’s NYX unveiled bioluminescence shades and light-catching pigments. Kellogg’s launched Avatar-themed packages and a special line of Pandora Flakes, and a Kashi bar.
3. Inception :
Christopher Nolan makes a second appearance on this list with his mind-bending film Inception. As part of its campaign, the makers launched an online viral game in which users were to solve spinning top mysteries. The game unlocked the official trailer. It even led to online discussions and fan theories. The movie made $828.3 million at the box office.
4. Psycho :
Psycho is a genre-defining horror movie that is known for many things including the shower scene and the unexpected murder of the main character. But very few know or remember its brilliant marketing tactics.
Alfred Hitchcock did everything from revealing the shocking twist. He even prevented the Paramount Studio executives from reading the script and his main cast, Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh. Although the movie is a book adaptation, Hitchcock put himself in the trailer and gave the tour of Bates Motel, giving the movie a true story vibe.
Once the movie was released, Hitchcock distributed manuals with trigger warnings and possible health issues like a heart attack. He kept nurses and police stationed outside theaters. To ensure audiences do not spill the twist, he would announce, “This, of course, is to help you enjoy Psycho more. We really have only your enjoyment in mind”. The movie made more than $40 million, a sum considered huge in the 1960s.
5. Deadpool :
Deadpool shattered conventions not only within the superhero genre but also in its marketing approach. The marketing team used irreverent humor and self-awareness to create a distinct identity for the film. From hilarious billboards to Ryan Reynolds’ involvement in numerous promotional stunts, the movie embraced its R-rated nature and left audiences eagerly anticipating its release.
Some of the promotions included Ryan Reynolds wishing everyone a happy Chinese New Year, scoring a goal with Manchester United players cheering him and taking over a taco truck and Fox’s Snapchat. Deadpool made $785 million at the box office.
Behind every successful Hollywood blockbuster lies an equally impressive marketing campaign. These five movies showcased the diverse strategies that filmmakers and marketing teams can employ to capture the audience’s attention and generate excitement. From viral campaigns to immersive experiences and clever trailers, these movies set new standards for how movies are marketed, forever leaving their mark on both the film industry and pop culture.