How The Film Industry Drives Sales Through Digital Marketing and Social Media

There is an old adage that goes, “The hardest place to sell a book is in a book store.”  These The martian digital marketingdays, that adage is more apropos than ever and applies strongly to the film industry.  Given all the different devices that allow consumers to view a movie at home, months or sometimes only weeks after it leaves a theatre, simply showing a movie trailer in a theatre is not enough to drive tickets sales over the targeted multi-hundred-million dollar mark.   Not by a long-shot.

In 2014, movie theatre ticket sales hit an all time low.  Guardians of the Galaxy and Mocking Jay (Part 1) were the only movies to pass the three-hundred million dollar mark on domestic sales. Thus, industry pundits have begun to drive sales through digital marketing and social media, in hopes of swaying people away from On Demand and toward the real movie theatre experience.

In film and TV marketing, the challenge is to build anticipation in a fairly short period of time.  Luckily, movies are stories and stories sell, especially when you involve the audience in that story, via social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine and Snapchat, etc.  Realizing this, studio execs got creative, seeking out much-needed fan buzz by engaging the audience in the movie BEFORE its release, creating hype and excitement.

One of the number one movies in the country in 2015 was The Martian.  Brilliantly, 20th Century Fox partnered with Microsoft, well before the movie was released, to integrate their marketing and bring the audience a taste of life on Mars.   A Bing map of main character Mark Watney’s journey allowed users to virtually walk in his boots, as he traversed the red planet.   Users were able to digitally solve the same problems faced by Watney in the movie.  The map used real footage of Mars and featured “transmissions” from Watney.  They also released an educational system aimed at teaching children about our solar system.  Microsoft then took to Facebook and Twitter to promote the interactive games.

The Avengers: Age of Ultron, one of the highest-grossing movies of the year, boasted Twitter accounts for each of its most popular characters.  Mad Max excited its Facebook and Twitter fans using movie related questions to promote engagement.  Ben Stiller and Owen Williams famously walked the red carpet as their characters from Zoolander 2, filming the walk and releasing it on Vine.  The video went viral, under the hashtag #zoolander2, and garnered 25 million loops. The hashtag also caught fire on Twitter and Instagram as fans were able to search posts about the movie using that hashtag and then comment along with other fans, thus creating movie chatter before the film’s theatre debut.

Trainwreck star, Amy Schumer, played off of her already-large Twitter fan base by asking provocative questions about the main character and her lifestyle.  Pitch Perfect 2 was the first movie ever to use Snapchat as part of their marketing campaign.  Pitch gained 300,000 followers on Snapchat and then live-streamed portions of the film’s premiere on periscope, building an even bigger hype.  Their snapchat filter was viewed over 6 million times.  David O’Connor, Universal’s Executive VP of Marketing and Partnerships, then used Snapchat to build a hefty pre-release movie madness for The Minions Movie and was quoted as saying, “The minions have permeated pop culture. “

Clearly, combining two of marketing’s most powerful selling ingredients, celebrity and social media, is a proven recipe for success.   Who can forget the Ellen Degeneres Celebrity Oscar selfie?  The now famous photo was retweeted  779,295 times in half an hour.  Basically, a Twitter record previously held by the President of the United States was smashed to pieces by a celebrity selfie in thirty minutes, providing exactly the kind of hype needed to give next year’s Oscar broadcast a predicted ratings boost.

With over 74% of people ages  18-65+ on social media, the push to drive sales through digital marketing and social media is a no-brainer for the film industry.  Digital publicity stunts, pre-roll advertising, calls-to-action, on-line interview clips, behind-the-scenes sneak peeks and virtual games help fans further relate to the movie and its characters, luring them toward theatres where the stories they love will unfold in full giant-screen glory.