The Hunger Games won the weekend box office with over $150 million in ticket sales in North America alone. The film has now entered the top 3 highest grossing premiere weekends of all time, only behind the last Harry Potter installment and The Dark Knight.
How did this film adaptation of a young adult book series become a blockbuster that has left people saying, “Twilight who?”
The answer lies in an effective digital marketing campaign that took some unconventional approaches and leveraged emerging media channels.
Worldbuilding on Facebook
The first place to learn from the Hunger Games is Facebook.
Multiple Facebook Pages were used to promote the film to flesh out the world of the books. In the books, competitors in the Hunger Games come from 12 Districts in Panem, a dystopian United States. On Facebook, each district has its own Page, and exclusive content was made available that was unique to each district to reward fans who took a deeper dive into the world built online.
The Facebook experience wasn’t just a digital extension of the world of Panem, but also an opportunity to extend Panem into the physical world as well. Facebook fans are eligible to get free ID cards from their district of choice thanks to a partnership between the film and Cafe Press.
The Hunger Games campaign also effectively used Tumblr. According to a recent ComScore report, time spent on Tumblr is second only to Facebook within the social media space, so social marketing on Tumblr makes a lot of sense for entertainment if you’ve got the right content.
To promote the film, the Hunger Games marketers focused on content that catered to Tumblr audience:
• Fashion: The Capitol Couture theme of the Hunger Games Tumblr provides fashion from the film and also real clothing from famous designers that align with the visual aesthetic of the film. The site even features guides for Hunger Games fashion and etiquette.
• Animated GIFs: The site made extensive use of animated GIFs, a digital medium extremely popular within the Tumblr community. The GIFs of characters like Seneca Crane and Effie Trinket managed to be on par with the average amount of “shares” that images posted to Facebook have (around 1500) with fewer followers on Tumblr than on Facebook.
• Challenges and Contests: The Hunger Games and Moviefone also feature District Style Challenges and the #LookYourBest contest. The style challenges required Tumblr users to submit their own fashions inspired by the series with real images or simply mockups. The #LookYourBest contest was a simple way for Tumblr users to win advance tickets to the screening by sending an email with the address to their Tumblr blog.
Mobile and Social Gaming
When it comes to gaming, the Hunger Games is both a great example and a poor example of game-based marketing.
The mobile game for the movie is a great example of creating simple, addicting fun. The gameplay is relaxed, low stakes, and a simple way to kill some time. It’s also a great example of impulse commerce since the “Extras” section makes it easy to buy movie tickets directly from the app.
The social game on Facebook is lackluster and currently non-existent despite a proposed launch date of March 23. Marketers looking to integrate games into a campaign need to stick to launch deadlines to capitalize more effectively on pre-launch buzz. People looking for a more effective use of social gaming in entertainment marketing may want to look to the Game of Thrones social game launched last year or a host of in-game integrations other films have used.
While not every film is destined to break box office records, the marketing efforts behind the Hunger Games demonstrate how transmedia storytelling can help build anticipation for a film and more effectively bring fictional worlds to life through the use of social media.
Simeon Spearman, 03.26.2012