Unless you have been hiding under a rock for the past six months, you have most likely witnessed some aspect of the Hunger Games craze that has swept the nation. (I’m not ashamed to admit that I have a bit of an obsession with the Games myself.) However, even if you roll your eyes at the newest ‘teen sensation’ it’s hard not to be impressed with the marketing campaign that has been rolled out in order to help create buzz for the movie’s release.
Even though the Hunger Games has been in theaters for two weeks now, it is still going strong, drawing more and more fans in and raking in more than $260 million to-date. While yes, it is an intriguing storyline, what is it that really sets this movie apart from its teeny-bopper counterparts (Twilight anyone?)? I think that part of its success is due to the studio’s implementation of a phased, yearlong digital effort that utilized content platforms that are highly used by their target demographic: near-constant use of Facebook and Twitter, a YouTube channel, a Tumblr blog, iPhone games and live Yahoo streaming from the premiere.
This process has allowed fans to interact with the storyline in a way that is non-threatening and allowed them to participate in the conversation. A couple of examples:
- In August a one-minute sneak peek previews online at MTV.com. The footage included a Twitter prompt through which fans could discover a web site for the movie that housed insider information and allowed users to create digital ID cards as if they lived in Panem (the country in which the story takes place). 800,000 cards were made.
- October included another Twitter stunt that allowed those ID makers to campaign online to be elected mayor of various districts of Panem.
- On Dec. 15, 100 days before the movie’s release, the studio created a new poster and cut it into 100 puzzle pieces. It then gave digital versions of those pieces to 100 web sites and asked them to post their puzzle piece on Twitter. Fans had to search Twitter to put together the poster, either by printing out the pieces and cutting them out or using a program like Photoshop. “The Hunger Games” trended worldwide on Twitter within minutes.
The studio did not want consumers thinking this was another instance of Hollywood trying to force-feed them a movie through professional filters. Danielle DePalma, senior vice president for digital marketing at Lionsgate, says it well: “People used to be O.K. with studios telling them what to like. Not anymore. Now it’s, ‘You don’t tell us, we tell you.’ ”
I have been looking forward to the movie coming out ever since I read the first book last year, but all of the social media hype made me even more excited to go see it. Which I did, along with two of my co-workers, and we were not disappointed.