I love movies. And I love movie marketing. Unlike toilet paper commercials, people actually look forward to and seek out movie campaigns. But with so many movies being released every year, how do you stand out from the crowd? The following are my favorite movie marketing campaigns from the past year.
X-Men: Days of Future Past
The marketing for this movie can be summed up in two posters. You know the ones . . .
Everyone’s back! Original cast AND First Class cast! And they are all badasses! Sold!
This movie is X-Men 7. People love this series. This movie sells itself. The point of these posters is to assure the audience that this movie is going to give us more of the same awesomeness that we’ve come to expect. In fact, the series is so iconic that the posters don’t even have the name of the movie on them.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy
Marvel is on fire! The studio has built such a strong brand. Starting with Iron Man in 2008, they have put out such consistently fun and entertaining action-adventure movies that people will see anything connected to the Marvel universe. Who is this Winter Soldier? Who are these Guardians? I have no idea. I’ll go see them anyway.
“Wait, who are these guys? What’s happening?” — me, a year ago
Guardians of the Galaxy was hardly a well known franchise. Unlike X-Men, which promised a plethora of reoccurring characters, Guardians of the Galaxy is a completely different story with a bunch of unknown, kind of weird characters. Nevertheless, Marvel turned it into the highest grossing movie of the year. (And Captain America is at #3.) That’s some pretty strong brand trust.
The marketing for Maleficent was simple and honest. Angelina Jolie is going to be Maleficent. And here’s a picture of her head. Done!
The campaign could have extended into other characters and images from the movie, but instead narrowed its focus to the most intriguing part — Angelina Jolie absolutely owning the role of the glamorous and terrifying villain. I saw the movie because I wanted to see Ms. Jolie in this iconic role. And the movie went on to gross over $750 million worldwide, so clearly I wasn’t the only one.
Sharknado 2: The Second One
Sharknado has burst into the cultural zeitgeist in a way that’s hard to explain. While it’s a little unclear what made it so much more successful than the likes of Dinocroc vs. Supergator, I’m not going to pretend that I didn’t love every ridiculous moment.
Syfy obviously jumped on this enthusiasm while promoting Sharknado 2. Michael Engleman, the Executive Vice President for Marketing, Digital and Global Brand Strategy at Syfy, sums it up nicely: “We’ve continued to build on our success by embracing the irreverent tone of the film itself as well as launching a dynamic array of social, digital, and second screen initiatives.”
Syfy was able to build up excitement for the sequel by embracing the fan enthusiasm. The idea to crowdsource the name on Twitter is a perfect example. (I personally would have gone for Sharknado 2: The Sharknado Awakens . . . Again . . . In Space.)
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
My evolving thoughts on Episode 7:
2012: Disney is making a new trilogy? Is this going to be a repeat of Cinderella 2? Why are you doing this to my childhood?
2013: Well, maybe it won’t be so bad. Disney did The Muppets and Avengers, and those were awesome. And the people working on it seem to really understand and appreciate the originals. Whatever, fine, I guess I’ll go see it.
Nov 23, 2014: A teaser trailer is coming out tomorrow? Bleh, I don’t want to buy into the hype a year in advance. I remember getting burned on the prequels. I’m remaining skeptical until I’ve actually seen the movie.
Nov 24, 2014: Watching the trailer . . . flashback to childhood . . . squeal! Okay, fine, now I’m excited. Are you happy?
The Lego Movie
Lego is my very favorite movie of the year. It is energetic, fun, and hilarious, and reminds adults of the joy of play and imagination. The Lego Movie succeeded because instead of selling the toys, it sold the ideals of the brand.
Kids love Legos because they are so fun and imaginative and feature a huge array of different characters and themes. But one of their best selling points is that parents love them too. For adults, Legos are nostalgic, educational, age-appropriate, and indestructible. Many parents remember playing with Legos when they were children, and they are delighted to see their children playing with them as well.
The movie tapped into this intergenerational enthusiasm. For kids, the movie was fun and colorful and exciting, and featured some of their favorite characters. But the movie also appealed to Gen X and Millennial adults by 1) tapping into their nostalgia, 2) featuring some of their favorite characters (Star Wars, 1980-Something Space Guy), 3) not moving at a mind-numbingly slow pace, and 4) being quite witty (without being inappropriate).
If the movie had been a big toy ad, adults would have left irritated. But by telling a great story about the importance of play and imagination, adults left feeling a real affinity for the brand (which of course led to a lot of toy sales). In 2014, Lego actually surpassed Mattel for the first time to become the world’s largest toy maker.
I’m not going to lie. I almost bought myself this double decker couch set for my desk:
And I can’t wait for the new Lego Batman movie coming out in 2017! #Darkness #NoParents
Box of Shame: Edge of Tomorrow
Poor Edge of Tomorrow. It has an impressive 90% critics and audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. The people who saw it loved it, but it didn’t do that well at the box office. I saw it months after it came out and was really surprised that it was so terrific.
As critic Alan Sepinwall from Hitfix put it, the movie is: “funny and clever and absolutely kick-ass, with great performances from Emily Blunt and Bill Paxton, and a very wise pivot of the usual Tom Cruise persona to acknowledge that many of us would probably enjoy seeing him humiliated, injured and killed as often as possible in a big-budget movie.”
Unfortunately, the marketing failed to show any of this personality. The ads made the movie look very generic and unmemorable. As Sepinwall adds, they “did such a terrible job of capturing the spirit of the movie.”
The title Edge of Tomorrow also sounds too generic. The story is based off of a book called All You Need is Kill. Presumably, the original title sounded too dark for a summer blockbuster, but the new title is very forgettable. The studio apparently agreed, as can be seen from the DVD cover: