Experiential Marketing – The Best Way to Promote Movies?

Imagine taking a walk through Central Park, and in the middle of the park, you come across a big crowd gathered around a stage where a lone microphone stand sits. Some of the members in the crowd are dressed in Victorian clothing, why is that? All of a sudden, on the stage appears English Academy Award winning actor, Colin Firth, dressed in Victorian clothing as well. He steps up to the mic and starts talking about his movie, The King’s Speech. If this or something relative has ever happened to you, then you have witnessed what is known in the advertising world as “experiential marketing.”

  Experiential marketing is a form of promotion that uses elements of emotions, logic and general thought processes to connect with the consumer. Wouldn’t it be more interesting to be the person in the commercial rather than the person listening or watching the commercial? That’s what experiential marketing is all about.

  Recently, the film industry has been using this form of marketing to better help promote their movies. In July 2009, during Fourth of July weekend, a black helicopter was hovering 35 feet above the New Jersey shore, while a man was hanging out of the helicopter on a rope ladder. On the side of the helicopter, in big letters, was the logo for G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra. There was also the summer of 2006, when the movie Snakes on a Plane slithered its way into theaters. To help promote the movie, on its website was a recording featuring the movie’s main star, Samuel L. Jackson. If you put in a friend’s name, phone number and other info, they would be getting a call with Samuel L. Jackson’s recorded voice, prompting them to see the movie.

  To some experiential marketing is a fairly new form of advertising and it has been proven to be very successful in not only getting the attention of consumers, but in getting them to buy tickets to see the movie. In 1999, to help promote The Blair Witch Project, advertisers used the internet to suggest the events in the film were true and actual. As a reaction, the film with a low budget of $20,000 - $25,000 went on to become the third highest grossing independent film, just behind Paranormal Activity and Mad Max.

  However, as effective as experiential marketing is, there are tendencies for it to go in the wrong direction and cause some big problems. For example, the movie adaptation of the Adult Swim program, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, used a form of experiential marketing by placing lite-brite like items depicting a character called a Mooninite all over the city of Boston, Mass. This little stunt resulted in the infamous 2007 Boston Bomb Scare. The Turner Broadcasting Company ended up losing a good amount of money in lawsuits and their Aqua Teen Hunger Force Movie ended up becoming a bigger flop than an oversized pancake. Were the failing box office numbers of the movie a result of the 2007 Boston Bomb Scare? It’s a good guess.

  Besides that, experiential marketing is a great way to sell and raise awareness of the movie. By creating an experience for the consumers like having a helicopter fly over Jersey Shore or getting a phone call from Samuel L. Jackson telling them to see his movie about “MF-ing” snakes on a plane, the experience sticks in their minds and makes them curious as to what the movie is going to be like. By creating an experience to promote the movie, the movie industry hopes the movie you go see will be a real “experience.”

  Like what we had to say? Want to hear more about some of the experiential marketing we have done for our clients? Get in touch.