I have been known to enjoy a good movie or two, and the recent releases of several summer blockbusters have demonstrated the effect of viral marketing as a major bullet in the gun of the big picture studios. Over the next several days, I am going to present a few case studies for your consideration, demonstrating the key part that viral marketing plays in the advertising of a product.
Prior to the release of The Dark Knight on July 18th, the movie industry was buzzing over this powerful summer blockbuster. But the one facet of viral verbosity that caught my ear was the role of The Joker, played by Heath Ledger. The word from the screen was that his performance was “convincing”, “Oscar worthy”, leaving his co-stars in awe. This hit the press about a week before the movie premiered and was reinforced by comments from the cast of the movie.
As you know, Heath Ledger died of a drug overdose on January 22nd, 2008, nearly six months before the movie was released. Around the time of his death, Google Trends tracked nearly 100 million searches on his name, with searches originating from all over the world. As you can imagine, a posthumous Oscar Nomination is an attractive “feel good story” for not only the academy, but for the people who paid the $158+ million dollars on opening weekend to become the top premier grossing movie of all time.
Don’t get me wrong, the performance was spectacular, and what little I know about Oscar nominations, he definitely deserves a nomination. But as a marketeer, you have to wonder what influence the “viral effect” had on the success of this movie. Was it the quality of this film that made this the $300+ million monster it has become? How about the advertising effort (from TV spots to alternative advertising in New York City)? Or was it the viral effect of Ledger’s untimely death, coupled with the viral accolades from trusted movie critics, supported by the viral nature of the Oscar nomination, grounded by the lingering buzz left by the first movie in the series (Batman Begins)?
I would argue all of the above. The 4 P’s of marketing were in full force for this movie launch, but the 5th P, the voice of People, may have been the loudest pillar of this great marketing story. Stay tuned for a few more examples of the “viral effect” in the entertainment industry.