Thursday, March 22, 2012

What Authors and Publishers Can Learn from the Hunger Games Marketing Campaign, Part 2

Who's going to the midnight showing of The Hunger Games tonight? By show of hands? Pretty much everyone, from the looks of it, and with the brilliance of the movie's marketing plan (on top of the obvious brilliance of the books), it's no surprise.

Last week we started talking about how savvy authors and publishing pros might learn from the movie's fantastic marketing plan—first by building a bridge for existing fans and then by creating extra content to entice new ones. (If you missed Part 1, click here to read it now.) Now, let's talk about how to bend the odds in your favor by putting that extra content to use!

3.) Have a plan for all of your extra content. Lionsgate created an enormous amount of the content fans could go crazy for while pulling The Hunger Games together, but what made the campaign so successful was the careful order in which the studio released materials, and its impeccable timing. The studio started small, feeding conversations among fans, announcing the casting of minor roles, dropping the names of the major stars, and releasing the first character posters. And they built up to larger releases like the first photos from the set, short video teasers and new platforms for fans to talk, the first tracks from the movie soundtrack, and eventually full trailers released at just the right time to go viral in an explosive way. The bigger the content, the bigger the venue that released it; articles started in smaller publications and back-page arts sections, but by the time of the first promotional images from the set, major media outlets were hosting content exclusively and exposing it to whole new sets of potential fans. Fans couldn't have forgotten the movie was coming if they tried, and new people were introduced to it every day.

Why it matters for books: Lionsgate created lots of content right away, but they held their cards close to their chest and doled out one at a time, building tension much the way an author structures a good plot. By giving fans small bites of content but hinting at more to come, and by gradually building up to their biggest content, the studio created a near-constant feeling of excitement. Publishers and writers can build similar anticipation into their own marketing plans by strategically working up to the release of their own biggest content, like covers, trailers, and sample chapters. And strong fan interest in early releases can help convince sites with even bigger audiences, or audiences that haven’t yet been introduced to the series, to host the release of major materials and spark an explosive response.

4.) Work with what existing fans love to gain new ones. Throughout the planning and creation of the Hunger Games movie, Lionsgate has brought new fans on board by targeting what existing fans liked. The best example is the film’s soundtrack; though a Hans Zimmer or Howard Shore type might have been the obvious choice, the studio turned instead to fans’ favorite artists to build an unexpected tracklist. The soundtrack targeted the favorite singers of the series’ teen fans (from Taylor Swift to Arcade Fire), giving them one more hook to buzz about. Then the studio announced tracks from bands popular with a slightly older and decidedly different crowd (see mainly: The Decemberists), and existing fans squealed while a new and huge musical fan base got their first doorway into film fandom. Very smart indeed.

Why it matters for books: Marketers and savvy authors must know their audience. That means knowing not just who they are but also what they like beyond a specific book. Can a tour be arranged with the audience’s other favorite authors? Could you create a playlist for the book including some of their favorite bands? Can their favorite song be in the trailer? Can an artist fans love do sketches of the main characters? Can a Pinterest board or Tumblr of images in the theme of the book draw fans’ interest? The brilliance of all these plans is that they’ll appeal to an existing fan base, but people won’t need to be a fan in order to get something out of them. You’ll know you’re doing it right when an existing fan finds that extra content and it reminds them of a friend who may never have heard of the author or book—and bingo, you may just have earned a new fan.

What do you think of the Hunger Games marketing campaign? Any more tips or ideas based on everything that’s been done?

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