Post-apocalyptic teen action movie The Hunger Games raked in a hefty $155 million during its debut weekend. With the third-highest opening weekend in history (behind Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and The Dark Knight), the film, based on Suzanne Collins’s novels, has established itself as the new pop culture phenomenon – one that is only just beginning.
Lionsgate, the studio behind The Hunger Games, strategically planned an immersive social media experience to engage and grow the fan base, a strategy that also increased print book sales from 9 million to 24 million. With the blurring of lines betweens books, e-books, enhanced e-books, apps, and related spin-offs, the book publishing industry is facing increased competition from other entertainment media, particularly when it comes to marketing savvy. Entertainment marketing increasingly thrives online, where engaging with fans and creating something exciting together can result in the snowball effect of word of mouth spread.The Hunger Games is a great example of using social media creatively to create a buzz around their product. The studio had a team of 21 people and spent a long time exacting their strategy, and the timing of events in their marketing plan. Here is a summary of some of what they did on the various platforms.
Blogs and websites
Lionsgate had dedicated portals on a wide variety of high-ranking blogs and websites that were used by their target audience, including MTV.com, PopSugar, Moviefone and The Huffington Post.
They also launched a website, TheCapitol.pn, where visitors could make digital ID cards as if they lived in Panem, the movie’s futuristic society. Over 800,000 people have created them. Ignite Social Media describes the process of ‘becoming a citizen of Panem’: “the system will register you as a citizen of Panem and assign you an occupation, district and Panem Citizen Number. Your District Identification Pass (DIP) also holds a QR code that scans back to the Capitol website. You can download your DIP as a Facebook profile or cover photo, Twitter profile photo, Google+ profile photo or even a mobile or tablet wallpaper image. You can also go as far as ordering a physical DIP through CafePress for free off Facebook. Unfortunately, you have to pay a few bucks for shipping but the ID card is good quality.”
Several online competitions were held in the run up to the movie release, including a sweepstakes to bring five fans to the movie’s North Carolina set, and a Hollywood Hunger Games on celebrity personality Ryan Seacrest’s website, pitting celebrities against each other for public affection.
In addition for the usual publishing of Hunger Games news, 13 Facebook pages were created to represent each of the districts in the film. Fans could become virtual "citizens" of each district, which could tie in to their Capitol ID card (if they had made one). Each District page has its own mayor, recruiter and journalist – enthusiastic fans who competed in elections held on the Facebook page and were elected to be administrators. Each position has a specific role in relaying communication to the District’s citizens – spreading the word on Twitter and other networks outside of Facebook.
A new Facebook game was launched after the premiere of the film, to keep fans engaged in the brand.
According to social media monitoring site Topsy, Hunger Games has been mentioned about 1 million times in the past 30 days. Aside from passing on news and information, Twitter was used to engage in immersive experiences of the world of the Hunger Games. Fans with Panem IDs were invited to campaign online to be elected mayor of various districts of Panem, with the public voting using selected hashtags. Another use of Twitter was a treasure hunt for 100 digital puzzle pieces that would form a new poster. A piece of the puzzle was given to 100 websites to be posted on Twitter with the Hunger Games hashtag. Fans had to search Twitter to put together the poster, making “The Hunger Games” a worldwide trending topic within minutes.
The Capitol TV channel was launched in February, airing movie footage, and fan-made videos garnering 23.5 million video views to date.
A lavish Tumblr site Capitol Couture was created to blog the unique style of characters in the film, and, in character, there is even a guide for what to wear to a fictional Hunger Games.
Involving fans = Incentive to engage further with the brand
By recreating the fictional world in several different online spaces, Lionsgate have been able to leverage fans’ enthusiasm and build huge communities around their brand. Fans in turn are rewarded with a rich experience and exclusive content.
For more detailed information on the campaign strategy and other marketing tactics, read through these articles: