The practice of viral marketing through digital and social media channels is called transmedia storytelling; this technique aims to distribute a story through multiple platforms with your audience’s help. If you could make your fandom share your brand’s message, that would be the ultimate success, because “spreadability” is essential to this purpose.
One of the most successful examples of viral practices in transmedia storytelling is the Hunger Games’ campaign for the release of the movie Catching Fire. The Hunger Games novels depict a post-apocalyptic nation called ‘Panem’, where one lavish Capitol rules over twelve starving districts. The enslaved districts are forced to participate in a yearly competition that they call The Hunger Games.
The Transmedia Storytelling Campaign
In 2013, Lionsgate Entertainment and Ignition Creative joined efforts to make fans participate in the advertising of the movie Catching Fire; with that purpose, they put forward a mix of social media campaigns across platforms like YouTube, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Usually, a movie marketing campaign obtains brand awareness, mainly through advertising on movie posters, cinemas, TV, social media, websites, or YouTube trailers. However, this time, the marketers devised a complex and ambitious plan that started seven months before tickets were available. Challenges and awards were central in the campaign. The Hunger Games marketer’s strategy produced a huge amount of fan-created content. Fan art and videos spread the word among non-fans too, setting a record for the greatest opening weekend for any movie ever in November.
Characteristics of Transmedia Brand Storytelling
The BBC Academy explains that Transmedia brand storytelling tells stories “across TV, radio, games, apps, novels, social media, online or anywhere a story can unfold.”
According to Professor Henry Jenkins, transmedia storytelling is “the ideal aesthetic form for an era of collective intelligence”; however, the author warns, this science requires a “high degree of coordination across the different media sectors.”
Professors Sawhney and Goodman affirm that this strategy is used by successful brands “to differentiate themselves and to enhance audience interest and engagement.”
Catching Fire: The Successful Recipe
To start, the Catching Fire creative agency decided that they will not call their followers “fans” but “citizens”. As a result, the citizens participated enthusiastically in the plot.
Fans also competed in games and earned points to unlock badges and win rights.
First, mysterious clues appeared on billboards showing futuristic fashion with the logo “Capitol Couture”. Intrigued, people searched on Google for the words “Capitol Couture”, and they landed on a Tumblr site with information on the movie.
The Tumblr site led citizens to Capitol’s links on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram. The Capitol Couture website was designed like an online magazine and celebrated the “achievements of the Capitol in art, fashion, and design.” A section called “Citizen Activity” invited citizens to showcase their fashion creations, indirectly turning them into brand ambassadors.
Catching Fire’s channel, CapitolTV, created a playlist on YouTube called District Voices. The campaign asked citizens and celebrities like iJustine to produce videos for Capitol TV. In the District voices playlist, each video exemplified the characteristics of the different districts. District 6’s had assault vehicles, and District 5’s had renewable energy.
Tumblr’s visitors clicked on Facebook’s icon and were redirected to One Panem on Facebook. The Capitol and each district had its own page there. Citizens were prompted to identify the district they belonged. The page requested feedback and posed questions like “What do you hope to see in the new Panem?” Facebook also launched the film’s teaser.
Twitter featured the film’s official trailers and post realistic announcements to Panem’s citizens; for example, threatened punishment to the ones who disobeyed the order: “movement beyond your district is forbidden”. Citizens participated on Twitter through @TheCapitolPN. Here, links re-directed them to the main website. One of the challenges: “Be Fabulous, Be Capitol, Be Seen”, moved citizens to post their Capitol-style fashion photos with the hashtag #CapitolStyle.
The Lionsgate campaign on Instagram focused on fashion. The film’s futuristic outfits were displayed on Instagram’s @OnePanem for young fashion-conscious hipsters to share it.
Lessons from Catching Fire
The promotional social media campaign demonstrated a profound understanding of the movie’s niche fan base. The marketers made fans participate profusely in the challenges and connect with other fans. As a result, fans produced user-generated content. The lesson we learned is that a customized and integrated experience achieves higher levels of audience participation.
If you have any experience in this matter that you would like to share, please, let me know. I’m here to listen.
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