Four social media strategies for movies that brands can learn from

As the 2015 Golden Globes winners are unveiled this Sunday (11 January), OLIVER’S social media manager Paul Raffaelli picks four great movie social media marketing campaigns that brands can emulate.

It was without doubt one of 2014’s biggest movie social media buzzes: in three days the trailer for Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens had combined YouTube views of 70m. You’ve probably watched it, maybe even tweeted it and if not, you’ve definitely seen a friend drool over it in your Facebook feed.

Social campaigns to boost anticipation of a film’s impending release are now commonplace, as part of heavily integrated marketing pushes in advance of movie-goers setting foot in the multiplex.

And yes, Tinseltown has large budgets and even bigger celluloid allure. But at the heart of the following social media strategies that have brought movie fiction to life, there are lessons that everyday brands can learn.

1. The content strategy

Toy Story 3 (2010)

To promote this film, Pixar did what it does best: create catchy, short video content that hooked fans in and got people talking and sharing. This worked so well organically for Pixar because of a deep-rooted connection with its audiences, thanks to Toy Story videos created for super-fans pre-dating social media.

The campaign objective was to reach original Toy Story fans, those in their 20s who are on YouTube and Facebook daily and who had first experienced Woody and Buzz in 1994.

Short videos were released a month before the film, ranging from fake retro TV ads featuring the film's bad guy, Lots-o'-Huggin' Bear, ​to dating tips and life advice from Ken​, Barbie's boy toy. These introductions to new Toy Story characters appealed to a wide audience by spoofing childhood memories in a typical Pixar tongue-in-cheek way and left us wanting more. This helped Pixar clock up an impressive 5m video views collectively, with plenty of organic sharing.

Lesson for brands: Short, sharp content creation can generate a very real buzz by keeping things simple, true to your brand ethos to enable conversation on social platforms where your target audience reside.

2. The influencer strategy

Pitch Perfect (2012)

If you're looking for a case study to sell the value of collaboration with an influential vlogger to your agency or brand, then Pitch Perfect is it.

By partnering with cappella singer/songwriter Mike Tompkins and his 1.5m YouTube subscribers, Pitch Perfect created video content that captured the fun, upbeat feeling of the film aimed at teenagers and 20-somethings.

People were encouraged to send in clips of themselves singing rapper Nicki Minaj’s Starships, which were then mixed with Mike’s performance and those of the film’s stars. This simple yet slick video was posted a month before the film’s release on Mike’s YouTube channel, clocking up over 13m ‘relevant views’ by Mike’s subscribers, a niche group who love acappella singing and are exactly the kind of people who would love this film.

Lesson for brands: By working with an internet celebrity and vlogger with Mike’s authority and reach into the film’s target audience interests, Pitch Perfect achieved text-book demographic targeting and direct contact with its audience.

3. The character strategy

Ted (2012)

By the time Universal released Ted on the big screen, the studio had already developed a much-loved character online. Ted’s success on social media came from three things: a distinctive tone of voice for the character; knowing what Ted fans’ interests were; and using existing connections with solid online communities.

Universal launched Ted social channels, with Ted memes being shared over 20+ partner Facebook pages, including those of shows such as Family Guy and The Office. These pages had a combined following of over 90m who were highly engaged and the correct demographic for the loveable, rude bear.

Ted’s outrageous tone of voice is the perfect positioning for social media when targeting young 20-something males. This shone through on both Facebook and Twitter, with Ted commenting on current affairs and quickly growing a social following of 8.5m at the time of the film’s launch.

Lesson for brands: Since then Universal has grown Ted’s social audience to over 22m, so that when Ted 2 is unveiled later this year, there exists a fantastic audience of fans to tap into. This always-on approach is a rare investment in the film world, but should be a staple strategy for consumer brands.

4. The viral video strategy

Carrie (2013)

The creators of horror remake Carrie knew exactly what their young horror fan audience wanted, and they gave it to them with this perfectly executed scare prank.

Shot in a coffee shop, which was open for business as usual with regular patrons grabbing a coffee when this scare fest unfolded, made for more realistic reactions.

Very quickly the viral amassed almost 2m social fans across YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Vine, Snapchat and Twitter, sparking word-of-mouth online and off, prior to the film release.

Lesson for brands: Use video to leverage the full panoply of social channels to get the widest possible reach.

Paul Raffaelli is social media manager at OLIVER. Additional contributors: Alan Bryant and Carina Sullivan, community managers, OLIVER. You can follow Paul Raffaelli on Twitter @therafterman; Alan Bryant @alanscottbryant and Carina Sullivan @carina100

Get The Drum Newsletter

Build your marketing knowledge by choosing from daily news bulletins or a weekly special.

Come on in, it’s free.

This isn’t a paywall. It’s a freewall. We don’t want to get in the way of what you came here for, so this will only take a few seconds.