As it did with millions of other fans around the world, "The Hunger Games" trilogy completely captured my imagination. I picked up the books about a year ago and read all three in less than two weeks. And I don't even read very fast!
Of course, as soon as I caught word that Hollywood was turning the franchise into feature films, I had to hop online to do my research. I lapped up every bit of casting news and waited with bated breath to catch my first glimpse of the trailer. And when the trailer arrived, I made sure to share it with my fellow fans/friends who were just as diehard as me. Little did I know at the time that I played directly into the hands of the marketing team behind the film.
While conducting interviews for this video, my team and I learned from a marketing expert that the behavior I exhibited when sharing that trailer is called peer-to-peer endorsement. And for a publicity campaign it's considered gold, since a recommendation is always more credible when coming from a friend versus an advertiser.
For "The Hunger Games," the marketing team at Lions Gate Entertainment developed a social-networking framework on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr for fans to then create a community. For example, the studio put together 13 Facebook pages related to the film, one for each of the districts or states in the book's fictitious country. On those pages, Lions Gate encouraged fans to run for mayor of the district, apply for a district ID card, and then follow links to more blogs and photos. Of course, all along the way, you can find buttons and links to help you purchase tickets for opening weekend. The final step, or call to action, is to share all of that activity with your network so the cycle can begin again. In short, that's called going viral.
Another noteworthy component of this marketing campaign is the amount of user-generated content. Because of the story's dedicated fan base, dozens and dozens of additional promotional Web sites were created. People started Facebook pages for their mayoral campaigns and blogs for behind-the-scenes production photos and gossip. And my personal favorite: a name-generating Web site that assigns "Hunger"-style names to visitors.
Combine the kind of buzz generated by the "Hunger" film with the viral nature of the organized marketing campaign, and you've got a hyped up fan base, ready to throw down some cash to see the film. And with any luck, it'll actually be a good movie.