As I’m sure you all know, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was released in theaters recently. It was sitting pretty as the #1 movie worldwide for three weeks in a row. But have you stopped to think about how and why it’s impossible for there to be anyone who didn’t know this movie was coming out? Here’s the key: marketing diversity. Chris Heiler outlines the basics of diverse marketing in this handy little chart.
As you can see, it’s crucial to have a variety of marketing techniques in order to ensure that your message gets seen by as many different audiences as possible. Your brand may not have the colossal marketing budget of The Hobbit but there are still plenty of things you can copycat from the Warner Bros.’ marketing department. Let’s go on adventure through all of The Hobbit’s marketing techniques!
Co-branding with Denny’s
We’ll start our quest with the unexpected journey that The Hobbit took by teaming up with Denny’s. Denny’s released a special Hobbit-themed menu featuring yummy food straight out of Middle Earth like the “Hobbit Hole Breakfast,” “The Ring Burger,” and “Frodo’s Pot Roast Skillet.” The menus also contain QR codes that fans can scan for exclusive content. Plus, you get a pack of Hobbit trading cards with every Hobbit entre, and each pack of trading cards includes a coupon for your next journey to Denny’s. This partnership may seem odd at first glance, but when you think about how hobbits enjoy breakfast, second breakfast, elevenses, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, and supper, it makes sense that a 24-hour diner like Denny’s would team up with The Hobbit.
Billboards, commercials, posters
As The Hobbit’s release date approached you couldn’t go to any movie theater, drive down any street, or watch TV on any channel without seeing an advertisement for the film. As of this writing, Warner Bros. has released 16 different TV spots for The Hobbit. The Hobbit was also featured in collector’s editions of Rolling Stone and Empire Magazine. By using traditional advertising The Hobbit was able to get as many eyes on their marketing materials as possible. For example, this poster was not only distributed online, but also plastered in magazines, bus stops, and even painted in a giant mural in New York City!
Public speaking appearances
The cast and crew of the Hobbit of course partook in the typical TV appearance tour. They’ve appeared in interviews both on TV and online with VH1, MTV, Nerdist, Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, and many other shows and sites. A highlight of their media tour was “Hobbit week” on The Colbert Report. In addition to televised appearances and interviews, they’ve also appeared at several press conferences and conventions. For example, at ComicCon, 12 minutes of footage from the film was screened only to fans who appeared at The Hobbit’s panel. Following the panel there was plenty of time for a Q&A with Peter Jackson, Andy Serkis, Sir Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, and several other cast members. The Hobbit’s presence at Comic Con really got the ball rolling on building anticipation for the film.
Here at QLP we love The Hobbit so much that we’ve already published a blog post dedicated solely to The Hobbit merchandise. Brands like Funko, The Noble Collection, Weta Workshop, and especially the Warner Bros. store have a wide variety of Hobbit merchandise up for grabs. Personally, I’m rocking my own Evenstar necklace. There were also several Lego sets based on The Hobbit, plus a Lego Lord of the Rings video game. Needless to say, nerds everywhere rejoiced.
Partnership with New Zealand
Since The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings were filmed in New Zealand, the films are a pretty big selling point and attraction for New Zealand. New Zealand and The Hobbit went all out in a partnership to promote the film and to draw tourists to the country. For starters, a massive Gollum sculpture was installed in the Wellington Airport in New Zealand. A real life version of The Green Dragon Inn, a pub featured in The Lord of the Rings, opened in New Zealand in preparation for the film. Perhaps the most talked about marketing effort was the Hobbit-themed in-flight safety video for Air New Zealand.
The Hobbit’s Facebook page is my favorite part of their marketing strategy. By simply “liking” the page fans gained access to exclusive content, giveaways, games, and updates on the film’s progress. Before the movie released there was exclusive behind-the-scenes content shared, first looks at posters, trailers, film stills, PICTURES OF THE CAST WITH THEIR LEGO MINIFIGS, etc.
The best part of their Facebook strategy is that once the film was released, the account didn’t just sit inactive and start collecting dust. The account is still very much active (because there are still DVD sales to promote and 2 more movies on the way!), and still provides exciting content to fans. After the movie was released an album was created to show off fans’ costumes at the midnight premiere. Now they share a new image every day with a “Dwarven word of the day,” shared still photos of The Hobbit’s characters in action to wish fans “Happy Holidays,” post about their featured fan of the week, and they’ve even released the first look at the next film, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, which comes out next year!
The Hobbit posts a lot of the same content as their Facebook page on Twitter. However, the rapidfire nature of Twitter also allows for unique marketing experiences. For example, before the film fans were able to ask Sir Ian McKellen questions as he replied in real time during an Ask Gandalf Twitter Q&A. He had some pretty witty responses!
— The Hobbit (@TheHobbitMovie) December 6, 2012
I’d prefer to spend the evening with Aragorn, but the night with Legolas.
— The Hobbit (@TheHobbitMovie) December 6, 2012
Perhaps the most useful tool for The Hobbit’s marketing team, Youtube allowed fans to get as much sneak-peak, behind-the-scenes footage as possible. Official trailers were released via Youtube, in addition to production videos. The official Hobbit Youtube channel worked hand in hand with Peter Jackson’s personal Youtube channel in order to promote the film. Of course, they didn’t just stick the videos on Youtube and wait for the views to come. Everything posted on Youtube was cross-promoted on Facebook, Twitter, the official website, and the blog. Here’s an example of one of the many behind the scenes production videos posted to get fans excited about the movie:
You couldn’t (and still can’t) go anywhere online without coming across an article about The Hobbit. In particular, Warner Bros. used online editorials to tease fans about the soundtrack. First they released one song from the soundtrack, “Song of the Lonely Mountain” by Neil Finn, on RollingStone. Just one day later, fans were allowed to stream the entire soundtrack early on Empire.
Of course it doesn’t stop there. Online editorial content played a crucial role in filling in fans about behind the scenes action and helping fans get to know the cast and crew of The Hobbit. For example, this really awesome article about the actor’s make-up and costume transformations in The New Zealand Herald let’s fans see how the make-up team transformed the actors for the film. Besides strategically placed articles officially sponsored and provided thanks to permissions and interviews from Warner Bros. and The Hobbit cast and crew, nerd blogs everywhere exploded every time new information about the film was released.
A major driving force for all of The Hobbit’s online buzz was the official Hobbit blog. The blog served as a voice for all Hobbit media and news releases. The blog hosted Peter Jackson’s production video blogs, trailers, footage from the world premiere, posters, and all other news related to The Hobbit. It was essentially a one-stop-shop for fans who wanted to know all the details about the film before its release.
Last, but certainly not least, is The Hobbit’s website. The website serves as a hub to tie all of the online marketing for The Hobbit together in one place. In addition to all of the photos, videos, downloads, and information fans could possibly want, the site also features interactive games and activities like Recipes from Middle Earth, the Dwarf Combat Training game, and the Riddles in the Dark puzzle game featured below. Everywhere you click on the site leads to fun, visually captivating content to engage Lord of the Rings and Hobbit fans.
As you can see, The Hobbit covered every single possible base when it comes to marketing diversity. Even if you don’t have a Warner Bros.-sized budget, you can still learn a lot of important things about marketing from how they marketed The Hobbit. One thing all of these marketing efforts have in common is that they are fan-centric. Everything was created and distributed based on the fans’ obsession with all things Middle Earth. So by releasing boatloads of exclusive content, fans were able to fully immerse themselves in The Hobbit long before the film released. So you need to get to know your brand’s audience and give them what they crave.
Another thing The Hobbit did really well that you can mimic? Cross-promoting. Promote your Youtube channel on your blog, share your blog posts on social media, tell fans to follow you online with your traditional print advertisements, sell your merchandise at conventions and promote your trade show booth on Facebook … this list goes on and on. You are your biggest fan, so do what you can to promote your own marketing efforts!
What do you think? Which marketing strategies do you think were the most successful for “The Hobbit”? Is there any Hobbit marketing that I missed? Sound off in the comments below!