On March 25, 2016, Batman v Superman opened to a record $170.1 million in North America, the No. 6 opening of all time, and this is despite receiving less than stellar reviews and being criticized by many Marvel comic book fans.  Overseas, the movie made $254 million for a total opening gross of $424.1 million, making it the No. 1 superhero launch in cinematic history.  You may be asking how this is even possible.  The answer is Warner Bros.’ marketing campaign.  From Twitter accounts to Super Bowl ads and even charity contests – Warner Bros.’ brilliant viral marketing strategy infiltrated the movie goers’ subconscious.  And here’s how they did it.

Feel-Good Charity Work

Everyone knows Batman and Superman and what they represent – the ultimate superheroes, the “do-gooders.”  In a sweet marketing spot, Warner Bros. had Henry Cavill (Superman) ask children the simple questions: Batman or Superman?  By watching the ad, you had a chance to win the ultimate Batman v Superman experience: ride in the Batmobile, fly in a helicopter with Henry, meet Ben Affleck and photo bomb the red carpet premiere with Jesse Eisenberg.  Each time you entered, you were able to donate money to a different charity (Eastern Congo Initiative, the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and SEED Project) which was highlighted in the rotating spots.   The causes were all personally chosen by the film’s three stars.


Storytelling

Amazon partnered with Warner Bros. to create an interactive murder mystery radio show (The Wayne Investigation) which allowed consumers and Alexa (Amazon Echo) to navigate Gotham right after Bruce Wayne’s parents are murdered.  Think high tech story time for adults!  The Batman franchise was the first storytelling franchise to use Alexa in this manner.

Navigation

Warner Bros. left no stone unturned and even had Morgan Freeman become a downloadable voice on Waze, a navigation app.  Suddenly Morgan Freeman is navigating you around town and through traffic!

Social Media

Everyone loves to hate the bad guy, and Lex Luthor is no exception, especially in Batman v Superman.  Many people were unhappy with Warner Bros.’ decision to cast Jesse Eisenberg as the iconic villain’s son.  In order to make him more likable, the marketing department decided to make Lex Luthor Jr. a real person.  What is more real than getting a social media account like Twitter?  Suddenly Lex Jr. is tweeting and appearing in magazine articles.  His company LexCorp even offered free WiFi at New York Comic Con.  Genius!

Gotham vs Metropolis

Viral Marketing: TimeOutGotham1
The Batman and Superman franchises are both set in fictionalized versions of Manhattan (Gotham and Metropolis respectively).  These two settings were the last pieces of the marketing campaign’s focus.  From an entire Time Out guide created for both cities to Super bowl ads with Bruce Wayne and Lex Luthor enticing you to travel to Gotham and Metropolis, we were all wanting to pack our bags and be first in line at the premiere.

From strategic digital partnerships with Facebook, Snapchat, Amazon and more, to providing exclusive live-streaming content during the NCAA’s March Madness, to making fictional cities travel destinations and donating money to charity, Warner Bros.’ marketing department proved a critical point with their viral campaign.  Not only does marketing matter but a multi-channel approach to marketing is critical.  Warner Bros. spent approximately $175 million on a worldwide marketing campaign for Batman v Superman. Only $28 million was spent on TV trailer spots. Close to $150 million was spent on “everything else.”  This staggering figure is unheard of, but it worked.

It begs the question: if a movie studio doesn’t have a diversified marketing approach but a movie receives great reviews can it have as successful of an opening?

We don’t think so.  Do you?

Picture and Video Credits: Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

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