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Hall of Fame MVPs




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The Hunger Games



With an impressive four-straight weeks as the number one movie at the box office, the movie adaptation of the popular young adult book ‘The Hunger Games’ was the epitome of a marketing juggernaut.

Of special note, and what has earned them enshrinement as the third honoree to receive the iMedia HoFMVP honor, is the excellent use of interactive media and social media channels to reach a new level of connectivity and interactivity with fans of the book, turning that rabid fan community into movie ticket buyers.

One could argue that The Hunger Games had a perfect storm of circumstances that lead to its runaway success in the iMedia arena when it came to marketing the movie. The demographics of the built-in fan base – from the novels – skews to heavy social media users (teens and young adults). That being a prime target audience for the movie, a cornucopia of social and digital media technologies were at the fingertips of marketers to leverage toward a successful marketing campaign.

In essence, Lionsgate and those behind The Hunger Games film had their own ‘playbook’ on how to utilize all the channels they had at their disposal to make the movie the box office record-breaker it was.
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One of the keys to their success, and what landed them here as an iMedia HoFMVP, was that 'playbook' approach to utilize all available interactive and social media channels.

Rather than utilizing the ‘viral’ approach, relying on the fickle winds of the Internet to spread their message, hoping to catch ‘lightning in a bottle’ so-to-speak (something most tend to do when trying to market in the iMedia arena), the marketing team behind The Hunger Games had an integrated plan to incorporate multiple platforms – Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and the official movie website.

They planned and scripted everything, creating an itinerary/schedule of releasing various aspects of the iMedia marketing campaign. Going into the process, the team understood the value of leveraging social media technologies and took the planning and incorporation of them seriously. This planning allowed for the message to be conveyed in a controlled and organized manner, rather than just throwing something out there and hoping that someone makes a ‘meme’ of it to spread around.

Another key piece of their iMedia HoFMVP honor is the content and phrasing of the messaging. The team understood the interactive nature of the social media and iMedia arena, and utilized that to engage fans. Simply put – they asked questions. Things posted were formatted in a way to invite feedback and discussion (i.e. - "What would you do ..." and "What do you think of ..."), engaging the audience in the two-way conversation that is iMedia. They leveraged the power of social media and iMedia technologies to organize and entice the existing fan base – those who had read the book. Utilizing Facebook, Twitter and the like, the team created a place where fans could organize, utilize the tools inherent in the platforms to interact, engage and eventually become evangelists for the thing they love – The Hunger Games.


(Above) - One of the Facebook plays from The Hunger Games playbook. Star from the film, Elizabeth Banks, welcomes fans to The Hunger Games Facebook page with a video posted to the page's timeline.

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A third piece of their successful playbook was that The Hunger Games was able to, leveraging the iMedia and social media tools, recreate the fictional world from the books – Panem, districts and all. This move was huge in terms of drawing fans into the fictional world from the books, creating a virtual Panem online and in social media.

For example, the Facebook ‘District’ pages were created with structure, one similar to the districts in the book. There was a mayor and a square for people to gather, along with a blogger, journalist and recruiter – with the intention of spreading the word from the districts, being active participants in the Facebook District. One may be wary of attempting to place structure or order to something online like a Facebook page, thinking that might stifle interaction and creativity. Here, it actually encouraged it. By further adding to the creation of the fictional Panem online, having the structure be what a fan of the book would be accustomed to encouraged interaction and participation, contributing to the fantasy of living in Panem with Katniss, Gale and Peeta.

You could even get your own District Identification Pass (a Panem ID card in other words), becoming an official citizen.

By working to recreate Panem online, it provided an arena to share sneak peeks and exclusive content, further drawing fans in by creating the aura of exclusivity. The format invites people into the world of Panem to play along, to get lost in the fictional world of the books they have come to know and love. All this works to deepen the connection between the fan and The Hunger Games, strengthening the emotional tie, further solidifying their interest, growing it to evangelical status.
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In the same vein of recreating the world of Panem online, there’s Capitol Couture, a Tumblr-based blog. Building on the characterization of The Capitol from the books – where outrageous and extravagant outfits, decadence and appearances are what matters – The Hunger Games team created in essence a fashion/culture magazine about and for those in The Capitol. Capitol Couture takes one of the points of the book – the extravagant and eccentric dress and lifestyle of Capitol residents – and expands on it, widening and deepening the world of Panem online, further adding to the connection and fantasy of being a citizen of Panem. Early access to the blog required fans to locate the password (#lookyourbest), which creates the feeling of exclusivity, in line with the portrait of The Capitol as a place for the well-off. Capitol Couture invited you into the decadent world of The Capitol, as though you were a citizen reading the latest issue of a high society magazine.
Rounding out the idea of building Panem online is writing style. Communications – tweets, posts, updates, website content – stuck to the form as though there were written by someone in The Hunger Games universe. Little things like staying in character when composing content can prove to be powerful aides in keeping the illusion going. Having things written an inside character point of view further immerses fans in the experience of being a part of Panem.
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A staple of any iMedia playbook is leveraging Twitter, in particular to conduct contests. The Hunger Games Advanced Screening Program presented by Nook had users tweet special hashtags to unlock their city to show the movie before its release. If your city was ‘unlocked’ you were entered into a drawing for free tickets to the showing.

Twitter was again the platform of choice for those behind the film to launch another social online event – a scavenger hunt under the @TheCapitolPN Twitter handle. In December 2011, 100 days before the release of the film, The Hunger Games team conducted a 100-piece scavenger hunt across 100 different websites to reveal the newest movie poster (below). This is a prime example of the extensive planning and forethought put into the social aspect of marketing The Hunger Games. You can’t pull off a promotion like this without some serious planning and orchestration.
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The Hunger Games had the social gaming arena covered in their playbook as well. The Hunger Games: Girl on Fire iOS game from iPhone and iPad (left) and the obligatory Facebook game The Hunger Games Adventures (right).



Yahoo! not only conducted a giveaway promotion to win tickets to the red carpet premiere of the film, they provided a live stream of the red carpet premiere hosted on Facebook to those who did not win. Key to that contest was the more you shared socially, the more entries you received.
Looking at how The Hunger Games team leveraged iMedia so well -- what was in their playbook -- is one thing, but the other side of the equation is understanding why it worked. Constructing an effective playbook worthy of HoFMVP honors comes from understanding why the different tools work, what you need to do with the tools beyond posting and updates.

A huge part of why it all worked is that their playbook drew people into the story. Between the websites, ‘tour’ photos, the Tumblr blog, the Twitter feeds and Facebook pages – it created the sense of being in the world of Panem. Visiting the pages and interacting on the sites deepened the connection and identification with the material/product/story. The aforementioned existing fan community – the readers of the books – already had the world of Panem in their mind’s eye, in their imagination. The iMedia playbook used by The Hunger Games team took that imaginary vision of Panem and brought it to life, made it real and tangible. All this reinforced the fantasy, the connection to the world of Panem and the world of The Hunger Games.

The Hunger Games' iMedia playbook was not just about collecting likes or page views. Content was built to engage the emotions, to make the characters real, to take them from the imagination of the readers to the screen. The characters they read about and rooted for (or against), the characters that they pictured as they read were now in front of them. This another key pillar as to why The Hunger Games' playbook worked. They got that it’s not just about impressions, but its how you get people to respond and act on what is shared. If you can go beyond the superficial to making a deep connection, that is a HoFMVP-caliber achievement.

A good old-fashioned marketing technique was drafted into The Hunger Games' playbook -- leave them wanting more. Through all the social media, the iMedia, the content sharing, the behind-the-scenes peeks, the blogs, the trailers and previews, one thing was conspicuously absent -- the Games themselves. Nothing was ever shown of the actual Games from the story at all. By not telling the whole story, they left an air of mystery around the film, leaving the biggest question - what the Games would look like - unanswered. This appealed to both readers of the book (how will the Games be portrayed in the film) and the non-readers (what are the Games? How do they look? (no basis from the book from which to imagine)).

Bottom line, The Hunger Games team invested in social from the start. From the very beginning, it wasn’t just about pages, widgets, apps and activities. They got what social is – the conversation and the interaction – and they actively pursued that end. The campaign was structured to encourage the interaction. It wasn’t out to collect fans and page views, getting the total numbers up -- it was to build fans of the books/series/story into evangelists, louder champions for your message, your brand.
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The Hunger Games team gets that the fans are the best marketing tool. Rabid, vocal champions for the brand, for the product are the best team members to build up The Hunger Games and The Hunger Games brand -- especially with at least two more films on the way to finish out the trilogy.

But you have to reward the interaction, the devotion, that evangelism for your brand. If fans are going to put in the time and effort to share and interact, they should feel like they are getting something for their effort – exclusive content, special behind-the-scenes pictures or videos, things of that nature. The Hunger Games' playbook did just that, empowering fans, giving them a platform to spread the word, to share with like-minded fanatics of The Hunger Games, to connect to the larger The Hunger Games community. Central to The Hunger Games' Facebook page are the fans -- photos of fans from premiers from theaters across the country, fans can earn District Badges, become District Mayors and even be featured on the official Facebook page as Fan of the Week.

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With at least two more films on the way to complete the trilogy, The Hunger Games team has to have an eye on the long-term. A key piece to keep this iMedia success from being a flash in the social media pan is to keep the various platforms updated -- keep the social media marketing juggernaut at least idling so-to-speak. Utilizing this strong social media base to keep the community engaged -- hyping up the DVD/Blu-ray release, sharing behind the scenes content from the next film, any type of special content or contest to keep the fans engaged, the pages active and the community thriving.

If the online and social media presence goes stale, The Hunger Games community that has been so carefully and expertly built-up will lose people. Some of the hardcore fans will stay, but the idea is to build the community, keep everyone engaged to build the success of the franchise.

With such a comprehensive and expansive playbook, a diverse and established online presence and social media community, the odds are definitely ever inThe Hunger Games' favor to continue to build interest and excitement through the remaining films and beyond.
The Hunger Games - Hall of Fame MVP honoree #3.