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The Hunger Games Teaches Us That Timing Really Is Everything

I’ll be honest with you: I think I made my way through all three books of The Hunger Games series in less than a week. So, when the studio slowly started releasing images and interactive web sites associated with the first movie, I was in the loop and sharing the content with my friends. We were so excited about all the hype surrounding the movie that we even went to see it at midnight when it opened, and we were not disappointed—or ashamed. Maybe we should have been. (Although the most embarrassing part of the whole experience was this completely ridiculous teaser for the final movie of the Twilight Saga.)

You didn’t have to be an advertising industry expert to see how Lionsgate slowly built hysteria around The Hunger Games. The whole thing was like a scavenger hunt, giving Hunger Games fanatics the opportunity to interact with the series directly through traditional and non-traditional media, and build a connection with the movie before it even opened.

And to great success. The Hunger Games was predicted to make $90 million during its opening weekend—it raked in $155 million.

It goes without saying that the real star of The Hunger Games movie wasn’t Jennifer Lawrence or the incredibly good-looking Liam Hemsworth—it was the social marketing push, which the New York Times’ Brooks Barnes sums up nicely in this article about how the franchise generated “must-see fever.” What brands can learn from The Hunger Games is that the more subtle, phased approach builds suspense and drives interest in a product—even if the audience already knows the story. By serving products up piece-by-piece, brands make fans feel like they discovered them on their own. It is that sense of ownership that builds true loyalty, and in return, a record-breaking opening weekend.

So, when you’re working on your next campaign, think about the who, what and where—but also think about the when. Knowing the best time to reach your audience is what will get you ahead in the game.

SXSW 2012: Brands, Buzz and Breakfast

DGC is still recovering from a great week at South By Southwest. Now that we’ve fully digested the panel sessions, brand activations and many fried carbs, we want to share some of our highlights:

Favorite Brand Activation:  Tie between Amex and Chevy

Why?  Both provided true value to even the most grizzled SXSW veterans. In Chevy’s case, its “Catch a Chevy” program gave those of us with barking dogs and a waning patience for expensive shuttle service a comfy ride to off-campus panels. Amex’s promotion showed us that simply having an Amex and a willingness to Tweet on behalf of brands spells big rewards for cardholders – like exclusive tickets to a Jay-Z show. While two lucky DGC-ers were in line to see Jay in a 2,000-person venue, we heard more than one person say, “I’m so glad I have an Amex.”  Now that’s brand loyalty.

Favorite Panel Takeaways:  Curation and tech start-up culture

With Pinterest’s skyrocketing popularity, it’s not surprising that curation was one of the week’s “buzziest” terms. In the publishing world, the debate was about how to give credit where it’s due, to both authors and the curators themselves.  For brands, the question is how to either become curators, or integrate seamlessly into a user’s curating experience. It will be interesting to see how that plays out in the future.

Also big this year was talk of how advertising should embrace a tech start-up culture – the Mark Zuckerberg “move fast and break things” philosophy. This means less and less of “the big idea” and many more small, nimble ideas. As ad exec Tim Leake put it: advertising in these times is no longer about telling a story, but inspiring one, listening to the conversation about your brands and saying – to borrow terms from Leake’s improv background – “yes…and” to that idea.

Favorite Food Truck: Tie between Whole Foods and Today Show

With all the foot traffic in downtown Austin,  the restaurants were almost as hard to get into as the packed early morning marketing sessions (and they were packed this year – most had a one-in, one-out policy). Branded Today Show trucks were serving up delicious breakfast from renowned chef Danny Meyer throughout the day and night.  And Whole Foods was in the right place, at the right time, with the right vegan chickpea sandwich when one DGC-er almost had a hunger meltdown.

When in Austin…

A group of DGCers is heading to Austin, TX, for SXSW Interactive again this year (March 9-13), and since they are now “experienced” attendees, we asked them what people should know to get the most they can from the experience, which seems to get more overwhelming each year.

Tips for attending: 

  • Don’t be afraid to approach speakers after attending their sessions. It’s all about networking—go shake hands!
  • Pace yourself. There is a LOT to see and do.  Study the schedules (panels as well as parties) and prioritize to make the most of your experience.
  • Missed the daily keynote because you were busy networking? Check it out online at http://sxsw.com/interactive/live.
  • Attend parties. There are many that are free and open to anyone with a badge (for a guide click here: http://austin.sanfranfreesco.com/event/filter?tagFilter=26). Try to attend:
    • The Mix at Six presented by Can We Network (3/9, 6pm)
    • The Interactive Opening Party presented by frog design and Microsoft (3/10, 8pm)
    • Mashable SXSWi House 2012 (3/11, 9pm)

Despite the high-tech atmosphere, it’s a good idea to take lots of business cards with you. Yes, the print kind. Maybe  Freshbooks and Shoeboxed will collaborate again as they did last year. This article tells how their brilliant promotion helped attendees organize all those wonderful new contacts people made at SXSW.

And check back here at The Hit Board which will be updated regularly by the on-site DGC team with trends, attendee insights and more.

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