Scare Tactics: How It’s Marketing Tactics Smashed the Horror Box Office

Horror movies always make for great weekend entertainment. They can also teach you a thing or two about marketing. Learn some great marketing tactics from the latest horror movie hit It, as well as other popular horror movies.  

Creating a sense of mystery

Horror movies are all about mystery and surprise. That is not just limited to the mystery within the story itself. These movies have also made mysteries an essential part of their marketing campaigns.

A good example of this is the initial marketing done for the 2017 movie “It.” To promote the movie in Sydney, the marketing team put up red balloons over drains around the city. This re-creates an iconic scene in the movie.

While many quickly guessed that this was part of a marketing campaign, it still managed to work effectively. Many people saw the balloons and started talking about them on social media.

The clever marketing tactic employed by It’s team harkens back to the one employed by the 1999 horror flick “The Blair Witch Project.” To create the “mystery,” the movie’s producers made a website that told the supposed case of the group of teenagers featured in the film. The team:

  • Created fake police reports
  • Added photos and interviews
  • Distributed fake missing person posters

The film went on to make $248 million at the box office. The promotions for this movie are now considered the grandfather of viral marketing campaigns for movies. It all stemmed from their vision of taking horror movies directly to people in the real world. I still remember people talking about how much that was real.

How you can pull it off

The key to conjuring a sense of mystery around your brand is creating an intriguing teaser. That teaser should provide enough information to pique their interest. Strike the balance between maintaining the mystery and being honest about what you offer. It’s “balloon marketing” pulls this off by using an innocuous object to convey that sense of intrigue.

You also need to reveal everything gradually. Create new content that slowly adds more information about your campaign. Both It and The Blair Witch Project relied on this heavily to keep the interest up leading to their premieres.

When you start a campaign like this on Twitter, using our Twitter Retweet Service will quickly draw people to your mystery. All of those retweets will show people that something interesting is going on.

Building an immersive experience

Another essential key to a good horror movie is getting the audience to feel as if they experience the scary story themselves. This idea has also been incorporated into the marketing tactics used to promote many horror films. The goal with this is to get audiences more immersed in the film’s setting.

The “red balloon” marketing tactic used by It in Sydney is an example of creating that audience experience. To further get people “acquainted” with Pennywise the Clown and the movie, the film’s distributor also released a virtual reality video.

Using VR, the video transports the viewer to the town of Derry as they get taunted by Pennywise. The four and a half-minute video was released on multiple social media sites like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.

The video demonstrates the usefulness of technologies like VR for selling a movie experience.

How you can do it for your brand

It used both high (VR video) and low (red balloon) tech marketing tactics to create an engaging experience for moviegoers even before they headed to the theaters. What ties these two together is the use of social media for promoting them. With it, both parts of the campaign were able to reach more people. It also gave their audiences an avenue for their audience to respond to these, allowing producers to get feedback.

While you might not have access to VR technology, you can still sell a complete experience for your audience. Think about the emotions you want to convey and create your marketing content around these themes. Use multimedia content, like music and images, to better highlight these moods.

Another tactic involved keeping actor Bill Skarsgard out of much of the film’s publicity. They wanted to present Pennywise as a believable supernatural persona. With Skarsgard on the sidelines, it was believed they will be able to present the concept better. Instead of the actor, much of the publicity was centered on the younger cast who kept in character for their interviews.

An offline marketing component is also essential for effectively bringing your desired experience to the audience. Look for a way to incorporate your brand into the everyday scenes that they encounter. It’s red balloon marketing campaign does this well by using one of its most distinguishing elements and taking it to the streets where people can engage with it up close.

Getting more people talking

While a large part of It’s marketing was made by professional advertisers, fans also had a hand in building the hype for the movie. There was plenty of user-generated content. One popular It related meme prior to the film’s release was that of digitally pasting an image of Pennywise the Clown into different scenes. The image was from an initial promotional still.

Most of the submitted versions are on the humorous side, contrary to the scary nature of the film itself. But these still contributed in building the hype for the film.

Come the movie’s release, positive reviews, and strong word-of-mouth also contributed to the film’s success.

The team’s Twitter account was wise to retweet many of these positive reviews. Social proof is everything.

What it entails for your brand

By letting your audience become part of the promotional effort, they can help you reach out to more people. Encourage them to create their own content in support of your brand. You can also take the initiative and provide them with the initial content that they can play around with.

Highlighting the positive reviews and recognition you get is also effective in increasing your brand’s clout.

Create a simple but memorable hashtag for your audience to use when voicing out their opinions. And don’t forget to show your appreciation for everyone who supported you.

Scare competitors with marketing tips from Pennywise

Just over a week since its release, It has already grossed more than $123 million in the domestic box office. This has made it the highest grossing horror flick in US-box office history. While this is in a large part due to the film’s quality, the following marketing tactics also came into play:

  • Getting people intrigued: It used guerrilla marketing tactics to get people curious about its premise even if they were not familiar with the original novel.
  • Engaging audience experience: The promotions also used a combination of online and offline marketing strategies to get people “up close and personal” with Pennywise.
  • Letting the audience speak: The film’s marketing team harnessed the power of content created by fans to further build the hype and get people lined up for their tickets.

While you might not be promoting the next big horror film, you can take advantage of these tactics to propel your brand to success.