We all love the movies. Whether we go to the theater or wait to watch it at home on the couch, we all love the idea of escaping to another time, a different reality or even a galaxy far, far away.
What draws us to a movie? Is it a particular actor? The makers of the film? A review? Yes, yes and well, sometimes. In a very big way, though, it’s also the marketing.
From trailers and TV spots to posters and viral campaigns, movie studios do everything they can to make sure we turn out on opening weekend to see the final products that they’ve invested so much their time and money into.
If a movie is marketed well, you’ve shown up and the studio is happy. Regardless of whether or not the film was actually any good. If a movie is marketed poorly, chances are you didn’t show up and a good or even great movie could become a disaster for its studio.
John Carter suffered from extremely poor marketing. Having been based off of the 1917 book “A Princess of Mars” by Edgar Rice Buroughs, the film, like the book, tells the story of a former Confederate soldier named John Carter who finds himself stranded on Mars. Disney, who released the film, were reportedly convinced that the film would not succeed with it’s original title John Carter of Mars because of the recent animated disaster Mars Needs Moms. They feared no one wanted to see a movie about Mars so they dropped it, and any context someone might have to what the movie was from the title. The first trailers never mentioned Mars and looked kinda boring.
The problems didn’t end there. The movie’s star, Taylor Kitsch, who was coming off the critically acclaimed TV series Friday Night Lights, was either absent or small and unrecognizable from pretty much all posters and billboards for the film.
In the end, the movie made $73 million of it’s $250 million estimated budget back. I won’t say that the movie’s failure was completely due to marketing, but it certainly didn’t help.
Ironically, Marvel’s The Avengers was also released by Disney a mere two months after John Carter. This time, however, the studio had a marketing machine, that began with the 2008 release of Iron Man.
Marvel’s The Avengers was a movie based off of Marvel’s most famous superheroes and was destined to either succeed or fail miserably.
The movie never faltered. Five lead-up movies, charismatic stars, a fan favorite director and a strong marketing budget all helped to make the movie the third highest grossing movie ever with $623 million.
Yes, this movie probably could have marketed itself based off of no more than just brand recognition (something that didn’t help John Carter in the least). But that didn’t stop Marvel and Disney from executing ideas like a social media campaign that gave exclusive, extended trailers to fans who liked their pages, mobile games that tied into the adventure, and a viral campaign urging moviegoers to join the fictional agency, S.H.I.E.L.D, and become part of the excitement.
We all enjoy the escape that a movie brings. And if it’s sold to us the right way and put our butts in the seats of the local cineplex, or causes us to run to the closest Target and buy the BluRay the second it’s released, then it’s done it’s job and everyone is happy. And if not, well, then you have John Carter.
Next time you go to a movie, really think about what brought you to the theater. Was is an awesome looking trailer? Viral skywriting? A shirtless Brad Pitt?
Only you can know for sure.
See ya at the movies!