SI Social: Hunger Games Viral Campaign is Clever Marketing at its Best

March 7th, 2012 by Search Influence Alumni

The next blockbuster young adult film is just about to explode onto the silver screen: The Hunger Games, based on Suzanne Collins’ bestselling trilogy of the same name. Aimed at the Twilight set of YA readers, it tells the story of a courageous tomboy named Katniss Everdeen who lives in a dystopian world that’s split into twelve districts and ruled over by an iron-fisted government called The Capitol. Each year, members of the community are selected to participate in The Hunger Games, where they are sent into an arena to kill one another until only one is left standing.

If it sounds familiar,  you may remember a similar plot from the Japanese film Battle Royale. Collins put a new spin on the formula, people of all ages (myself included) described themselves as “unable to put the book down”, and soon enough, a Hollywood adaption was in the works. Like all majorly popular adaptions, the marketing of the translation can go a long way towards a production’s ability to succeed or fail. However, the brains behind the Hunger Games campaign are clearly using every ounce of the power that social media has to offer to promote the film, and so far, they’ve pulled it off marvelously.

Viral marketing played a major role in finding “Recruiters” to represent the twelve districts that exist in the original story, who are actually hardcore fans that were chosen as volunteers. By harnessing the power of excited fans, these Recruiters spread the word around to other fans about the film and hyped up the details in such a way that allowed them to feel they played a major role. Still, the Recruiters don’t know who “hired” them — just another interesting part of the puzzle. But they did mention something about free uniforms…

As for the official Facebook page, it’s used some tactics you’d expect from a marketing campaign, but also has popped up with some great surprises too. One really smart offer was to make your own free ID card (see, that’s mine up there!), which assigns you to a district and gives you the chance to have the ID sent to you for free. It also redirects you to a page with personalized merchandise from your district — it even has your name on it. I admit, the fan in me drooled at the idea of having a t-shirt or a bag with the logo and my name on it. It’s an angle I haven’t seen much of in the past, and I fell for it.

No viral campaign would be complete without representing the dark forces of whatever you’re promoting, and The Capitol homepage knows it. This district for the rich and powerful of course has a flair for fashion, and a retooled Tumblr represents it at Capitol Couture, which shows off all the elaborate looks the people of the Capitol flaunt to show off their money and clout. The people behind the Hunger Games PR campaign even went as far as partnering with beauty company China Glaze to produce a line of nail polishes called the Capitol Colors — one for each of the districts, of course.

Twitter is not exempt, either — there are tons of accounts, including ones for all the sites I’ve mentioned above, a official Twitter, and one for the Hunger Games 24, which allows fans to win tickets to advance screenings. Fans who have gotten their IDs and district assignments can also hashtag their tweets with it,creating twelve sets of fans who are all meeting other fans because they are united by districts.

Using the structure of the book’s world as the backbone of their campaign was a brilliant plan, and the hype around the release of the Hunger Games is huge because it capitalizes a world we already know and have grown to love. By using the heart of what makes anything a success — its fans — this campaign has been a true victory, especially when it comes to getting people genuinely excited and sharing the word with family and friends with authentic enthusiasm.

I planned to be there on opening day (March 23rd) before the campaign started, but now I’m even more excited because I might be able to meet other fans from my district thanks to Twitter and the Facebook community. And I’m sure I’m not the only one. Are you going?