Why The Hunger Games Nailed Word-of-Mouth Marketing

There’s no denying that word-of-mouth marketing is one of the most effective ways to build buzz around your brand and make your marketing spend go the distance. Word-of-mouth marketing is not only extremely effective, but also inexpensive if leveraged strategically.

One only needs to take a look at the recent opening box office success of The Hunger Games. Suzanne Collins’ dystopian tale made over $155 million in just its first weekend. Lionsgate built a strong word-of-mouth marketing campaign into its overall marketing strategy, and with the right planning and execution, built enough buzz to nail their opening weekend. Here’s why Lionsgate’s word-of-mouth marketing strategy worked:

1. A built-in fan base existed.

“The Hunger Games” started as a trilogy book series, which quickly garnered millions of fans. The demand for the books is huge — more than 24 million copies are in print and according to the New York Times, around 9.6 million copies are in circulation domestically. The Hunger Games’ clocks their Twitter followers at more than 420,000. These fans were ready to be mobilized, activated, and leveraged for an explosive word-of-mouth marketing campaign. Got fans? Are they energized and passionate? If you have the fans — and they’re committed to your brand — consider utilizing word-of-mouth marketing campaigns to build brand awareness and presence.

 2. The conversation emerged organically.

Using social media tactics and other online channels, Lionsgate incensed fans to authentically excite each other. Starting back in June 2011, Lionsgate made sure to slowly release a series of promotions across social media channels to drum up interest. A big component was releasing engaging and viral video content about the stories and characters, and encouraging fans to submit and share user-generated video content on how excited they were about the movie.

Fans of “The Hunger Games” felt that they were not only talking about, sharing, and spreading the word around the movie to their peers – they were doing it of their own accord. Everyone hates being sold to, and fans aren’t dumb. If you can empower your fans to do what they would naturally do when they love something (that is, share and broadcast their love to everyone close to them), you’ve nailed a key element of a successful word-of-mouth marketing campaign.

3. It was simple to go viral.

The days of relying on just movie trailers and posters are over. Lionsgate knew that social media channels are some of the easiest ways to target the majority of prospective moviegoers, and they’re perfect channels for having conversations and sentiment virally explode. When a successful word-of-mouth campaign is your goal, planned and timed uses of Facebook contests, Twitter scavenger hunts, movie blogging, YouTube, Tumblr, and live streaming to engage and get your fans talking will pay off.