A brief history
Even for a behemoth like Marvel, Deadpool was always going to be a tricky sell. Decidedly niche even by comic book standards, the company was faced with a difficult task of staying true to the character and almost certainly guaranteeing an R rating (limiting box office returns) or deviating and losing some core fans. In the end Marvel stayed true to the original and a foul-mouthed anti-hero was introduced to a wider audience, much to fans delight.
Fox seemed to key in on a viral digital marketing from a very early stage of their campaign. The first on-camera appearance by Ryan Reynolds was during an April Fools interview on the TV show ‘Extra’. It played on audience’s expectations by being a generic interview which segued into a funny parody; ended with the Deadpool character arriving on set and ‘killing’ host Lopez after he insisted the film couldn’t succeed unless it was family friendly. The clip quickly became a YouTube sensation with over two million views.
EMOJIS and more
Looking to pivot the campaign from a user’s browsing to their instant messengers, the company developed a set of custom Deadpool emoji keyboard for both android and apple devices. This was a simple and innovative way for the marketing campaign to stealthily creep its way into your personal life and itself become part of many users’ interactions with their colleagues’ friends and family!
As effective as the emojis, spoof videos and posts were, by far and away the most effective digital market asset deployed throughout the campaign was Ryan Reynolds himself.
There was a cleverly (and entirely choreographed) spat between himself and Hugh Jackman (Wolverine in X-Men) which utilised Facebook with clickbait gags. Reynolds engaged with fans and, in a manner which seemed like a tactic of the entire campaign, played on their worries about violence, the costume and more. Most of his interactions garnered thousands of re-tweets and likes. In the two weeks before its release, Deadpool was drumming up around 15,000 tweets a day, all the while in direct competition with Star Wars- The Force Awakens. This rose to a peak 90,000 tweets on the afternoon of its release in cinemas. Reynolds joined Instragram (where he has over 13 million followers) 6 months before the movie’s release and posted almost exclusively about Deadpool.
‘Reynolds constant breaking of the 4th wall, deadpan delivery and all round sense of fun was a hit and entirely brand appropriate.’ Deadline.com
With a marketing campaign that perfectly reflected the disruptive nature of the subject matter, Deadpool did extraordinarily well at the box office. It outstripped predictions in its opening weekend, it grossed $135 million in the United States over the holiday – taking in $264 million worldwide.
Strong word of mouth sustained the film for a long run that brought $363 million domestic, and $420 million (no China) for a total of $783 million. All that on a $58 million production budget.’
Lessons to learn and lessons to emulate
So apart from enlisting the help of a charismatic Hollywood icon, how can we try to implement any of the tactics Fox used to insure Deadpool was such an enormous success?
- Know your audience. Know who they are and where they reside online.
The team behind Deadpool engaged with their audience in their favourite places. YouTube was used extensively, which piggybacked various events around the release of the movie. Here, we can see the value of independent cinemas can achieve by placing their digital marketing content within Google’s online services; especially ad placement across certain YouTube channels.
- Start your campaign well in advance of the release/event/launch.
Start the campaign well in advance of the launch of the film. From the very first interview to the photo-shoot which parodied the famous Burt Reynolds Playgirl spread from the 70s, they started a conversation with their audience ‘in character’ which entertained and helped ease fears fans had about aspects of the film.
Again, it should be relatively easy for you to discern the type of interaction with your fans that will appeal. Obviously a movie like this summers smash hit ‘Get Out’ needs a different approach to Deadpool, but posting articles about films that will have influenced it, the actors past career, top ten horrors with social commentary that mimic the humour or the tone of the noise created by the online community which you are trying to target will gain you much digital traction.