Had you even heard of Deadpool 6 months ago?
Yet, somehow, the biggest grossing film of the Valentine’s weekend was the R-rated fiesta of violence and profanity that is Deadpool. How did this happen?
Social Media Marketing
The marketing campaign around Deadpool was one of the best I have ever seen for a film. While the recent Star Wars movie perfected the art of the teaser – showing us just enough to build anticipation without giving any of the plot away, Deadpool’s approach was different.
They went bold.
The character appeared in all sorts of unexpected places, including counting down to Christmas with the “12 Days of Deadpool,” a PSA for testicular cancer, and an Aussie-themed viral video on Australia Day featuring Deadpool in a traditional antipodean cork hat.
Each of these appearances was used as an opportunity to introduce the character and frame the cinematic experience the audience could expect if they decided to spend $10 on a theatre ticket.
Deadpool’s social media campaigns were funny, irreverent, surprising and silly, yet all established and maintained a clear tone that resonated with the public.
Star Wars could do a teaser because people know what to expect with the Star Wars brand, but Deadpool needed an icebreaker for name recognition and that’s why the bold strategy worked.
The comic on which Deadpool is based is outrageously profane, embracing absurdity by breaking the fourth wall with aplomb, as well as any and all conventions of the genre, be they sacrosanct or trite.
The makers of the film made a brilliant and bold choice in staying true to this distinctive tone, resisting attempts by the film studio to make it more kid-friendly in order to get the PG-13 rating which would have meant a wider potential audience.
A PG-13 rating would also have necessitated the neutering of the titular character, restricting his violence and potty mouth, and probably alienating existing fans of the comics in the process. Tepid box office results would likely have followed, as they did in Deadpool’s previous appearance in the kid-friendly and widely-panned X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
Smart market research is what made Deadpool possible in the first place; it turned an unknown into a known quantity. Studio bosses are generally conservative, and react to what was popular last year. They had never seen anything like Deadpool before, and the movie was stuck for years fighting studio resistance until this leaked footage of the film’s video production screen test appeared online. The internet saw it, and went wild.
It’s widely rumoured that the leak actually came from the director himself in order to convince the studio of his vision. So the viral marketing of the movie preceded, and actually made possible, the movie itself.
By finding a fresh angle by which to tell a superhero origin story and staying true to a clearly-identified on-brand tone, the film has earned rave-reviews, averaging 84% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and breaking box office records for an R-rated film.
Too many movies try to be the next Batman or Avengers, and they make big explosions and special effects the star. In both marketing and script, Deadpool has shown respect and trust in its audience, recognizing that people were looking for something new – so they made Donald Trump: the superhero movie.
Branding Lessons from Deadpool’s success
The most striking lesson of all is the need to understand your brand. Not every product or service can (or should) appeal to all demographics. You need to understand what makes your brand distinctive and unique, and the personality and tone you want to convey to the world.
The truth is, your brand already has a unique tone and a unique identity, you just need to make sure you understand what they are, and that they are displayed to the public.
Every piece of content you write should be written with your brand’s tone in mind. This means every page of your website and blog, and in all of your marketing materials and brochures; this edict is especially true of your social media channels.
You also need access to talented content writers who are able to write to your brand’s tone, as well as graphic designers who can create images to match.
Deadpool got social media just right, and the public ate it up: sharing, engaging, and emulating the film’s content and helping promote the film organically.
Social media provides you with access to potentially more clients and brand advocates than you could even imagine, and also allows you to target your marketing efforts specifically at your target demographics.
But you can’t take social media for granted. People have to choose to follow you, and if you aren’t adding value to their lives then they will quickly discard you. Social media is a two-way, interactive process and you need to strike a fine balance between promoting your company and entertaining your followers.
Social media management and marketing are essential functions for modern businesses and they can enable extraordinary ROI. Much of Deadpool’s success can be put down to its social media marketing campaigns, and the film made $130 million just on its opening weekend. However much they paid their social media team, their return on investment was off the charts!
About the Author
David Norcross is an award-winning B2B marketing expert with over 15 years of experience in the industry. He’s the founder and CEO of Lexicon as well as the Chairman of the British Chamber of Commerce in Thailand Digital Marketing Committee.
Lexicon is an award-winning brand storytelling agency focusing on telling impactful stories for clients based in Thailand and South East Asia.