After much fanfare over the last few weeks, The Da Vinci Code opens in theaters across the US today. Though some early reviews from the Cannes Film Festival premier have been less than perfect, there is no denying that the marketing machine behind the film has generated buzzworthy firsts, from partnering with Google to open up it’s tightly guarded homepage to a marketing promotion – to successfully repositioning a controversial film about religion to something much broader. In looking at the marketing of the film over the past few months, there are several key lessons that emerge which make this a marketing campaign to remember:
- Build on top of current social trends – Some of the smartest marketing builds on trends already happening in society. For Da Vinci Code, this trend was around curiosity marketing and the natural human inclination towards solving a mystery. Creating a first ever movie marketing campaign with Google was the perfect opportunity to launch the geeky Da Vinci Code Quest. After all, who’s better at connecting with code cracking geeks than Google? In the process, Sony successfully repositioned the movie as one about religion and history to one about mystery and code cracking. It’s even fun to read about how the quest ended.
- Simultaneously fan the controversy AND the debate – For controversial films that deal with religion, it is relatively simple to use the controversy to build buzz. The harder thing is to step back and actually promote the dialogue as a way of creating even more buzz. When Sony launched The Da Vinci Challenge website, they did exactly this by inviting prominent authors to debate the merits of the book. Christian bloggers have also called on one another to become knowledgeable about the book – and this debate fans even more publicity.
- Market the core values that work – At it’s heart, the story is a historical mystery – and the characters in the book and film are trying to solve the puzzle. Relgion is the theme, but code breaking is the heart. The movie’s website starts with a loading script the slowly transforms "The Divine Code Dealt Chaos" into "The Da Vinci Code Has Loaded." Clearly the positioning is all about "cracking the code" even though the URL is www.sodarktheconofman.com. Do they ever market the URL? If they do, I haven’t seen it.
- Don’t discourage the copycats – Gizmodo points to a promotion from Motorola around a similar theme of unlocking a mystery and "finding the Q." Sony could have stepped in here and tried to claim ownership of the "since the beginning of time mystery" theme … but letting promotions like this happen on their own is the best thing they can do. In the end, it will build even more buzz about mystery and code solving, and entice more people to see the movie.
It will be interesting to watch how the movie does at the box office this weekend (my friend Gitesh, the Box Office Guru, should have updated figures on his site through the weekend), but by many marketing metrics that have appeared in press recently (such as 30% of Sony’s overall site traffic arriving due to the Google promo) – I’d say the campaign has already been a huge success. Not that the movie needed any more buzz marketing – but as an example of how movie marketing is reinventing itself, and the direction Google seems to be moving towards … this will be a marketing campaign that people in the industry will be talking about for a long time.