Social@Ogilvy put out a really interesting article last week about social marketing as inspired by the popular film, The Hunger Games (article can be seen here). In it, Social@Ogilvy’s VP Geoffrey Colon, @djgeoffe asks,
Does social media help drive consumption of content or does good content drive social media engagement?
Colon argued with ease how essential social media based word of mouth is when it comes to any sort of marketing initiative, and that content that supports your initiatives must be engaging to be worthwhile for consumers (duh!). He said, ”…it was the creation of some wonderful social media content that helped drive word of mouth more than simply the all too familiar promotional messaging built around trailers and games.” I’m not too sure that’s the case for this film seeing as it was already a popular literary series. Regardless…
This clearly got me thinking about something slightly unrelated to the article overall, and that was one of my favorite films as a young dewey-eyed teenager, Donnie Darko.
For those who are unaware, Donnie Darko came out in 2001 with minimal fanfare, and according to IMDB grossed only $4.5 million at the box office. The studio, though, made sure to give this dark film the social currency it deserved, and in 2001, that came in the form of a bad-ass website, www.donniedarkofilm.com. The interactive site was certainly ahead of its time and honestly still creeps the shit out of me, however, it’s maze-like qualities kept users thoroughly engaged and (for rhyming’s sake) enraged if they could not solve the next step in the online puzzle.
I didn’t really futz around much with the movie or its corresponding website for that matter until the spring of 2006. The only reason I remember this was because I was a senior in high school and became so intrigued with the site after my then-pregnant creative writing teacher decided to drop an existential bomb on us in the form of a movie about a psychologically advanced teenager. Pardon the digression – alas, the website’s content is still particularly engaging and I’m clearly still very bitter about not reaching the end of the maze. Needless to say, six years later, I’m still heavily effected by the content (and user experience for that matter) on the Donnie Darko website, so much so, here I am trying to visualize how amazing the content would have been in a social media context in 2012.
Seriously though, what would have happened if the Donnie Darko type films of the last decade had social media to help stimulate its word-of-mouth marketing? Clearly, The Hunger Games example from Colon is an edge case considering the extreme following that the book series had to help support the upheaval in its WOM, so what about the little movies that could? (See also, Twilight and the Harry Potter films.)
At a glance, it looks as though someone over at Fox is currently running the Donnie Darko Facebook page (or perhaps its Frank?). The page is more of an homage to the awesomeness of the movie and its content is based around fan art and “What’s Jake Gyllenhaal Up To These Days?!” type posts, however, could you imagine what it would be like if the film came out today? It probably would have received The Dark Knight type treatment (a reminder of what that was is here) mixed with some amazing social media type components. Holy crap, my brain is exploding just thinking about it. If the maze-like methods behind the website were incorporated into a social media boom behind the film, Colon’s article would argue that it’s hyper-fan appeasing content could have helped further not only its overall box office earnings, but the proceeding cult following as well.