Gone Girl and the State of Entertainment Marketing

Gone Girl’s marketing team is using an unusual marketing tactic. Here’s why it matters.

Last week, Scott Mendelson of Forbes wrote an article discussing Fox’s marketing strategy for David Fincher’s upcoming Gone Girl. The movie is an adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s novel of the same name, which centers on the suspicious disappearance of a man’s wife, and the intense societal backlash the man receives.

His article focused on the movie’s recently released series of sensational (in the truest sense of the word) movie posters and the trailer they promoted:

I could throw out a bunch of random descriptors to summarize the materials for you, but sensational does quite nicely.

After observing the posters and adjoining trailers, Mendelson wrote the following in his article:

“This is not the kind of marketing gimmick that usually goes with a year-end character study, but rather with a superhero sequel.”

While I don’t want to put words in his mouth, I believe his argument was that this kind of evocative, character-driven marketing isn’t typical for a character-driven drama. Instead, you’d expect to see something more like the posters for August: Osage County, American Hustle, Philomena, or Dallas Buyers Club.

August: Osage County’s poster stands out from the others simply because it’s an action shot that gives you a good idea the movie’s driving force. Other than that, though, the movie posters are, well, not derivative so much as somewhat uninspired. Sure, they’re Academy Award-nominated (or winning) movies, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t stand out.

A few weeks back, I argued that movies in general should be taking advantage of their expanded universes whenever possible. It’s not a stratagem that will work for every movie (though to be honest, I’m having a hard time thinking of a case where it wouldn’t work), but it is one I think can be extremely effective when enacted smartly and in collaboration with the creative teams behind the movie itself.

Why? Well, the creative teams behind movies spend a great deal of time thinking about their film’s expanded universe, and rarely get the opportunity to expound on all those details. They’re the details that end up making their way onto DVD special features and such, which are becoming less and less relevant to the modern viewer’s decision to purchase DVDs.

This strategy helps marketing teams achieve three things:

  1. It turns this underutilized resource into a valuable commodity again, this time for the increasingly important initial word of mouth that gets people into theaters.
  2. It makes the experience of seeing the movie the last step in an immersive experience, which is more and more the reason someone decides to see a movie.
  3. It can also help tap into an existing audience, without giving away too much information to the uninitiated (when executed properly).

To the last point’s, um, point: As someone who hasn’t read Gone Girl, I can only speculate as to the importance of, say, the burned note or the photograph. But, if they have the same significance in the novel as they do in the movie, they serve nicely as a totem for the readers to rally themselves under.

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