As new technologies allow audiences to consume and interact with content across a variety of mediums, story-makers are now expanding their narrative universes across multiple platforms. Lionsgate, the studio force behind the massively popular Hunger Games movie series, is capitalizing on these new developments in innovative ways. Today, the latest installment in The Hunger Games series, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1, is slated for international release.
The Challenge of Popularity
The massive popularity of The Hunger Games series has presented a key challenge for the studio’s digital campaign team: Once you have a large fan base, what do you do when these fans consume, comment and create content at a jaw-dropping, mind-blowing rate? Lionsgate’s answer to this challenge is The Hunger Games Explorer website, an immersive storytelling portal that allows fans to take their engagement to the next level.
Succeeding in creating such an experience is no easy task. It’s not for everyone. Immersive storytelling is often expensive and misunderstood, and it demands a high level of technical literacy. However, it’s also a great tool for filmmakers to engage audiences through captivating, first person interactive online experiences.
Exploring the World of the Hunger Games Online
The Hunger Games Explorer is a futuristic portal that combines all official Hunger Games-related social networks, blogs and content into one interactive space. It’s a device-agnostic platform with a mobile-first approach that encourages fans to interact with its sleek, touch-friendly interface. Fans earn badges and sparks “fly” as they get their district identification passes, check out exclusive new trailers and photos and get an insider’s view of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1. In short, The Hunger Games Explorer is a living, breathing platform, built to evolve.
To augment the buzz generated by The Hunger Games Explorer platform, Lionsgate collaborated with Google to release the “District Voices” video series. These short, thematic videos feature seven YouTube stars portraying citizens of the film’s fictional districts.
With its innovative digital campaign for The Mockingjay, Part 1, Lionsgate has demonstrated a keen understanding of its target audience and set a new precedent in using digital and social media marketing. As Ben Malbon, Google’s director of creative partnerships, stated in a Variety article, the District Voices series “Shows how brands can reach their core audience when they are engaging with the content they are most passionate about, and where they are spending the majority of their time.”
So what can we learn from The Hunger Games’ digital campaign? Here are three key takeaways:
Lesson One: Listen, Listen and Listen Before Creating a Digital Universe
First, gather the answers to the following questions about your audience:
- Who is your audience?
- What are they interested in?
- Where do they congregate online?
- What kind of content resonates best with them?
After you have the answers to these questions, place this information at the heart of your campaign and never lose sight of it. Good content should always engage with the target audience, regardless of its purpose.
Lesson Two: Create a Communal Identity
While it may seem obvious that fans congregate online to create a space where they can consume, create and share their culture, it’s important to note that they are also there to create online artifacts. Online artifacts serve as a means of expressing communal identity. Accordingly, online experiences that feature chat rooms, forums, special pages, competitions (such as “biggest fan” competitions) and rewards (such as badges and wings) connect fans more directly with the textual universe. With communal identities, fans are empowered to eliminate the distinction between reality and fantasy by becoming active participants in an immersive story.
Lesson Three: Remember, the Devil is in the Details
Using well-known YouTube personalities in the District Voices series is a smart way to further blur the lines between the world of the fans and that of The Hunger Games. The lesson here is that focusing on less-obvious details—such as, in this case, the people of the 12 districts of Panem—can be just the right way to engross your audience. Lovers of The Hunger Games “get” all the references in the website and videos, and that makes the movie-watching experience exclusive and even more enjoyable.