The Cloververse: A Look Into Modern ‍‍‍Movie Marketing

When Matt Reeves and JJ Abrams successfully debuted their film, Cloverfield in 2008, I don't think either of them had the intention of creating a movie marketing anomaly, a franchise that is seemingly like no other.  While other films franchises have now since caught into to 'viral' marketing campaigns (I'm unashamed to admit that I matched with Deadpool on Tinder), the Cloverfield franchise is doing it much differently than its competition.  Today I want to take a look into the unique marketing that went into the two sequels, so that you can begin to look out for unique marketing opportunities not only for the world of film but for any business.

10 Cloverfield Lane‍‍‍

For those completely unaware about how exactly went on with 10 Cloverfield Lane, lemme give you the Sparknotes version.  The film started off as a film called the Cellar, which was suppsoed to be an ultra low budget horror/thriller.  The script was bought by Paramount and Bad Robot (JJ's company) and re-worked by Damian Chazelle (yes, the La La Land guy).  The film actually began production as the Cellar (under the code name Valencia, but this isn't anything new in the film industry), but halfway through JJ and some of the rest of the crew realized that there were many similarities to the film that was made 6 years before, and it was reworked as a 'spiritual sequel'.   The film was completed and shelved, awaiting release.

But that's the filmmaking part, the marketing part is where it gets super cool.  Now, most films, especially ones that are being positioned as sequels will be announced months or even a year in advance of their release, typically with an announcement trailer, poster and press release.  Instead of going head to head with multiple trailers like many other movie marketing campaigns do, 10 Cloverfield Lane realized that with their lower budget they simply didn't have the resources to compete with the large blockbusters.  So, JJ and Bad Robot, being the marketing geniuses they are decided to take a different route.  Instead of trailers, they began constructing an alternate reality game (ARG).  While this may sound like something that belongs in some sort of dystopian future, an ARG is a sort of game that exists in our world, leaving behind clues for people to track down with the ultimate goal of setting up backstory or supplementary information for the film.  

Pictured above: The Tagruato website, created for the ARG for 10 Cloverfield Lane.  There you will find info on Howard Stambler (John Goodman), giving backstory on his character.  If you put the clues together, you'll find out the explicit connection between 10 Cloverfield Lane and Cloverfield.‍‍‍

With hidden pictures that require special passwords to open on seemingly legitimate websites and the like, the marketing team behind 10 Cloverfield Lane targeted the hardcore movie fan audience, knowing that that was where most of their money was going to come from.  By identifying that they 1) Didn't need the general audience to turn a profit on a $15 million film and 2) Most of their profit would come from loyal Cloverfield fans, the marketing team behind the film created one of the most successful modern film viral campaigns.  This was all done prior to the official announcement trailer, a mere two months before the film was supposed to be released, so when the general audiences were made aware of this film, the ARG would kick in and help sustain momentum for the film.  Click here for a full breakdown of the ARG behind 10 Cloverfield Lane, the amount of content created for this campaign is astounding.

And you know what? It worked like a charm.  10 Cloverfield Lane opened in March 2016 not only to rave reviews but also nearly made 10 ‍‍‍x it's budget back at the box office, proving that the medium budget film still had a place in the film industry given the right marketing campaign.  

The Cloverfield Paradox

The next one is a little different.  If studio executives were nervous about announcing a spiritual sequel eight years after the original only two months before the release date with really only the ARG to fuel marketing, they were going to have a fit with this one.  Luckily for them, Paramount actually dropped this film, allowing streaming giant Netflix to pick up exclusive distribution rights (something that I have an issue with and talk about in this week's podcast).   But whoever was behind the marketing efforts of 10 Cloverfield Lane wasn't at Paramount because the ARG continued and so did the practice of not releasing anything until the last minute.  

Those who follow the industry close knew that there was a new Cloverfield film that was supposed to come out sometime this year, but in typical Cloverfield fashion we had no information other than a working title of God Particle.  Of course, those dedicated to the ARG, and at this point there were thousands of dedicated Cloverheads (I made that word up) following the ARG, were picking up any clues, but there was nothing substantial.  

Until the Superbowl hit.  And all of a sudden, social media everywhere blows up.  Instead of announcing a year in advance like most franchise films, or even two months prior like the previous installment, the Cloverfield Paradox utilized Netflix's ability to release a movie at a minute's notice and the extremely high viewership of the Superbowl commercials to announce that the film would be releasing in 2 hours available worldwide.  If you didn't already know what Cloverfield was, you sure as hell did now.

The way that both JJ Abrams and Netflix utilized the Superbowl Commercials is incredible.  While spending an obscene amount of money for a 30 second spot seems like overkill, many film studios already do this, to generate awareness for a film coming out in a few months.  But knowing where their strength lies (i.e. ease of access), Netflix and Bad Robot floored the competition.  This type of trailer has never been run before and the sheer uniqueness of the concept drove people to at least check out part of the film as soon as the Superbowl was over.‍  This type of marketing strategy, both the ARG and the last minute announcement is exactly what's needed in a world dominated by repetitive trailers and mediocre movie posters, both staples of traditional movie marketing. Knowing that a film could drop at any time, or a seemingly normal website could really be part of the Cloververse keeps the brand in the back of the target audiences' mind and that is simply the ultimate goal of movie marketing, to generate awareness, which generates ticket sales.

I guess it's a shame that the movie wasn't good.

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