Hype as marketing? How cultural embedding breaks the box office

Can hype replace marketing in the digital age? Jay Bedi walks through the Avengers franchise’s approach to branding as marketing and the power of die-hard fandoms.

Jay Bedi 150 BWAvengers – a superhero conglomerate franchise on its own has unfailingly proved to be a financial success beyond words. And since the franchise’s first instalment in 2012, it was the first movie to feature a team up of popular superheroes and take the superhero craze to the next level. Fast forward seven years – and the franchise is now only a few weeks away from releasing its supposed final big-screen instalment.

Every movie goes through an almost identical online promotional stage. The audience first gets a teaser trailer, then comes the theatrical trailer, a second trailer, followed by a final third trailer (usually when tickets also go on sale). All these trailers progressively feature new footage to conservatively hint at the film’s content. Yet – not give too much away.

Avengers: Endgame also plays its marketing cards close to its chest – perhaps too conservatively. With the second trailer released just a month ago – it features almost undistinguishable content from its predecessor.

Aussie fans were left wondering, is this a fight to keep the film itself secret or is a greater scheme at play? Well this question was answered Wednesday morning as the final trailer gave fans an overdose of new footage, while announcing tickets sales – breaking Australian ticket pre-sale records and selling $3.8 million worth of presale tickets.

The Marvel mystery and market understanding

Marvel is known to previously release trailers which not only refrain from spoiling too much of the movie’s content, but going as far as fabricating elements of the trailer itself to include scenes and characters which may not be in the movie itself.

Still from Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Infinity War (2018) Trailer 2, which was eventually not in the final cut – aimed to allude viewers from film content.

While some may argue this is misleading the consumers, in fact it’s a brilliant marketing move widely accepted by its fandom. As the movies have evolved in popularity, so has its fanbase’s anticipation of the storyline’s plot twists.

Marvel understands its audiences and market to the extent that it specifically knows what the audience anticipates from the movie and plays with this excitement to completely blow audiences away upon the movie’s release. Marvel now blatantly toys with its fandom by including evidently tampered footage in Avengers: Endgame trailers.

Prequel as a marketing asset

Traditionally, the Avengers instalments are released every three years. Avengers: Endgame however breaks the cycle by being slated directly a year after its prequel – Avengers: Infinity War (2018).

Infinity war was released so close to this sequel that the franchise broke the superhero movie mould. It left the audiences in a never-before done cliffhanger – (spoilers!) the villain smirks ahead of the sunset to a hopeful score. And with a global over box office north of $2 billion, the figure represents an audience stranded on a cliffhanger and therefore more than likely to return to see the story’s conclusion in Avengers: Endgame. 

A new level of conservative marketing

Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame were initially announced back in 2014 – originally titled as Avengers Infinity War Part One and Part Two, respectively. However in 2016, Marvel studios announced that part one would remain titled Avengers: Infinity War and the sequel will be retitled and remain undisclosed.

Since then, the upcoming movie was always simply referred to as ‘Avengers Four’. Not only did this prove to be a successful, unprecedented marketing tactic – it was a risky one. Shrouding a movie in too much mystery prior it’s release can result in a loss of audience interest. However, Marvel studios and the Avengers directorial duo, the Russo brothers, confidently played their marketing cards so close to their chest that the movie is now expected to be the biggest movie of all time, according to Digital Spy.

With all trailers already released, we’re merely weeks away until Avengers: Endgame hits Australian theatres. Yet the question still stands, what marketing did the movie ultimately even end up doing? No explicit context and no new plot specifics have been revealed. And for all we know, the few trailers released may even end up being fake altogether.

So, did the movie even need a marketing and promotional run? Barely. If the fandom’s eagerness and impatient demands for at least some Avengers: Endgame glimpses weren’t at extraordinarily high levels, the movie may as well have only released one trailer and still be on the path to exceptional success.

Avengers: Endgame is truly a testament that movie marketing and distribution is now at a phase where the names of blockbuster franchise themselves are enough to secure a profit for the stakeholders. And all credit due to the franchise’s exceptional branding.

Jay Bedi is screenwriter and founder at Nylero

 

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