If I told Sony Pictures marketing president Marc Weinstock that social media didn’t provide any ROI, he’d laugh in my face.
That’s because Sony Pictures just took the #1 spot on Ad Age’s Entertainment A-List, an annual ranking of the top entertainment brands, after netting the studio’s first $2 billion year.
While other studios tried to ride sequels and remakes, Sony rode new and untested properties like District 9 ($210 million), Paul Blart: Mall Cop ($183 million), Zombieland ($102 million), Julie & Julia ($129 millon), and Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs ($235 million) to box office dominance.
What’s most startling about the numbers is that most of the big money makers for Sony barely featured any “A-list” stars. Rather than rely on big names, Sony actively used social media to help spread the word about their releases.
District 9′s extensive viral campaign led back to an online experience that was shared by consumers through social media and created early buzz for a “weird” sci-fi movie with a no-name cast and no-name director.
Zombieland had a “Zombify Yourself” website, Twitter account, and a “Rules for Surviving Zombieland” video series that earned nearly 2 million views on YouTube.
And Sony is convinced that social media had a huge hand in creating its success.
Having a buzzworthy film has also proven to work more in Sony’s favor than most, due to an early presence on Twitter (Sony has more followers than any other movie studio) and an adaptive marketing strategy that keeps conversation around its films active even after the opening weekend.
‘The judgment day comes a lot sooner now. You used to get to opening day or the second day to see whether the audience really liked the movir or not. But when you hype one thing and deliver another, [negative social media chatter] is the immediate penalty these days.’ [Sony Pictures Chairman of Worldwide Marketing] Jeff Blake said.
Universal Studio knows too well about that after they saw box office sales plummet for Bruno following its opening weekend because of how quickly word spread through Twitter from consumers telling friends “not to bother.”
Meanwhile, other studios like Paramount have used social media to push obscure homemade movies like Paranormal Activity to $193 million worldwide. NOTE: There’s an extensive case study about that film that I worked on in the upcoming book microMARKETING by Greg Verdino.
Social media’s impact on sales is getting harder and harder to deny these days, and those of us who continue to study how the medium works are going to be instrumental in creating the marketing campaigns that are necessary in this networked world.