I’m a big fan of film, typically escaping to the dark confines of the theater at least once a week. If there’s one thing I love more than a good movie, it’s technology. Whenever studios and brands leverage digital mediums to promote their films with branded tie-ins I can’t help but check it out. Consumer brands utilizing movies to promote their products isn’t anything new. This traditionally meant physical items centered around the fast food industry. Growing up, I always had to collect all of the cups or toys given away at those chains featuring the latest summer blockbuster. In fact, I still have all of the Burger King glasses from the original Star Wars trilogy in 1977, 1980, and 1983 – don’t judge. As access to technology has improved over recent years, we have seen a shift to digital promotions to enhance those partner initiatives.
After watching one of this year’s big budget films, Man of Steel, I couldn’t help but notice the on-screen product placements from Sears, Nokia, Budweiser, IHOP, and Chrysler. Just how many brands were associated with the film both on-screen and off? Ad Age reported that over 100 brands grabbed hold of the red cape to fly their summer promotional campaigns resulting in a record $160 million for the studio.
Obviously, with that many brands running various levels of movie tie-in campaigns, it doesn’t make sense to list them all. My favorite was the “How Does He Shave?” social video based initiative from Gillette. Twizzlers created a fun Facebook app and contest to transform fans into the Ultimate Man of Steel. Nokia went so far as to create a limited edition Man of Steel phone and website stocked with exclusive access to content. I did want to quickly examine the two mobile applications that were released to support the film from Kellogg’s and Warner Bros. There is also a third app, a Man of Steel mobile game released by WB Games, available for download on iOS and Android for a few bucks. I’m going to stick with covering the other two here for the purposes of this post since this isn’t a game review.
Warner Bros. has been on a pretty consistent streak over the last few years releasing smartphone apps for all of its major studio productions. They’ve built up quite the collection with the most notable in their catalog being the Dark Knight Rises FX app. Sadly, this Man of Steel Experience movie promotion app doesn’t live up to its fellow DC Comics predecessor. The app features a decent collection of trailers and photo stills, but there is nothing in here that a user couldn’t find elsewhere on the official sites. The only exclusive content elements in the app are related to a series on the alien space ships seen in the film. This is actually a rather interesting component, but here is where the overcommitted promotional tie-ins for the film really starts to show. In order to unlock the content, users must visit a Wal-Mart and scan 7 different signs scattered around the store each featuring a consumer brand – Twizzlers, Energizer, Norton Anti-Virus, & more. The only usable feature that doesn’t require you to interact with a product is a rather limited photo taking element placing you with General Zod or the Man of Steel himself. Considering this is a studio released app, the excessive dependence on partners is a bit off-putting. As with any app or social campaign, brands must weigh what they are asking of the consumer versus the reward or perceived value that user will receive. In this particular instance, the result is an arduous journey with little benefit.
Am I completely opposed to requiring a store visit to unlock features in a studio or branded promotional app? Absolutely not. This technique, when done correctly, is a wonderful way to place product in the hands of consumers all while increasing time spent engagement with a brand via the app. I felt the recent Star Trek Into Darkness app integrated partners nicely with physical store scans combined with other tasks such as audio syncing of movie trailers and even the credits from the film itself for additional tangible rewards. The Avengers AR app last summer which, like Man of Steel, required a trip to Wal-Mart to scan promotional signage to unlock features did present a good payoff for the effort (three in-store scans) with bonus game characters.
Kellogg’s launched their own Man of Steel app developed by Catapult Marketing. The app itself isn’t a standalone initiative. Several of Kellogg’s products feature Man of Steel promotional artwork with special codes inside the packaging for prize giveaways loosely tied to Superman’s abilities. The contest itself is an awareness tool to drive new user sign-ups for the Kellogg’s loyalty rewards program which launched last summer. Being a branded app, it doesn’t contain the same volume of trailers and stills that the studio version does. What it lacks in content, it makes up for in features – mainly the video creation tool.
Unlocking Superman’s powers of strength, flight, and heat vision does require scanning of a few Kellogg’s Man of Steel promotional code products – see how that comes full circle. Users then have the ability to make video shorts with special effect overlays – this looks very similar to the Action Movie FX app launched by JJ Abrams’ Bad Robot Interactive last year. Creating videos using the powers unlocks access to the quick photo hunt style game and trailers/stills. Sharing of the videos is limited to only Facebook and Email, but the videos do store locally on your device so you can upload them to other social networks. I created a couple starring my dogs Stella and Laika which are embedded below.
Will this Kellogg’s app see a lot of repeat use? No it will not, but it will provide a little bit of simple family fun for a short time and let them share their creations with others. I do like how the digital app extension serves as an incentive to put the Kellogg’s promotional coded products in the hands of users. On the flip side, the app advertisement on the boxes will generate downloads placing Kellogg’s presence on consumer phones. Tying the entire Man of Steel campaign all the way back to the newly launched Rewards Program is a smart play in leveraging the popularity of a summer blockbuster to stimulate account growth for what is an important new initiative for the brand.
While neither app is revolutionary or pushes the envelope in digital campaigns to promote a movie partnership, the Kellogg’s app is closer on the mark to delivering its purpose without overwhelming the customer with excessive demands. Leveraging cross platform digital campaigns is still in its infancy. There is so much potential for movie and TV studios to extend their marketing reach as well as for brands looking to leverage their partnership efforts by tapping into the power of mobile devices. Brands and networks must be willing to set aside dollars to experiment in these new frontiers. Marketers working on these campaigns must be daring, take chances, and can’t be afraid to fail…like Superman himself.