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The Batman franchise did not rise to superstar stardom without some smart marketing tricks and techniques. However, Christopher Nolan’s the Dark Knight was marketed in a way that no one has ever seen before. In previous years Batman has always offered its fans more in terms of gear and collectables, but 42 Entertainment gave batman fans a whole new experience for this movie.
The DC universe is one of the most vast and developed out there, but they still are able to offer more and more to the story and the characters and Batman is no exception. Batman has always received astronomical amounts of support from fans no matter what the medium is. When Tim Burton released Batman Returns the movie had the highest opening weekend gross not only for that year but in history at the time. They succeeded in this feat by using the dominant media of the time for marketing and targeting the youth. According to the Batman card blog, trading cards were extremely popular during the time of the movie and to spark interest a marketing team from Australia named Dynamic Marketing released special edition gold packs as opposed to the usual red, blue , and black. Using collectible cards is not a first for the batman series though, they have been releasing cards since the sixties to help promote the franchise.
Just like how Tim Burton targeted a select group, children, 42 entertainment did the same in a way. According to their official website, for their marketing campaign they target fans of Batman as either three types being causal, active, and enthusiastic. The casual, the largest group, fan usually only follows online and watches the events as they unfold after they happen. Active fans, the middle group, are people who who play the online game and seek out the real world rewards. Last is the enthusiasts who are people who dress up and provide there self as a part of the Gotham world.
The Dark Knight was marketed by a company called 42 Entertainment and they completely changed the way products, at least films, are marketed. They used their marketing team to build a real world experience, with the help of transmedia, which they called, “A 360 degree alternate reality experience,” that was unforgettable for the over ten million fans that participated back in 2007 and 2008. This alternative reality game they created lasted fifteen months and led up to the release of Christopher Nolan’s second installment in the Batman series, The Dark Knight.
According to the official Batman Wiki page, they began this campaign with a website, Ibelieveinharveydent.com, that consisted of a campaign poster reading Harvey Dent for District Attorney. Shortly after, the Joker released a hacked and distorted version of the website called ibelieveinharveydenttoo.com. At this point fans could sign up for an e-mail list which would revel one pixel of a picture of what the next Joker to come would look like. This started on May 19th, 2007 and by May 21st the whole picture had been revealed showing us that Heath Ledger was to play The Joker in the upcoming film. Only a few hours after being completed the picture was removed as another part of the Jokers tricks. This just shows the support of the Batman franchise, the films official website was established on May 11th and the Ibelieveinharveydent.com was not developed until the 19th. However, by May 21st they were still able to have millions of people sign up for the website to reveal the picture. This was the first bit of marketing genius by the 42 Entertainment team. First off by not revealing who the villain is going to be it forces the fans to constantly be checking in to see if there has been any new word. It also allowed them to gather email addresses for all their fans and helped spread the word amongst them when a new site or part of the game was being released. It also helped them gauge the interest in the movie and how many fans they had already built up.
In July, at the San Diego Comic-Con one dollar bills that appear to have been defaced by the Joker begin to pop up. These bills were actually a promotional tool to get you to visit the Whysoserious.com website where the Joker had ads out looking for henchman. For those who were interested there were coordinates and a time they were given to meet. The next day when everyone who was interested met up they were surprised to see a phone number written in the sky. Fans had to work together to solve the clues and in the end someone was actually chosen to be abducted and take the Jokers spot in being murdered. Not every fan could be rewarded with being kidnapped so everyone who came out to participate received free Joker masks while everyone online received trailer video. This is another great marketing technique. Not only are they giving you a real world story and experience which you will always remember and talk about, they also give you a mask you cannot get anywhere else and a sneak peek to the upcoming film. After only about three days however the site was taken down and replaced with rent-a-clown.com which was a fake website to rent clowns. They used the pictures of people dressed in Joker attire from Comic-Con as their so called employees. This was brilliant marketing by 42 Entertainment because for those select few who cared enough to dress they were rewarded with being on the website. For a fan who is enthusiastic enough to paint his face as a Joker at Comic-Con it must be pretty awesome to make the website and will draw that person in even more. Not to mention it is an amazing story that they will not be able to help but tell their friends, helping the new movie spread through word of mouth.
On another occasion people were sent to bakeries in cities across the United States and the first ones to make it were given one of twenty two cakes with phone numbers written on them with cell phones and chargers inside for more clues. These cell phones would become very important because it meant you were one of the select few who were a part of the Jokers team and the phones would be used to contact you through an email at email@example.com. This further draws the audience in and gives them the sense that they are part of the world, especially for the chosen twenty two who can personally communicate with the Joker.
The site was restored back to its original whysoserious.com on October 17th 2007 however this time it has a festive Halloween theme for the holiday. The site showed a jack-o-lantern with the bat symbol carved out instead of a face and over the next two weeks leading up to Halloween one side of the pumpkin began to rot. It did not take too long for fans of the caped crusader to determine it was a sign that Two Face could be expected in the movie also. Yet again more marketing brilliance from the team, they had completely drew all of the attention to the Joker so hearing about another villain just pumped up the fans even more and caught them off guard.
The Dark Knight also borrowed marketing techniques from Batman Forever. During their marketing they would put riddles in news papers and the reader would need to log onto the website to get the answer. In the dark Knight Rises they put clues all over the place and even created their own newspaper to help implement more clues. This is similar to Nolan’s movies marketing genius. Forever also like many other films had a deal with McDonalds to release promotional toys and cups to help promote the film.
42 Entertainment rewarded fans for their involvement in other ways too. They developed a site Rorysdeathkiss.com where fanatics could post their pictures of themselves dressed up as the sadistic clown himself. If you submitted a picture you were emailed a copy of the Gotham Times which had articles about happenings around the town and links to other Batman related websites. Than shortly after Thanksgiving participants were emailed hard copies of the Gotham Times which as a fan would have totally drawn me into this whole experience more.
For those of you who are not on the Jokers side and like Batman for ideas of justice and morality, there is interactivity for you also. Later on in the game you are able to submit tips to a hotline for Harvey Dent. You eventually help him with the corrupt police force which turns into a fire fight leaving an officer dead. Also as it gets closer to time for his elections, he calls everyone who signed up for his homepage asking for their vote. It is just an MP3 recording but this would totally catch me off guard as a fan and I am sure generate a good bit of buzz in the Gotham community, another example of 42’s great marketing campaign.
42 Entertainment may have offered fans of the caped crusader the most in depth real word experience, but this is no new technique for the franchise. When Batman and Robin was being released multiple Six Flags theme parks erected Batman and Robin rides as part of the marketing strategy for the film. This ride gave fans a place where Gotham City came alive. I personally remember seeing the Batmobile at Six Flags when I was younger and thinking it was the coolest car I had ever seen.
Over the years Batman has been slightly ahead of every other franchise, and a big part of this is the marketing. 42 Entertainment not only met the standards of the Batman community but surpassed anyones expectation for the film and the alternate reality game. No matter what level of fan you are from casual to active to an enthusiast no body was left feeling neglected.