Fashion and beauty brands have been a particularly good fit for this, both because of their ability to draw on the style of the movie and also because they appeal to teens and grown women alike. For Catching Fire, for instance, online retailer Net-a-Porter is launching a clothing line inspired by the movie and made by its costume designer, while Cover Girl has created a line of makeup and nail art inspired by the film – including 12 looks tailored to each of the districts found in the fictional society. Its “Capitol Collection” hit store shelves on Oct. 1. While the beauty brand has done product placement in the past, it is the first time it has partnered in such depth to market looks around a film, said Diana Nguyen, communications manager for Cover Girl at Procter & Gamble in Canada.
Lions Gate also created an online fashion magazine called Capitol Couture that is entirely fictional – a publication made for the society of Panem in which The Hunger Games is set, featuring 3-D-printed dresses made-to-measure by bots, and a profile of Katniss that mimics the style of a real fashion rag. By owning its own magazine, Lions Gate was able to promote not just a fantastical fashion world but also partnerships with real designers for makeup and clothing that can be purchased.
In other words, brands that wanted in on the campaign had to be willing to join the fantasy.
“They wanted storytellers,” said Katrina Markoff, founder of Vosges Chocolate, of her discussions with Lions Gate to co-market a line of Hunger Games chocolates. “They wanted someone who was going to do more than slap a logo or a photo on a package they already have. They wanted someone who would craft something new and tell a deeper story.” That’s how Markoff’s brand of artisanal, high-end chocolate landed their first movie partnership.
Vosges devised chocolates inspired by both the districts and the characters (the Katniss bar includes apples, hickory-smoked bacon and alderwood sea salt). Her mass-market brand, Wild Ophelia, has the district bars – sold in stores such as Walgreen’s, they are more widely popular (and feasible for younger fans to buy). The Vosges brand is more high-end, to sell to adult fans: Markoff has even produced a limited-run Capitol truffle collection – an 18-course chocolate “experience” paired with cocktails and teas, all imagined to mirror the kind of dessert that might be featured at a party in the extravagant Capitol of the films.
What all of this boils down to is a potential new model for product integration spurred on by these young-adult franchises, said Max Valiquette, managing director of strategy at Toronto advertising agency Bensimon Byrne, who specializes in marketing to younger consumers in new media.
“A lot of these books have a world that is not our own at all, so actually taking real-world products and integrating them into these films is a problem. So you have to find a way to bring that world to you,” he said.
“Product placement is the easiest way to do product integration, but it’s also the least interesting way,” Valiquette added. “This is a much more interesting angle for marketers.”
And it’s exactly the right way to approach a young, digitally-savvy consumer. As more eyeballs migrate online, advertisers respond with marketing that feels more like entertainment – the kind of ads people won’t mind watching. That shift is especially important for building an entertainment franchise – and it is what Lions Gate achieved by extending its fictional world beyond the film itself.
Lions Gate CEO Jon Feltheimer has said the company expects Catching Fire to “significantly outperform” the first movie in international box-office numbers. The Hollywood Reporter has forecast that Catching Fire could earn $175-million (U.S.) in its North American debut this weekend, which would put it second only to The Avengers’s $207.4-million in its first three days in theatres.
By the time the profits are being counted, the marketers will already be working on the push for the third instalment in the series.