This past Friday, my inner child squealed with delight as I sat in the darkened theater and heard the opening score to the live-action remake of my favorite film from the Disney Renaissance, Beauty and the Beast. I cried, I laughed, I cringed, I clapped, and I must say, it was the most fun I’ve had at the movies in a long time. I was terrified the film would be awful, but I wasn’t disappointed!
In the months leading up to the release, I followed Beauty and the Beast’s Facebook marketing campaign pretty closely. I felt obliged, as I love the original 1991 film, as well as Harry Potter’s Hermione and celebrated feminist Emma Watson (Belle) and Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens (the Beast) (and Tony Award Winning Actress, Audra McDonald…and former Gandalf, Sir Ian McKellen…the list goes on). It’s a pretty impressive campaign. They posted something new every day for almost the past two and a half months. From videos, to gifs, articles, even a new downloadable emoji board for the iPhone, the Facebook marketing campaign constantly had something to offer. With 17,013,914 followers on the Facebook page, I like to think that this campaign contributed to its stellar box-office opening weekend performance.
This iteration of Beauty and the Beast was the perfect storm of social media buzz. An all-star cast, an impressive marketing effort, a positive review from The New York Times, controversy surrounding a titular star and the film itself…all of this contributed to its $170 million opening weekend.
The marketing campaign appealed to many of the rules of engagement we read about on NPR. Although these rules were set forth for local stories, I believe that they apply here as well. The campaign included crowd pleasers (namely the emoji board for iPhone), awe inspiring visuals in the form of stills and gifs from the film, curiosity stimulators or livestream Q&As from the cast and creative team of the film, and even major breaking news when a new trailer was released. All of these rules of engagement, though applicable in a social media standpoint, are ultimately humanistic in nature; they appeal to utterly human thoughts and feelings and strike us right to our core. Perhaps this is the work of nostalgia, but I believe the Facebook platform gives it a little push.
I believe that Beauty and the Beast’s success in its opening weekend alone serves as a case study for a strong social media marketing campaign. Several outside factors contributed to the film’s success…the fact that it was a remake of the classic animated film, relevant news stories about Emma Watson and the backlash from the “exclusively gay moment,” and generally positive reviews. That being said, a strong social media market didn’t hurt. Although social media is relatively new, the buzz it creates is “a tale as old as time.”