Paranormal Activity’s marketing just kneecapped their latest release – twice

Jack QuadeWhile the original Paranormal Activity was heralded as one of the greatest movie marketing campaigns ever Jake Quade argues the makers have bungled the promotion for the latest instalment.

When your first production makes over $107 million at the box office and fuels a cinematic genre that sustains a plethora of smaller releases – four being your own sequels – you know you’ve done something right.

Over the past eight years, the marketing team behind Paranormal Activity have managed to generate a thematic styling that gave them so much to work with and filled cinemas in a flash.

Interestingly, they’ve broken out of this styling for their latest release, and it hasn’t worked.

Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension has recently been brought into the world following four prior installments, with the original gaining notoriety for having a budget of just $15,000 and an awesome marketing strategy. This sits in stark contrast to the latest title to the foray, which has landed a comparatively measly take-home of over $8 million, shunned certain cinemas and brought about a confused, sketchy marketing delivery. It serves as a key learning for marketers in a few areas:

Try something new without burning bridges

When The Ghost Dimension hit cinemas, it did so to around 1,000 less screens than its predecessor, in an intentional effort from the production team to get the film online quicker – just 17 days after it left most screens. Not only did this crimp their revenue hose, with a lot of major theatres shunning the film, it prevented the same horror-stricken reactions and localised demand that fuelled one of their first marketing campaigns.

If you’re going to reinvent a series, at least honour the veterans (read: existing customer base) that built your initial success. They’re the ones already interested in your material.

Don’t answer every question thrown at you

Blumhouse Productions may be forgiven for not pre-empting this one, which one might argue makes it one of the more valuable lessons from this movie mishap: if your product foster intrigue, let it spread through your audience.

For a working example of this, check out their recent promotional video. Not only does it completely break the styling that garnered their notoriety in the thriller world, it throws out one of the film’s greatest amplification tools: it’s dislocated timeline. If people need to talk to each other to scratch the ‘intrigue itch’ that your movie creates, the result is earned, genuine conversation.

The story comes full circle. Before you enter the #GhostDimension, take a minute to get up to speed on the universe of #ParanormalActivity

Posted by Paranormal Activity on Monday, 19 October 2015

By all means, try new styles – to continue this example, Bethesda have proven recently that cartoons can sell a serious product – but don’t sell audience intrigue short. There’s a difference between scratching an itch and squashing the discussion.

Despite the lack of consistency in their latest number, the marketing team for Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimensions have done something right – after all we are here talking about it, perhaps just not in the way they had hoped.


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