Lovecraft Country, HBO’s new supernatural drama series set in 1950s Jim Crow America, tackles the horrors of racism and monsters straight from author H.P. Lovecraft’s stories. To build buzz for the series from showrunner Misha Green and producers Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams, the network recently curated branded influencer kits containing items tied to its themes and characters, all sourced from or supporting Black-owned businesses.
Leading up to the series premiere on Aug. 16, HBO sent kits to 300 influencers and press containing Lovecraft Country-inspired clothes, accessories, home goods and literature, as well as a virtual preview screening of the first episode. The network partnered with agency Translation to curate the kits, which targeted genre fans of color and pop culture fanatics.
Jackie Gagne, svp of multicultural marketing at WarnerMedia, said HBO developed the campaign to cultivate a network of like-minded influencers to engage consumers around the show on social media before the premiere.
“Our goal was to share our kit and subsequent screening experience with influencers, who among other characteristics, are blerds [Black nerds] and are passionate about Black storytelling,” Gagne said. “The details, including the direct outreach, were important to us as we hope to build a community, a relationship, with our influencers who are invested in the show and the themes that drive it.
“We don’t only want to delight our audiences with gifts, but we hope that our marketing efforts, in addition to our content, provide opportunities for conversation.”
Each kit contained a welcome note from Atticus (the main character portrayed by Jonathan Majors), resembling a letter he receives in the series premiere. The boxes also contained:
- A bag from luggage brand Life on Autopilot
- Sunglasses from eyewear brand Bohten
- A sweatshirt from BLK MKT Vintage
- A candle from Bright Black
- From publishers Amalgam Comics and Coffeehouse, novels Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff, Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, and The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
- A Grubhub gift card with a link to local Black-owned restaurants
The kits also contained field guides with information about each company and inspiration for each product, as well as historic footnotes about Black American culture.
“Our show, of course, was created by a Black woman and stars Black heroes, but the first episode itself also leans into the concept of safe havens and businesses for Black people,” Gagne said. “After deciding early that we wanted to partner with Black-owned businesses to curate our kits, we next entered into partnerships with businesses we knew could work with us to align with our influencer community while diving into the themes of the show.”
With physical experiences no longer an option for marketing campaigns, HBO’s multicultural marketing team has leaned into influencer kits as a way to celebrate shows during the pandemic. The brand first sent out block party-themed kits for Season 4 of Insecure, followed by similar kits for I May Destroy You and Yvonne Orji: Momma I Made It.
“What we’ve learned is to always stay true to our audiences and to the story. The work is most effective when you reach out to people with content, and kits, that genuinely resonate with their interests,” Gagne said. “Every story is different, as is every person, and we craft our kits with those considerations in mind.”
Lovecraft Country, which also stars Jurnee Smollett, Courtney B. Vance and Michael K. Williams, airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO and is available to stream on HBO Max.