Brands, Take Notes From the Film Industry’s Marketing Lessons

Movie campaigns have a unique way of sticking in viewers' heads and resonating

Dante's Lunch: A Short Tail and the "Path to Pixar" series were two ways Disney marketed Coco before its release.
Facebook: @PixarCoco

If you Google “how to make your brand stand out,” you’ll find 189 million near-identical results all with seven “sure-fire ways” on how to make your brand the next big thing. However, to find out how to really stand out, brands should look to an industry that is known for doing just that: cinema.

In 2013, the BFI reported that 698 films were released at the cinema in the U.K., but how many of those films did you hear about? Whatever the budget, a marketing campaign can make or break a film’s performance. As brand marketers, here’s what we can learn from three of the most effectively marketed films from the past year and how they stood out from the crowd.

Paddington 2

What they did 

Three months before the film’s release, StudioCanal launched a Facebook video campaign. This included releasing countdown videos, a “how to make a marmalade sandwich” video, personalized Facebook stories camera effect and a quiz video. StudioCanal also jumped on the live video bandwagon, generating snippets from the world premiere for Facebook Stories and using Facebook Live to stream the whole event.

Did it work?

The production budget was $40 million and it made $237 million at the box office. In November, two weeks after the film’s release, Creative Review reported that organic content had already reached “10.6 million people with over 1 million post engagements and 5.3 million views.”


  • Create audience-first content.

What do your customers want to see? Don’t just push content on them that you like; create content your audience wants.

  • Show your personality.

StudioCanal recognized trends that worked with the film’s personality, such as camera effects, a “Guide to Being a Good Bear” and “Your Week Ahead Presented by Paddington.” Consumers want to know who they are buying from, so don’t be afraid to reveal who you are as a brand.

Thor: Ragnarok

What they did

Marvel used video at the forefront of its campaign. Two months before the film’s release, they unleashed two short films about Thor and his roommate, Darryl, entitled Team Thor Part 1 and Part 2.

They also created Halloween-inspired food videos, a “Monday Motivation” Cate Blanchett video and a series of #ComicsNCoffee videos, where they partnered with coffee artist Michael Breach at BaristArt to design coffees with the characters faces.

Did it work?

The production budget was $180 million and it made $854 million at the box office. The Team Thor videos published on Marvel U.K.’s YouTube account assembled 2.5 million views, 41,000 likes and 1,756 comments (not including their social channels or other accounts that uploaded the content).


  • Produce a variety of content in different formats.

Don’t rely on one piece of content. Generate multiple supporting elements for different platforms.

  • Use humor.

Marvel let the film’s comically-minded director and characters take center stage in the marketing process, making their content more engaging and funny. After all, people like to laugh, and as Thor: Ragnarok proves, when humor is well-executed it can be a win-win situation.


What they did 

Disney released a short film called Dante’s Lunch: A Short Tail, giving viewers an insight into the Mexican culture that the feature film explores (and cashing in on people’s love of dogs). They also created countdown videos, a “Path to Pixar” short series and a sponsored film with showcasing the filmmakers discovering their ancestors.

Did it work?

The production budget was $175–200 million and it made $758 million at the box office. Dante’s Lunch amassed 1.1 million views, 5,100 shares and 9,700 likes on Facebook alone.


  • Don’t focus on one release schedule.

Spread your content over longer periods of time (weeks or even months.)

  • Seek emotional engagement.

People relate to what makes them feel. From partnerships and the short film to social videos, Disney remained on-brand with their messaging, somehow turning a film about dead ancestors into something joyful and inclusive. Think about what you want your customers to feel.

As these innovative marketing campaigns highlight, there’s always space for creativity, quirkiness and laughter when it comes to devising marketing strategies. Brands just have to know when to use it, why they’re using it and how to effectively reach their audience with it.

Recommended articles