After hiring an outside head of marketing for the film Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Disney came up with some pretty exciting tactics for marketing the latest (yet, unfortunately, not the last) film in the P.O.T.C. series. Most of the marketing, I noticed, took place online and through mobile devices, and was geared towards an older audience, which makes sense, seeing as the series marks the first films Disney has rated PG-13.
I started by looking at their website, which is, first of all, beautiful. The graphics are absolutely stunning, and coupled with the accompanying music, the site really stirs up that intense and bad-ass pirate feeling associated with the movies. But something that was really innovative about this site was the badges (below). When you first enter the site, you are awarded an “On Stranger Tides” Badge, which brings you to a badge menu. From there, you are told that by exploring the site more, you can unlock more badges, which will give you “booty”, or rewards, like wallpapers and pictures from the film.
I think that this idea is brilliant, as it follows the same theory that makes something like Foursquare successful. The theory is that people are motivated by goals, objectives, and rewards. For Foursquare, this means that people will check in at certain locations because they can earn points, unlock badges, and even obtain mayorship, which then provides physical rewards. This site is wonderfully constructed because as soon as you enter it, you are tempted to search more, even if just for a sense of fulfillment. Through this drive, Disney gets you to want to see more of the website, where you may stumble on something exciting or stimulating in some way. And, voila! You are hooked.
Another way that Disney captured the internet’s attention was with their elaborate YouTube channel, called disneypirates. Through the channel, you could watch clips from the movie, interviews from the premiere at Disneyland, and behind-the-scenes footage. You could also buy tickets to the movie, download wallpapers, and get access to the Pirate Discovery App. But MY favorite part of the channel is a section called “Skull Creator”, where you can essentially decorate the P.O.T.C. skull with wigs, facial hair, jewelry, and wounds however you like. You can see my fabulous creation below!
Lastly, as I mentioned before, Disney released a Pirate Discovery App. I couldn’t download the App myself because it was made for the Android, but according to cellphonesmarket.com, users simply text AHOY to 52011 to download the app, and then they get access to “exclusive rich content from [the] movie, including character bios, movie stills and artwork…[they] can buy tickets, talk about the film with other fans by creating Facebook/Twitter posts from right within the app…and can seamlessly stream live footage of the world premiere (5/7/11).” You can get a micro-version of the app on the Pirates website, which you can see below!
With all of this online and mobile marketing, how did the film do in comparison to the series’ earlier films? Unfortunately, not so well. In fact, it has placed third out of the four films in Opening Weekend revenue, and scored a very low 34% on RottenTomatoes.com.
And, we all know that it wouldn’t be like Disney for them to not use their separate entities for some good ol’ cross-promotion! Here is Mr. Kermit the Frog at the Pirates: On Stranger Tides World Premiere at Disneyland!
So what’s next for the franchise? Despite the declining ratings and profit, I am sad to hear that Disney has plans to shoot TWO MORE back-to-back movies for the series. According to hitfix.com, “Pirates 4 is already the single highest greenlight budget of all time, and it must look like the only sound way to get another trilogy out of the franchise, shooting two films together.”
If it were up to me, I would slap some sense into the Execs at Walt Disney Pictures. They have not only killed the series – they have outright slaughtered it, to the point where it is degrading the integrity of the Disney brand. I would encourage them to take another look at the numbers so that they can see that the fans are just as not into it anymore. Coming from a person who saw the first Pirates film 8 times in theaters, I’m over it, and it makes me sad that they are simply exploiting the franchise at this point, with seemingly no quality control. Also, while I love Captain Jack Sparrow, the series has lost two of it’s most substantial players. If they want to keep the Captain alive, they need to at least come up with some new jokes. I don’t think anyone is wondering why the rum is gone anymore…