Disney’s Unique Marketing Approach for ‘Frozen’–And Why It Worked

Photo credit: Entertainment Weekly

Photo credit: Entertainment Weekly

It’s official: Frozen won’t be thawing out anytime soon. It’s no secret that it has been smashing records and winning awards and creating a massive fan following since it was released in theaters in November, and it seems as if it hasn’t been slowing down at all since then. While a lot of its success rests on the movie itself, I also think the way Disney marketed the movie was part of its overall achievement.

I have to admit, when I first saw trailers for Frozen I wasn’t entirely sure what it was about. I thought Olaf and Sven were the main characters and Elsa was the villain as some sort of evil snow queen. I also didn’t know it was going to be a musical, because I don’t remember hearing any of the songs in the trailers. So while I had always expected to love it, I was definitely caught off guard and left the theater loving it even more. And because I was so pleasantly surprised by the twist of events, I was sure to tell everyone I knew that they had to go see it (perfect word-of-mouth advertising!). I’m not sure if it was intentional or accidental that Frozen’s trailers were just a little misleading, but I think in this case it worked out well because the movie exceeded expectations by a long shot.

After the movie was released Disney continued to make smart marketing decisions by seizing every opportunity. I’m sure it’s easy to bask in the success of a blockbuster film and sit back to enjoy the accolades and broken records. But instead, Disney created a sing-along version to extend theater life, announced an upcoming Broadway musical based on the film, and pounced on the opportunity for Idina Menzel to sing at the Oscars (of course we all have to give John Travolta credit for even more publicity). Sometimes such an aggressive marketing campaign can backfire (like when you see the same commercial three thousand times a day and start to despise it), but when a company knows their audience and realizes that Frozen fans will never get sick of it, it’s a smart move.

Another aspect of this movie that I’ve never seen with any other film is that it’s still in theaters (in my town, anyway) despite also being available on DVD/Blu-ray/iTunes. This seems completely counterintuitive, because all logic says that people won’t pay to see it in the theater when they can download it from home. Again, though, this is a case of Disney knowing its audience. I know people who have seen it over ten times in the theater, not thinking twice about the cost. And Disney knows there are these types of fans who will keep buying tickets, so why stop showing it?

Finally, the greatest and most effective form of Disney’s advertising for Frozen: I’m 90% sure they summoned the Polar Vortex for this movie. Now that’s marketing.

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