How Disney Markets Their Films With Spoiler Culture

Nicole Sudjono

Without ever actually revealing anything.

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Avengers Endgame ShinjikuDick Thomas Johnson

Spoilers are a huge enemy to the movie industry, so using reveal marketing will be quite a challenge. But recently, Disney has been taking advantage of the spoiler culture into its use for marketing purposes of their movies.

You may think that marketing shouldn’t be much involved because content speaks for itself. However, keep in mind that there hasn’t been this much excitement for a movie finale since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. That movie earned more than $1.3 billion worldwide whereas Avengers Endgame earned nearly $3 billion.

Now, I don’t work for Disney so I don’t know their full strategy. However, for the past few years, I’ve been noticing that they have been using reveal marketing brilliantly.

Reveal Marketing, as the name indicates itself, is a strategy that needs the audience when unveiling something new to them. This works very well when businesses want to unveil new products or services to customers.

Companies like Apple uses this a lot during their press talks of unveiling new products such as the new iPhones. However, unlike movies, they don’t have a “spoiler” culture that could ruin the guest experience. So how does this work for the entertainment industry?

In this article, I want to show you how Disney used the “spoiler” culture to raise the excitement of their movies, and I’ll take the recent Marvel films as an example since that’s the first time it ever surfaced.

Note that this is based on my analysis from Disney’s announcements, and this “spoiler” tactic doesn’t apply to their remake films.

1. Social Media Hashtags

The biggest hit was prior to the Avengers Infinity War release. Disney introduced the hashtag #ThanosDemandsYourSilence. The hashtag worked very well as everyone is on board with the hype game Marvel played, earning many retweets and trends all over the social media.

In a way, they indirectly made the fans market for Marvel just by using this hashtag together with a simple letter from the Russo brothers about not spoiling the movie. By doing so, it created a sense of excitement that the audience was in for a surprise.

This psychology aspect of marketing triggered the “Ikea’ Effect.” Basically, in this case, Disney interacts with the fan by making them work together on how to create the most phenomenal experience by helping not to spoil the movie. Thus, the hashtag worked very well to build excitement.

Not only did they trigger the “Ikea Effect,” but they also sparked the psychology of FOMO, (Fear Of Missing Out). People these days are always following the trends and if they don’t follow it, they feel left out. That’s why this trend works very well during the release of the highly anticipated movie.

When Disney realized that it worked very well for Infinity War, they did the same thing with Avengers Endgame. The hashtag #Don’tSpoilEndgame surfaced on social media, trending the internet again the way they did with Infinity War. Thus, Disney had the advantage of effective marketing through fans.

2. “Accidental” Leaks

This was the major thing that increased the hype and curiosity of the marvel movies. There had been notable actors who were famous for spoiling their own movies in interviews, notably Tom Holland and Mark Ruffalo.

In the beginning, it looked like they unintentionally spoiled it. But later on, Disney seems to keep allowing it to happen because of one incident with Mark Ruffalo on the premiere of Thor: Ragnarok. At first, Kevin Feige, the producer, wasn’t happy. However, it actually worked for them:

“The next day, I showed up to do press, and I’m hurting. I can’t look anyone in the eyes, and I walked over to him (Kevin Feige) to say sorry.
And he grabs me in a bear hug and he’s like: “THAT WAS GENIUS! WE GOT MORE PRESS ON THAT FROM THE WHOLE PREMIERE!!” — Mark Ruffalo

The same goes for Spiderman.

At some point, one of the marketeers must’ve realized that he will never be able to stop spoiling and they decided to get creative about his disadvantage. They used his spoils to spark fan’s curiosity.

They made him reveal crucial posters, announcing the movies instead of letting Disney saying it first. We’ve seen this when he revealed the very first poster of Avengers Infinity War before Disney did, and right after that, the internet went crazy on the reveal, creating a massive trend all over the internet. Even the movie media picked it up. That is the power of the subtle reveal.

Eventually, when Disney found that this helps the marketing team a lot, they did the same thing for their other films. For example, Disney also used this technique for Toy Story 4, where Tom Hanks actually brought the script to the Jimmy Kimmel Tonight Show and revealed the subtle plot of the film.

Logically, of course, Tom Hanks could be sued by Disney if he revealed the crucial plot points of the movie on camera. Except that there is no news that he got in trouble doing so, which indicates that Disney made him do it.

No studios have ever attempted this move yet besides Disney. And they used this technique again with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker when the actor, John Boyega, said that he left his script in his old room when he was moving out and someone sold it for 65 British Pounds on eBay and Disney had to quickly buy it before someone began leaking it online.

Now, we don’t know if it’s intentional or not, but it worked well for the studio to market the movie as the movie made more than $1 billion at the box office worldwide.

Conclusion

Once again, no doubt that content plays a huge part in it. However, the excitement of the product is what makes the sales increase, and the slow reveal is the one that brings out the most.

The sad thing is, due to covid, the hype for the recent release Black Widow became harder to make the same type of excitement before the pandemic. For now, the casts could only do that through zoom calls.

Loki is now streaming on Disney+.

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Rochester, MI
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