5 Greatest Movie Marketing Campaigns of Summer 2015

Like a high-stakes game of poker, the summer movie season is where studios place their biggest bets. Some of them pay off huge (Jurassic World) while others get called on their bluffs (Fantastic Four). Whether the hand itself (the movie) is good or bad, one of the best ways for studios to play their cards right is through the marketing.

That’s why we love summer movie marketing. It provides a glimpse at all the things marketing campaigns (in any industry, at any budget) need to do well to be successful—but the scope is blown up to epic proportions, with hundreds of millions of dollars at stake.

In today’s post, we project our thoughts on the biggest marketing blockbusters of summer 2015. We look back on all the road warriors, superheroes, secret agents, minions, and mutant dinosaurs that have chased after our wallets over the past few months and tell you which ones marketed their way to the top of the summer’s cinematic heap.

Welcome to Our Third Annual Summer Movie Marketing Awards

You can listen to us discuss this topic and our summer movie marketing winners in depth on this episode of our podcast. You can also view our marketing winners from summers past here:

5 Notes on Summer 2015 at the Box Office

One key factor in measuring the marketing success of a movie is box office. So before we get into our top summer movie marketing picks, here’s a quick rundown on what happened at the box office this summer:

  • The overall 2015 summer box office will beat out 2014 but not 2013 (which was a record-setting year).  source: Box Office Mojo
  • While many analysts thought this could be the first summer where the overall box office reached $5 billion domestically, that didn’t happen.  source: CNN
  • Released on June 12, Jurassic World had the biggest domestic opening of all time—making $208 million in one weekend. It is currently the third-highest grossing movie ever.  source: Variety
  • There were four movies releases since May 1 that have made over $300 million at the U.S. box office—and 11 that have made over $100 million.  source: Box Office Mojo 
  • The bigger winner of the summer was Universal Pictures, which had 3 of the summer’s top 5 movies (including Jurassic World).  source: New York Times
  • 5 Greatest Movie Marketing Campaigns of Summer 2015

Now onto our picks. Remember, we’re not necessarily talking about the best summer movies—we’re talking about the ones that had the most effective marketing efforts behind them…

1. Avengers: Age of Ultron

As a follow-up to one of the biggest movies of all time, the marketing for Avengers: Age of Ultron was everywhere. From product tie-ins (including this one with Gillette) to a seemingly infinite number of TV spots, Avengers: Age of Ultron may not have ended up being the biggest movie of the summer (see below for that one) but it had the biggest marketing muscle behind it (in terms of sheer volume and impact), ensuring the film was a massive success at the box office.

U.S. Box Office: $458 Million

Avengers Age of Ultron

2. Jurassic World

This was the movie that swallowed summer 2015 and a good part of its unexpected success is due to the marketing, which positioned the film as the sequel you always wanted by never got to 1993’s Jurassic Park—making it appeal to two generations of moviegoers. Jurassic World also did some unique and clever things with its marketing. A great example is the film’s official website which presents the dinosaur park as a real place you can visit. With remarkable attention to detail, the site was the viral marketing hit of the summer.

U.S. Box Office: $648 Million

Jurassic World

3/4. Minions/Inside Out

The marketing for both these movies did an excellent job driving the family audience to the multiplexes this summer, but they did it in different ways. Minions built off the success of the Despicable Me franchise, reminding audiences why they love these funny, unique creatures. Meanwhile Inside Out did an exceptional job presenting its clever, original premise and selling the emotions as characters. Both these movies also took product promotions to epic new heights.

U.S. Box Office: $330 Million (Minions)

MinionsU.S. Box Office: $350 Million (Inside Out)

Inside Out

5. Mad Max Fury Road

Of all the marketing campaigns on this list, the one for Mad Max: Fury Road may have worked the hardest. The key challenge: Trying to sell an expensive reboot of a cultish, 30+ year old franchise to a mainstream audience. Fury Road overcame that challenge by delivering some truly great trailers, fueling strong social media word of mouth among its core fan base, and engaging a female audience by shining the spotlight on the film’s strong female character: Imperator Furiosa. The result was an early summer hit.

U.S. Box Office: $153 Million

Mad Max Fury Road

5 Additional Honorable Mentions

These movies did some great marketing work but just missed the cut…

1. Pitch Perfect 2

Used social sites like Snapchat and Periscope to engage the Millennial audience and exceed expectations with an opening weekend haul of $69 million (in comparison, the first movie made $65 million total). Also gets credit for the tagline, “We’re back, pitches”.  U.S. Box Office: $184 Million

2. Trainwreck

Trainwreck did a fantastic job marketing to male and female audiences. Rising comedy star Amy Schumer was at the forefront of the film’s promotional campaign, but the marketing wisely also shined a spotlight on the role of LeBron James in the film as he played in the NBA Finals.  U.S. Box Office: $108 Million

3. The Gift

This small budget movie ($5 million) did a great job providing counterprogramming to all the action, sci-fi and special effects of the summer season. Using a mystery-focused marketing campaign that promised thrills and twists, and harkened back to 80s movies like Fatal Attraction, The Gift managed to draw in the adult audience becoming a minor summer success story.  U.S. Box Office: $42 Million

4. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

Cruise really hung from a plane for this movie. How do we know this? The marketing promoted and played it up nonstop. A wise move as Cruise and the action promise of the marketing propelled the fifth film in the surprisingly strong MI franchise to become a late-summer hit.  U.S. Box Office: $185 Million

5. Ant Man

It may only be a minor hit for Marvel, but many wondered if this oddball superhero would be able to find an audience this summer. Thanks to some strong marketing, including some nice guerilla pieces like these tiny billboards, Ant Man was a modest success.  U.S. Box Office: $175 Million

Key Takeaways from Summer 2015 at the Movies

So what can your business learn from this summer’s best movie marketing campaigns? Have a hook to compel your core audience and then explore avenues for expansion.

Ask these two questions as you build the strategy for your next marketing campaign:

  • What’s your unique selling point? What are we giving people they can’t get anywhere else?
  • Where are the opportunities to expand beyond our target audience? How can we capitalize on them?





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