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Universal Studios scares up mobile engagement via Facebook Messenger

Universal Studios engaged more than 100,000 consumers and drove awareness for recent horror film Unfriended by enabling users of the Facebook Messenger application to communicate with one of the movie?s characters. 

A Facebook page and promotion for the film, which was released on April 17, sent a ripple through social media by putting consumers in the plotline of the movie.  A page for Laura Barns, the films? villain, went live on April 10 and users were able to message with her until April 26. 

"In approximately two weeks time, we managed to engage over 100,000 people on Facebook, many of which were excited to watch the movie," said Eyal Pfeifel, chief technology officer at Imperson, the technology behind the marketing tactic. "The campaign, which was designed to immerse the user in the storyline of the movie itself, saw high engagement levels without any additional marketing spend."

Scare tactics
Unfriended follows the story of a group of teenagers, whose friend committed suicide after an embarrassing video was uploaded online. The film takes place a year after her death, when her ghost makes a return to expose the secrets of the group and extract her revenge. 

Laura continued to ?search? for the character that posted the video, leading to her suicide through messages on the page. The character messaged users threatening to expose their secrets and even kill them if they did not expose who shared her video. 

The page was operated as if Laura?s mom had taken over the page after her death, and messages were sent as if from Laura?s ghost. However, many users even believed the promotion was real, became frightened over the page and 29 percent of users discussed in the chat whether or not it was fake. 

This method of chilling advertising made the effort successful. The page received 40,000 likes and more than 57 percent engaged with Laura?s ghost. 

The shareability of the effort was a supporting factor of the campaign as 23 percent of users shared the page with their friends. The average conversation spanned over 33 hours. 

Laura?s ghost on Facebook messaged users with phrases such as ?ur secrets keep u up at night,? and ?ur a waste of life.? Other messages threaten to expose user secrets such as ?want2 keep ur secrets private? Who posted the video?? and ?u think ur safe?? 

Users could also message Laura through Kik and visit its mobile optimized microsite. The film grossed over $44.6 million. 

Consumer interaction
These methods of interacting with fans and consumers are becoming more seen in the mobile and social media space.  

For example, Fox 2000 Pictures rolled out two similar social media marketing tactics for its Poltergeist remake, most recently with live streaming service Periscope, as they look to leverage millennials' interest in fear-inducing content, personalized material and social media (see more). 

Also, Footwear manufacturer and retailer Clarks put a new spin on mobile marketing with an interactive storytelling event through messaging application WhatsApp to drum up sales of its Desert Boot (see more). 

"Messaging is the de-facto communication channel for millennials and post-millennial generations, so for marketers, there is an enormous potential for innovation on this front," Mr. Pfeifel said. "Using a conversation platform can offer the opportunity to extend storylines beyond the silver and big screens, and bring our favorite characters, personalities and celebrities to virtual life. 

"There is limitless potential for messaging when it comes to brand and film promotion and we are excited to be on the forefront of working with folks like Universal and the writers of Unfriended to continue pushing the bar," he said. 

Final take
Brielle Jaekel is editorial assistant at Mobile Marketer