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February 15, 2024

Beyond the Screen: 5 Viral Movie Marketing Campaigns

A black and white shot of a movie set filled with film crew

If you’re an avid movie-goer, you know that marketing is a huge part of the cinematic experience. From trailers to posters to social media buzz, movie marketing campaigns can make or break a film's success. 

Some film marketing goes above and beyond to create viral moments that break the box office and the internet at large. In this blog, we’ll walk you through five of the most iconic experiential marketing campaigns that did exactly that.

Lights, camera, action! 

1. Barbie (2023)

In 2023, the iconic Barbie traded her plastic world for the silver screen. 

The movie marketing campaign that drove its success was a masterclass in bringing childhood nostalgia to life, captivating audiences with teaser trailers, posters, and character frames that hinted at a storyline set to blur the lines between reality and fantasy. 

As social media was flooded with users copying the iconic “Hi, my name is Barbie” poster, nothing wowed quite like an Airbnb listing that allowed fans to spend the night at a real-life Barbie Dreamhouse in Malibu—hosted by Ken, of course! 

This, when combined with the Barbenheimer phenomenon and a dizzying array of partnerships, unsurprisingly made Barbie the top-grossing film of 2023.

A screenshot of the Barbie’s Malibu Dreamhouse - Ken’s Way! listing on Airbnb,

Image Source: Airbnb

2. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006)

Borat, the flick’s outrageous main character, took the world by storm thanks to a movie marketing strategy that blended reality and satire. 

Viral pranks, mockumentary-style interviews, and unexpected public appearances (in character!) had audiences questioning what was real and what was scripted, culminating in a worldwide box office of more than $260 million.

While the out-of-the-box film promotion offended more than a few people (and governments), Borat’s production and marketing team certainly proved that “any publicity is good publicity” when it comes to the box office. Great success! 

The film’s sequel, Borat 2, followed a similarly audacious marketing campaign. 

3. Super Mario Bros (2023)

The latest Super Mario Bros movie double-jumped its way into one of the top-grossing films of all time thanks to one of the best movie marketing campaigns ever. 

The team behind the film did an amazing job of capturing the essence of the classic game and bringing it to life through various experiential and event marketing strategies. From building a fully functioning website that promoted SMB Plumbing, a “company” founded by brothers Mario and Luigi, to fans being able to call a designated hotline to talk to Luigi and receive text updates about the movie.


The experiential action didn’t stop there, as they also: 

→ Partnered with Amazon to have products shipped in on-brand boxes made to look like the Mario franchise’s iconic question mark blocks

→ Executed special promotions in Hong Kong and Taiwan, giving out movie merchandise for the purchase of select Super Mario video games.

→ Hosted a jaw-dropping drone light show at Los Angeles’ Santa Monica Pier featuring various characters from the movie.

4. The Blair Witch Project (1999)

Often considered one of the best movie marketing campaigns of all time is the one that drove awareness and perpetuated fear for The Blair Witch Project

The marketing team capitalized on the budding possibilities of the internet, which was in its infancy at the time. Their marketing campaign drove uncertainty among the public, making them question whether the virtually unknown cast was actually missing—or dead. 

They spread rumours, shared police reports, and passed out missing posters claiming that the film's protagonists, Heather, Mike, and Josh, had disappeared while filming a documentary in the Maryland woods. They even went so far as to proliferate fake news stories written up by small local papers about the missing persons and their whereabouts.

A central component of this viral experiential marketing tactic was the website, which was made to look like an extension of the storyline. Instead of urging users to see the movie, the website sold the myth of the Blair Witch and the film’s actors, giving details and biographical info on the “lost” filmmakers. 

It was confusing and scary, which fueled online discussions and fan theories. These targeted experiences were so wildly successful it’s still considered one of the most profound movies of its generation, grossing $248 million off of a $60,000 budget

5. The Dark Knight (2008)

While the film’s title refers to Batman, one can easily be forgiven for thinking that this movie is about the Joker—he stole not only the spotlight on the show but also the hype during the film’s year-long marketing campaign

The movie marketing campaign for The Dark Knight used an Alternate Reality Game (ARG) called "Why So Serious?" to immerse fans in the world of Gotham City. Fans participated in various real-world events that connected them to the film's narrative. 

It began when the first image of Heath Ledger as the Joker was revealed through a cryptic online puzzle. Fans were forced to pool their emails to unlock the full photo, which helped generate organic chatter from the get-go.

Then, at Comic Con, the film team distributed Joker-defaced $1 bills and initiated a scavenger hunt that led players to become the 650,000-strong "Joker Army.” Across North America, fans took photos of hidden letters to piece together a ransom note teasing what was next.

The elaborate chase ultimately led players to an early IMAX screening of the movie’s opening bank robbery scene. Their actions in the ARG are directly tied to the movie; it’s implied they helped the Joker steal the school bus he escapes in. 

Other highlights included Joker-rigged cellphones hidden in cakes at bakeries nationwide and a campaign rally for Harvey Dent involving protest marches in 33 cities. This culminated in featured projections of the iconic bat signal over Chicago and New York.

The result? The Dark Knight sold out midnight screenings worldwide, eventually grossing nearly $1 billion. It remains a model for buzz-worthy experiential marketing that transcends traditional promotion.

Joker-vandalized version of The Gotham Times, marketing materials used during The Dark Knight’s film marketing campaign.

Image Source: Why So Serious Redux: Fan Archive

Make Your Next Experiential Campaign a Blockbuster Hit

From Barbie to Batman, the success of these films illustrates the power of a good movie marketing campaign—especially one that takes consumers on a journey off-screen and into real life.

You don’t have to work in the film industry to take advantage of these strategies; The Concierge Club creates these kinds of experiences for brands and businesses in virtually any industry. No matter what your goals are, we can help you create a viral marketing campaign that leverages experientiality to help you better connect with your target audience. 

Want to make your next event a box office hit? Work with us today!