Marketing to the Vampire Crowd

In case you haven’t noticed, vampires are taking over the Web.

The last time so much attention was placed on these blood-sucking immortals it was 1994 and Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise were much paler. Fifteen years later, we’re seeing vampire fever play out again, thanks in large part to the upcoming release of the second film based on a novel in Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight Series,” called “New Moon.”

As a marketer, it’s been interesting to watch how these books have reached their tipping point. Originally intended as a novel for young adults, and holding particular appeal to girls, “Twilight” has found popularity among everyone from moms to men — though the latter may not admit they’ve read it. Nielsen concurs: according to a report released in June, the film site for “Twilight” over-indexed among 25 to 34-year olds. The film adaptation did extraordinarily well at the box office, and the next movie promises to be equally popular.

Motion picture development company Summit Entertainment seems determined to ensure that it is. Last week, MySpace users were treated to a homepage takeover that included such features as access to a song from the soundtrack, video footage of the movie, the “New Moon” iPhone app, and pre-release ticket purchases.

One has to wonder whether the author, who reportedly tapped her brother’s knowledge of cars to select the vehicles her characters would drive in the novels, could have known that it was an online advertising opportunity in the making. Volvo’s “What Drives Edward” microsite features the model that lead vampire character Edward drives in the film, while cross-promoting “New Moon” with a premiere viewing contest, movie clips (including those that place the car front and center), and a selection of both Volvo and “New Moon” screensavers.

Again, speaking to the new audience that the book and film series is finding among consumers, Volvo reports that the first film helped to attract interest from 20 and 30-year olds who “had never considered Volvo before.” So what seemed like an unlikely match is, in fact, turning out to be as compatible as type “O” blood.

“New Moon” isn’t the only vampire-themed entertainment taking a bite out of online media space. The CW’s, “The Vampire Diaries” has been at the heart of a comparably aggressive ad campaign that includes mobile marketing designed to build awareness for the show. Working with mobile answers service provider ChaCha, the network delivered its usual answers to questions texted by teen and young adult viewers through its SMS services. This time, however, responses incorporated a call to action teaser to watch “The Vampire Diaries'” Halloween episode. By piggybacking on a mobile company’s existing service like this one, advertisers can increase their reach and boost exposure among an entirely new audience of potential viewers.

Rounding out the vampire theme is HBO’s “True Blood,” which true to the trend, has created some interesting digital advertising initiatives of its own. Earlier this year, HBO’s interactive shop developed a fake blog and faux ads that resonate with vampires — and, by association, the viewers who watch the program about vampires who live openly among humans. Established brands such as Monster.com, Harley-Davidson, and BMW’s Mini have created actual online ads that cater to vampires (think slogans like “Feel the wind in your fangs”), with the latter running on such sites as Yahoo, CNN, and AOL.

Most interesting about seeing imaginary beings promoted online is the very tangible ways in which they’re presented, and the opportunities that this in turn affords traditional advertisers. Both entertainment companies and major brands stand to benefit when the line between fiction and reality is blurred and, if all goes well, consumers are left feeling as loyal to the advertiser who plays a part in the promotion as they are to the fictional characters themselves.

There are two valuable lessons to be learned from the way that the “Twilight Series,” “The Vampire Diaries,” and “True Blood” have been marketed online. The first is that a viable consumer set for your product may not always be where — and what — you expect it to be. The second is that marketers targeting teens and young adults are a priceless resource for inventive and progressive advertising that can be adapted and applied to your own campaigns.

Regardless of how you happen to feel about the undead, there’s no arguing that these efforts are alive with creativity.

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