Case Study – ‘Fifty Shades’ of Digital Media Brilliance

I was recently asked which of my posts were most popular on my site.  As I returned to my site settings and looked at all-time blog views, to my surprise, I saw the “50 Shades of Grey” case study at number 1.  As a matter of fact, 3 of the top 10 popular posts were case studies.  I decided to not only incorporate more case studies into this blog, I decided to revisit that popular post and give an update.

Back in July, I analyzed how the movie promoters were utilizing a Grey Intern App, to connect with and energize brand ambassadors, to spread the word about the movie.  Those fans or “Grey Interns” did just that.  Not only are ambassadors 100% on board, the “Grey Hysteria” has now spilled over to brands.  Unique partnerships and interesting business promotions have begun to pop up, as the February 13, 2015 movie release date becomes closer.

For instance, you can sip your 50 Shades of Grey Wine, while you paint your nails in OPI movie-inspired colors, as you prepare for a hot date night.  You could even book a room at a San Francisco area hotel that is offering a special Valentine’s Day 50 Shades of Grey hotel package.

Or maybe you are thinking of buying your significant other the $89.99 Christian Grey Vermont Teddy Bear, before you give them the early release Fandango tickets you have purchased.

However, I am not here to talk of those partnerships.  I want to discuss how movie producers created a solid digital media promotional platform surrounding the movie. As they lured fans into their world and put them to work promoting the movie, studio producers and promoters provided fans with extensive content to share on their digital media networks.  Creating this swirling mass of movie promotion at a relatively low cost to the studio.

Did you know the 50 Shades of Grey website is actually a Tumblr Blog?  

Music from the movie plays in the background, filtered with audio clips of the main characters speaking.

Every piece of content that appears on this blog is easy to share with social media networks.  

The numbers don’t lie, according to the site, 7131K like this blog and have subscribed for updates.  It doesn’t stop there, 50 Shades of Grey accounts are spread across all social media networks.  These numbers are outdated even as I hit publish, but just to give you an idea:

Facebook  7,131,153 Likes
Twitter  345,674 Followers
Instagram  146K Followers
YouTube  7 Videos, 684 Subscribers
To many views to count, the latest video added 6 days ago has 5,997,063 views.
Google+  7,324 Following
Pinterest  22,257 Followers

With any digital presence, it is essential that you have some sort of content generator at the center of your strategy.

For the movie, it is their blog disguised as a website.  The movie studio controls the content being shared.  The blog doesn’t disappoint, it displays videos and social-media friendly images.  Examples of these images are:

Quotable from the movie:

50 shades website image example 2
Movie stills:

50 shades website example

Character/Cast Introductions:

50 shades website image example 3

Image Source: Universal Studios


50 shades of grey gif

Each shareable image has the custom #50Shades hashtag printed on the bottom.  We can sneak over to the YouTube channel and see 2 Trailer Teasers, 2 Trailers, 7 TV Spots, and 2 Music/Lyric Videos.  Music tracks from the movie have been sporadically released to further generate “Grey Hysteria”.

Case Study Recap:

Grey Intern App – Cultivated the brand ambassadors, provided content, encouraged them to spread the word via their social networks and generate interest surrounding the movie release.

Blog-Based Website – This is the home base of the controlled content that the studio promoters want to share.  The content also promotes the movie hashtag #50Shades, so they can monitor social media conversations surrounding the movie.

Shareable content – In the form of enticing images, gifs and short videos.

Extensive social media network – To further spread their message, connect across the digital media universe and further promote the movie.

Unique Partnerships – These relationships whether ‘contract bound’, or others riding the 50 Shades of Grey hysteria, further promote the movie and gain interest from audience beyond the digital media reach.

Food for Thought 
All of the content the studio has created for the website and digital media promotion has already been used for the movie.  They are just repurposing and repackaging the content it in different ways.  This is brilliant because while they are saving promotional advertising dollars, they still are creating a consistent brand image that they have control over.

Yes, they are paying for TV spots however, the spreading of this content is thanks to the Intern Ambassador Program they have built.  It is not surprising that this movie has broken Fandango records.  The movie has generated $1 Million dollars in online ticket sales, a month before the movie launch date. (AdWeek)

How this translates to you:  If you have a project or program coming up, think of unique ways to generate interest, build that loyalty program and re-purpose content to make your marketing life a little easier.

Laters Baby.


Image sources: 50 Shades of Grey Website