March 16, 2012

The Hunger Games: Gamification Pays Tribute to Fans

How much love can $40 Million buy?


For Lionsgate Studios, this marketing budget for the Hunger Games series represents their best shot at a financial win this year. The official numbers published by Bloomberg a few months back stated that the movie has to hit $100 Million in the box office for the sequels to follow. Can the studio invest their marketing spend in the right places to lock in multiple money-rich movies?

Personally, I say yes.

For those unfamiliar with this most recent book-turned-blockbuster, the storyline is set in a dystopian North America called Panem where the annual tradition is to pit 24 randomly selected teenagers against each other in a game of survival on national television, until only one remains alive. In a true 99%-er fashion, the nation is comprised of 12 impoverished districts serving the decadent and fashion-forward citizens of the Capitol.

The compelling storyline combined with an immediately relatable geography lends itself well to the growing trend of consumers are looking for “real” experiences to interact with. Consumers want all the details, they want to touch the items, meet the characters, and be entirely involved in the fantasy. Before social media, this level of fan immersion would have been limited to theme parks and conventions.  Now, that feeling of being transported to a world you only imagined is available with a few clicks of the mouse, any time of day.

Fansites such as and offer daily updates on the books, movies, and franchise developments. Page after page of fan fiction is available in the genres of your choosing, while apps, pages, hashtags, and bulletins litter the socialmedia sphere. All of this free fandom is out there, and in a move that would make Walt Disney proud, Lionsgate has moved in and invested their time and budget in furthering the buzz.   Their entry?  The Capitol.PN Network

At, visitors are brought to a registration page for the virtual immersion into Panem (beginning with the URL itself, a notable “.pn” as opposed to our current “.com” or “.gov”).

Over 86,000 fans have signed on to the Capitol.PN Network through Facebook and Twitter accounts. Signing on creates a Panem Citizen ID card using your personal statistics including gender, hometown and a picture of your choice. Each citizen is given an occupation and home district, and the ID cards come with Scanlife codes specific to each district. Once you have registered as a citizen, your Capitol dashboard comes up with everything from previews and a countdown timer until ‘this year’s Hunger Games’ to distribution graphs of population per district.

What’s included in the Capitol.PN website:

From the Capitol.PN Dashboard, you can take a virtual tour of the Capitol, viewing iconic locations and areas “reserved specially for Tributes.” Citizens can also continue on to the official Facebook page of the Capitol, as well as “tour” each District’s page.

Also included is the outlandish and authentic Capitol Couture fashion magazine. Linking legitimate fashion brands with the fictional upcoming Hunger Games, Capitol Couture creates a realistic experience you won’t feel awkward checking out in a Starbucks. The magazine includes character interviews, full articles, video “news” clips, and advertisements for products from icons such as Dior, Rodarte, and Alexander McQueen.

The benefits to brands banking on consumer involvement are vast. Their names in a fantasy world are helping to create a more richly textured experience for fans that is easy to explore and relate to: When fans think of the Capitol, they think outrageous high-end fashion. When they have a direct link to Dior it not only gives a direct scale of comparison, but connects Dior in their minds with this series that they love. On top of that, fans are now viewing Dior from an all new position: as citizens of Panem. It’s aspirational fantasy living, leading a whole new legion of consumers to consider Dior as a worthwhile brand because if they lived in the Capitol, they would certainly already do so.

Along with creating your own citizen ID badge, as a citizen you can contribute movie posters, fashion ideas, and commentary on the official Capitol.PN sites. Every contribution is linked back to the creator’s chosen home page, giving fair credit that is increasing these online artists’ traffic levels. The feedback includes even more high-quality submissions and positive ratings.

Why fans love it:

For the movie, the creation of this parallel reality is doing an excellent job of both priming the movie pump and creating an interactive fan base. Working with the psychological strategy of self-affirming decisions, each time a consumer goes onto the Capitol.PN Network it reaffirms their positive feelings as a fan of The Hunger Games. By giving fans the ability to be a citizen of Panem and be immersed in the Capitol style and cityscapes, Capitol.PN is building a familiarity for fans that they will find in the movie. Those images in the movie are then a direct link back to the excitement felt on the websites, hopefully leading to better consumer reviews of the film.

The high level of fan-created content being featured on the Network is also helping to build relationships between consumers and the film. This personal element aids in further connecting the Hunger Games franchise to fans’ reality, while strengthening the community and further spreading the publicity for the film. The depth of involvement from fans, brands, and film is creating a partnership that goes beyond marketing to spectators, with a sentiment that “we are building Panem as a team!”

Overall, the combined efforts of involved fans, forward-thinking brands, and a film studio commitment to the full Hunger Games experience is showing us one of the best thought out (and most) fun marketing plans presented lately. Together with the traditional advertising media, Lionsgate has put their $40 Million into a project that is likely to increase fan commitment exponentially. I’ll be excited to see the films themselves, both as a marketing professional and a citizen of Panem. May the odds be ever in their favor!

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