How Viral Marketing And Social Media Pushed Deadpool Into Greatness

Ryan Reynolds and Deadpool were really meant for each other. The witty actor and the wise-ass ‘Merc with the Mouth’ of the Marvel comic world are like a match made in heaven. But good casting isn’t the only reason the movie has been so successful.

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Reynolds pushed for the film to begin development for around 11 years, after he was first introduced to the Deadpool character in 2004. When he made his debut as Wade Wilson in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, fans were not so supportive of the casting choice. Wilson’s story left much to be desired by die-hard Deadpool fans. Thankfully, this recent film blew fans out of the water by doing the character justice and bringing him to the big screen once again. When he was questioned about the preparation it took Reynolds answered wittingly, “the preparation for me was easy. It was just being born out of my mother’s womb and then fed enough to grow into adulthood and then beginning the filming of the movie.”

The Gamble And The Success

After a very effective marketing campaign by 20th Century Fox and Ryan Reynolds, the movie has raked in the big bucks at the box office. During the opening weekend, it developed a massive $135 million dollars, which shattered records and topped the other popular superhero movies. It earned $260 million dollars during its first week with just a $58 million budget. No one would have thought that this R-rated movie would bring in the millions and convert so many people into Deadpool fans. Deadpool has gone from a somewhat unknown hero in no small part due to a steady stream of social media tidbits and viral videos that have kept hard-core fans wanting more. It started out with leaked CGI footage of Deadpool doing his thing, killing the “bad people” with his signature flare of violence and humor. The CGI Deadpool was voiced by Ryan Reynolds.

The 20th Century Fox marketing team took a big risk on the foul-mouthed Marvel antihero/superhero. How did Fox do it? Many experts said that the movie studio understood Deadpool’s fan base. Although Fox declined to divulge the details of their marketing strategy before the movie was released, it is now common knowledge that viral marketing and social media were their preferred channels for promotion. They gave exactly what the people wanted via the most popular marketing channels and managed to capture the essence of the character and the approval of fans.

The studio has also put out huge amounts of promotional content including posters, trailers and unique video content that has been distributed to different social media platforms. These promotional and marketing strategies also reinforced Deadpool’s raunchy charm that satisfied the core fans and set expectations for the new fans. Plus Ryan Reynolds as mentioned earlier, was a huge supporter and believer of the film which helped in raising awareness about the character. His insanity, passion and authenticity for the role really took everything to the next level.

The Deadpool Marketing Strategy

The strategy behind the Deadpool marketing onslaught was the right blend of old school marketing ideologies and contemporary market trends. But of course, many of these cannot be applied to your business unless your team are willing to dress in superhero suits and proactively advertise in front of an open fire sprawled on a bear rug. Nonetheless, it may highlight some points in marketing that you have not tried before.

1. A Fresh Approach Is Always Good

The Deadpool marketing team’s approach became a game changer in the saturated superhero marketing world. From Batman to Superman, The Avengers to Spiderman. The superhero franchise (whether it’s DC or Marvel) is not new and nor are the marketing techniques used to promote these movies. The marketing team behind Deadpool recognised their fan base and approached them via social channels highlighting the direct, hilarious, original and sometimes offensive characterisation of the Deadpool character.

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2. Leaked Footage

In July 2014, before the movie started production, leaked footage appeared online that showed a CGI version of Deadpool voiced by Ryan Reynolds. And despite the efforts of Fox to take down the video, the short clip went viral. Eventually Fox bowed down to the fans and announced that the release of Deadpool movie was set for February 12, 2016. Ryan Reynolds appeared on the The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and said that he’s 70% sure he was not responsible for the leaked footage. Leak mistake or marketing strategy?

3. The First True Official Image

Reynolds tweeted the first true image of Deadpool on March 27, 2015. The image, ala Burt Reynolds, was captioned, “With great power, comes great irresponsibility”. Fans were absolutely hyped by this.

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4. Fox Knows What People Want

The Fox marketing team know why people love Deadpool – the character is a fast-talking, wise-ass and self-aware antihero/superhero who often breaks the 4th wall. He’s different from other leads in superhero movie franchises. Fox translated the character of Deadpool to the screen as authentically as possible and people loved it. The first official teaser was filled with smart-ass quips, the f-word and even Reynolds poking fun at his character that appeared in the X-Men Origins movie. The teaser racked up 11 million views in just a few days. The timing was also well-thought out as they took advantage of the Valentine’s Day opening, positioning the Marvel movie as a romance, chick flick with hard edges. It has even spurned a fan-made spoof trailer of the romantic comedy positioning.

5. Humour Is The Best Weapon

Dry wit and humour made Deadpool an appealing and one-of-a-kind character and the marketing at Fox nailed it before release. Just have a look at the billboard below that appeared in Los Angeles. The use of emojis to advertise the movie is pure genius. It’s simple, funny and catchy at the same time. “Skull-poop-L” in theaters February 12. This billboard has gone viral and the fans and other celebrities love it.

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6. Serious, Not So Serious

The marketing campaign has provided serious, but not so serious substance. The campaign may not always be trying to benefit the organisation (or in this case, the film) directly. In this instance, the Deadpool campaign worked and collaborated with a charity of choice and gave support to a greater cause. A good play on words and images hit the spot and help to connect Deadpool to his audience.

7. Comic-Con Hype

At Comic-Con in July 2015, Reynolds previewed the first trailer for the movie. He later tweeted that he wanted to show more Deadpool footage but the VFX shots were just not done yet. He added that they will have something for the fans in the coming weeks, keeping the audience on the edge of their seats. He also tweeted out a picture of the Merc wearing a sombrero and a poncho holding up a cardboard sign saying, “Comic-Con por favor.”

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8. Appealing to Wolverine Fans

Ever since Reynolds appeared on the Origins movie, fans have been hankering for the real Deadpool deal. Ever since the Deadpool movie was given the green light, Reynolds has been “starting a fight with Wolverine” aka Hugh Jackman. Although everybody knows that Reynolds and Jackman are friends, the banter between the two helped to hype up the movie. Many think this banter will continue until the release of Wolverine 3 or Deadpool 2. Many are also hoping that the two characters will appear for a cameo in each of those movies.

20th Century Fox pursued different contrarian strategies in marketing Deadpool. The $58 million budget is less than half the normal budget for a superhero movie. While most of their marketing success was thanks to social media, the marketing team also took opportunities wherever they could find them. The emoji billboards for example, suggestive promo shots shared on twitter, and there was also the killing of Mario Lopez by Deadpool….on air.

The reasons for the movie’s success are many, but thanks to Ryan Reynolds, the marketing team, the loveable, crass, R-rated character, lots of hard work and good timing, everything fell into place for one of the hottest films of 2016.


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