Why brands are staking a claim on Twilight saga

When reality means frozen pay and job insecurity, brands are cashing in on people’s desire for escapism through the supernatural

When it comes to the vampire-themed book and film series Twilight, it seems that marketers are truly smitten. The second part of the trilogy – New Moon – is released in US cinemas next month and the advertising world wants a bite of the action.

In the past week alone, Burger King has announced it will offer Twilight-branded meals in US outlets with merchandise and coupon offers available both in the restaurants and online through its Crown Card reward scheme. Virtual world Habbo will create Twilight-branded environments online and an iPhone application will let global fans stay connected via messageboards and news updates.

It doesn’t stop there. The Twilight marketing is even managing to rebrand a book first published in 1847. The classic Emily Bronte; novel Wuthering Heights has just been re-released with a cover almost identical to those in the Twilight series and the words “Bella and Edward’s Favourite Book” emblazoned on the front.

The strength of the Twilight branding is clearly thought to be so strong that there is no need for an explanation on the cover of who “Bella and Edward” – the series’ young lovers – are. It is just taken for granted that everyone knows.

If you have literally been sleeping in a coffin for the past 12 months, however, you may not be as familiar with Twilight as the front cover of Wuthering Heights supposes. Essentially, the books written by Stephenie Meyer are the story of Bella, a small-town girl, who falls in love with “good” vampire Edward. Throw in a few werewolves and a bit of plotline and you get the idea.

So why is Twilight so important to marketers? First, cold hard cash. While supernatural teen love may not be a new story, it’s certainly lucrative. The first Twilight film based on Meyer’s work took more than $383m (£240m) at the box office and $157m (£98m) in DVD sales. In the US, more than 3 million copies of the DVD were sold on the first day alone.

The film soundtrack shot straight to number one in the US charts. Last year, Meyer sold 29 million books, shooting onto the Forbes list of influential people for 2009 at number 26. In other words, the Twilight brand has become a mega-enterprise in just a year since the release of the first film, which is something any brand would no doubt wish to emulate.

The second important element of the Twilight effect is that it isn’t simply constrained to one franchise. Vampires are now so lucrative that almost anyone can get in on the act. HBO’s current most-popular show is True Blood – yup, you guessed it, it’s about bloodsuckers. A new TV series, The Vampire Diaries, started its run in the US last week and will no doubt soon reach British soil.

If there is any way you can tie your products or services into gothic horror, it appears you are onto a winner. The recent fashion show for Prada’s fall collection saw models made up with vampire- chic faces, while Playboy’s current issue has a vampire themed spread called “Love Bites”.

Third, the Twilight effect is notable for the sheer breadth of product categories involved. As well as the Burger King promotion, iPhone app and Wuthering Heights tie-up, over the past few months Bella and Edward have moved into live events, toys, cosmetics, clothing and gaming.

The trendy cosmetics brand Lip Venom has launched a Twilight themed beauty line, while the studio behind the film is taking a travelling live convention on the road which aims to attract more than 2,000 teens at a time. It’s a masterclass in rapid – and effective – brand licensing.

Fourth, Twilight is revitalising its brand partners’ reputations. It appears that it can boost even the most unexpected marques. Take Volvo. The car brand is not the most youth-focused and dynamic of automobile marques. But since Edward drives one in the film, suddenly Volvos are cool. One fan explains online: “For most fans, making Edward’s Volvo anything but silver would be like deciding that the Batmobile should be purple.”

Fifth, even vampire-related guerilla marketing works. One fan recently spotted a push in the north of England which used the brand to encourage people to give blood. Leaflets about blood donation cheekily adorned stands featuring New Moon artwork.

Sixth, the Twilight effect is incredibly widespread in terms of demographics. The companies or products associated with it are not merely those aimed at teens. Mattel’s Barbie Twilight figures are clearly aimed at a far younger audience; while Volvos are likely to be bought by older consumers.

And lastly, but definitely not least, Twilight is a great example of how to use digital technology. Apart from the iPhone app and the Habbo virtual world, Twilight has nearly 4 million fans on Facebook alone and near-constant coverage by bloggers and fansites (news is carefully fed to them on a regular basis). There’s nothing especially new in the online campaign for Twilight; it’s just very well executed.

So my advice for getting your brand a nice bite out of the current bloodlust for vampires? I’m not suggesting that everyone should start bringing out fang-themed products. But if Twilight can make such a massive impact in the depths of a recession, it’s easy to see that a little magic goes a long way.

Consumers don’t want reality right now. Reality is about frozen wage packets, bills and worries about unemployment. People want escapism with some sanitised danger thrown in. So start thinking how you can bring the supernatural into your marketing; if nothing else, maybe you’ll find some entertaining inspiration.

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