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Inside Hulu’s Massive Marketing Campaign for ‘The Beatles’ Documentary

by Cate Lecuyer  |  10.19.2016

The son of a sheriff in Denver, Colo., recalls the time his father escorted John, Paul, George and Ringo home to their house, and hid the famous foursome in the family’s basement to protect them from rowdy fans.

Legendary singer Sting remembers the first time he heard The Beatles in 1962 when he was 11 years old, as their music played over the radio in the locker room after a swimming class.

“I realized everything after that would be completely different,” he said. “It changed my life.”

Sting shared that moment during the opening of a tribute concert to the The Beatles with the above video. It was just one part of Hulu’s largest marketing campaign to date to promote the launch of its first exclusively acquired film The Beatles: Eight Days a Week—The Touring Years.

“The band you know,” said Hulu SVP and Head of Marketing Jenny Wall. “The stories you don’t.”

RELATED: Hulu Documentary Captures The Beatles’ Early Years

In the spirit of capturing the feeling of a live tour, Hulu used on-the-ground marketing to connect Beatles fans across the country by collecting and showcasing stories about how the band has impacted lives of people spanning three generations. The streaming service joined forces with Movie Pilot to kick off activations such as concerts, film screenings at colleges, and social media campaigns.

The multi-platform approach culminated with a blowout, premiere-day concert at the El Rey Theater in Los Angeles on September 17, featuring 50 musicians playing Beatles songs on three stages, giveaways, film footage and a booth where fans could share personal anecdotes about the band. The event drew around 800 people.

“It felt like fans were coming together for this massive jam session,” said Movie Pilot CEO and Co-Founder Tobi Bauckhage.

Leading up to the premiere event, Hulu and Movie Pilot worked with Sofar Sounds, a global network focusing on live music, to present 10 concerts with bands playing Beatles covers in major cities across the country.

In addition, Movie Pilot created a custom content series that included a printed and digital fanzine with articles and videos from people describing the impact The Beatles have had on them over the years, which were also shared across social media.

“It’s not a new story,” Bauckhage said, “but to see the echoed stories — what this music has triggered — was the universal appeal of this campaign that made it successful.”

One of the biggest challenges, Bauckhage said, was that almost everyone already knows about The Beatles.

Yet Eight Days a Week features rare and never-before-seen footage, and also hones in on a short-lived period of the band’s early career that’s not as well known as their later years. That, combined with support from diehard fans and people connecting to The Beatles and one another on a personal level were effective in elevating the campaign.

Paid media included a total of 23 videos published, an 89 percent video completion rate, 112 social posts, and an attendance of 1,000 people at the Sofar Sounds concerts. The campaign also resonated with fans in terms of earned media. 

(Courtesy of Movie Pilot)
(Courtesy of Movie Pilot)

“Understanding the authenticity of real musicians and fans was a big part of the campaign,” Bauckhage said. “That’s a unique element that you can’t always control.”

Movie Pilot “started with the hardcore fans” by reaching out to Beatles shops and online groups.

“Real fans should be doing the marketing work,” Bauckhage said. “That’s the best marketing you can get.”

All of the content was plastered across social media under the hashtag #BecausetheBeatles, along with a series of Facebook Live broadcasts that explored the behind-the-scenes process of producing the El Rey concert event.

The social videos reached 4.8 million people, and drew around 400,000 views with 14,000 total engagements, according to Movie Pilot — all of which was effective in drawing a younger audience.

Overall, social highlights included 112 posts across 12 different Movie Pilot and Hulu channels, which resulted in a reach of 13.7 million people, 2.6 million video views and 106,000 total engagements.

Although Hulu also deployed traditional marketing elements—such as posters, promos and trailers—it was the live events that really touched fans, Wall said. She also wanted the emotional element that Hulu itself is a fan of The Beatles to come across in the campaign.

“We’re not just selling,” she said. “We’re celebrating. When you do that, these people share experiences and you get that earned media.”

The marketing campaign around Hulu’s first exclusive documentary may be the streaming service’s largest, but it’s certainly not its last. Investing in films is quickly becoming a focus for the company, with a niche on stories that go behind the scenes of pop culture.

Films on the horizon include Batman & Bill that explores the true origin of the superhero through the account of the until recently unknown co-creator Bill Finger; Becoming Bond that highlights George Robert Lazenby’s one-time 1969 role as the iconic character; Big Brother about the skateboarder magazine that gave birth to the Jackass series, Obey Giant that looks at contemporary street artist Shepard Fairey through his iconic Obama “Hope” poster, and Too Funny to Fail about the failed 1986 The Dana Carvey Show.

“We want to be a place where people can find the content they love,” Wall said. “Movies are a part of that.”

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