The Most Amazing (Content) Marketing Campaign. Ever.

The Joker

As SEOs turned content marketers, our industry has been looking for ways to create great content that attracts links. If we’re *really* content marketers we need to be thinking more about how to create great campaigns that help businesses get visibility, share their message, launch new assets and build and shape a brand.  It’s the way our industry is going and unless you’re sticking with auditing technical site health (which is perfectly fine and obviously very important), you’re going to ride that wave or, like Wil Reynolds mentioned at Mozcon today, be “just”.

At SMX Munich earlier this year I presented on a panel with Wil on Content Marketing in Competitive Verticals. I showed these great examples of an interactive piece, a pre-launch and a voting-style campaign that have generated more links to their brand sites than anything else ever has.

But I’ve saved the best for last.

The campaign for the launch of the 2008 movie The Dark Knight was not done by SEOs, and in fact missed the opportunity to leverage some really fantastic links, but that wasn’t the point.  It wasn’t an infographic. It wasn’t an interactive HTML5 piece. It wasn’t a campaign to generate links to an evergreen piece. It was, what Wil calls, Real Company Shit – the type of stuff we’re inspired by but still have trouble pitching (that topic is for another blog post). Despite the dozens websites involved in this marketing campaign (not to mention the fan sites that popped up around this), The Dark Knight marketing effort isn’t an SEO campaign. It’s marketing, and as “content marketers” I implore you to be inspired, #ThinkBigger.

Grab a coffee, listen to this story, and think about how you can help us start to change our industry.

The Dark Knight Campaign

The movie The Dark Knight Rises released in July of 2008. The marketing campaign, which I’ll show you just *some* of here, began more than a year earlier.

In May of 2007 Ibelieveinharveydent.com launched with a campaign poster for the Harvey Dent character in the film.

I believe in Harvey Dent

Shortly after, A comic book store employee in SoCal reported that Joker cards were found in the shop that said “I believe in Harvey Dent too”.

Joker cards I believe in Harvey Dent to ha ha ha

Along with that phrase launched a site ibelieveinharveydenttoo.com (what’s there now is different, but not what it seems), a joker-scribbled version of the campaign site which also had a sign-up form at the bottom of the page.

I believe in Harvey Dent too website

By adding an email address, a site visitor could replace one pixel in the scribbled Dent image with one from a second image. This is the email you get from signing up on the Joker’s (ibelieveinharveydenttoo) site:

I always say, you never know what a man is truly made of until you peel the skin off his face one piece at a time.

When enough pixels were removed, the image underneath was revealed:

The Joker

Shortly after the picture was revealed, the page was removed and replaced with the text “Page not found.” – what you see on the site now.

Fake page not found error The Dark Knight's Content Marketing campaign hidden text

However, this page is a 200. Highlighting the entire page showed hidden text: “ha ha ha” repeated hundreds of times and various stray letters. HD6

The stray letters in the ha ha ha text spelled “see YOu In DECeMbER”

hidden message in Dark Knight marketing campaign

This was just the beginning.

During the 2007 San Diego Comic-Con International, 42 Entertainment launched WhySoSerious.com. Spend a little time there and click around.

Why So Serious? websites involved in Batman content marketing campaign

Clues on the site, which involved a slew of other sites, led to a hidden teaser movie trailer and sent people on a scavenger hunt around major US cities to find clues, take pictures of their discoveries, reveal another photo and audio message from the Joker (“And tonight, you’re gonna break your one rule”), and upon completion, discover another site RorysDeathKiss.com where fans could upload shots of themselves dressed up like the Joker.

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Those who submitted photos at Rory’s Death Kiss received a hard copy of the fictional newspaper The Gotham Times in the mail. TheGothamTimes.com website sent fans to *even more* new sites. Are your missed link opportunity senses tingling yet? In similar fashion to the Harvey Dent campaign website slandering, the Joker launched Thehahahatimes.com, a bloodied up, serial-killer-looking mockery of the Gotham Times website.

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March 7, 2008: The original Harvey Dent campaign submission page is changed to a campaign support page for Dent’s DA election, including downloadable flyers to print, a nationwide map of where you can find his upcoming “Dentmobile” visits in various cities, and asking fans for photo submissions and to sign up to fight to save Gotham.

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The new campaign suggested ways in which fans could participate, and in participating, taking photos of your fan-dom, distributing flyers, etc, Harvey Dent will have to run for DA:

Show your support for Harvey Dent!

  • Get your friends together and spell out Harvey Dent in human letters
  • Get a video of your school’s cheerleading team yelling out chants for Harvey Dent
  • Try to cover every square inch of someone’s cubicle area with Harvey Dent posters
  • Write and perform a “Take Back Gotham” song
  • Make up a “Dent Dance” routine
  • See if you can get up a Harvey Dent sign in every single window of your dorm building
  • Turn your own car into a “Dentmobile”
  • Arrange a Dent parade down Main Street
  • Make a human pyramid with other Harvey Dent supporters

We’ll feature the best examples of great videos and pics on the site.

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In March 2008, fans received Gotham City voter registration cards from the Gotham City Clerk that could actually be filled out and mailed back to a Gotham City address (with a Pasadena zip code, where 42 Entertainment was based).

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More websites like GothamCityClerk.com are launched and integrated, and he campaign continues with more emails, phone calls, events, calls for Harvey Dent to run for Gotham City DA.

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The Dark Knight's Content Marketing campaign HD20-3

While people share images, screenshots, websites, videos, etc, a rollercoaster ride opens, action figures are sold, role play costumes make an appearance, board games are in stores, and the campaign maxes out every marketing channel known to man.

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Finally in late March 2008 Harvey Dent announces he will indeed run for DA. A smear campaign begins, complete with half burned buttons again mocking Dent.

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And there’s more. In April a press conference is to be held, where fans were told there would be an announcement streamed live. The site features an audio widget to listen in, and at 3PM the audio starts, not with Dent’s announcement but with the scene of a hostage crisis going on. Harvey Dent comes in and saves the day.

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EVENTUALLY, on June 13, 2008, Harvey Dent wins.

Campaign start: May 2007

Campaign end: July 2008

Campaign content:

  • Dozens of websites
  • Print materials
  • Direct mail
  • Live events (Dentmobile, online press conf)
  • Phone calls
  • Emails
  • Audio streams
  • Video trailers
  • Rollercoasters, action figures, role play costumes, board games +

Sure this is not what we’re doing today, it’s not what clients are coming to SEO companies for today, but it *is* content marketing at it’s finest. My personal goal is to get our SEO’d version of content marketing to this place, start thinking bigger, and to integrate SEO tactics into amazing marketing campaigns like this – everyone wins.

#ThinkBigger Who’s with me?

The Most Amazing (Content) Marketing Campaign. Ever., 5.0 out of 5 based on 6 ratings

Comments

  1. Mathieu

    Impressive indeed. However, I have to remark that all this marketing fury is building on one particular and very specific strength: the subject at hand is already something that a huge crowd is attracted to. I strongly doubt that you could do the same with a new film nobody has heard of. And it’s getting even more difficult when you deal with something outside of the entertainment industry.

    Still quite inspiring, but very difficult to replicate (outside of the obvious money issue).

  2. Don Rhoades

    Cloverfield did something similar, not nearly as layered as this one. After solving the complex puzzles on the movie site, the prize was red herring. (ethanhaaswasright.com). Intriguing campaign for a lackluster film, that may have suffered from obscurity had it not been for the engagement with JJ Abrams fans.

  3. Roque Lage de Llera

    It seems its a fck***** great content marketing campaign, but i find so hard to apply some of this creative stuff to “Joe the plumber business” there is where i find so difficult to overcome with RCS.

    In this case maybe the best thing would be a great Q/A section, an expert with some kind of advice in maintenance or something like that. But this kind of marketing cant be afford by small businesses

    Anyway, great post, i liked the campaign so much

  4. jack

    Appreciate all the detail but this really is just “marketing”.

    Content marketing is basically an invented or repurposed term by SEO, Inbound, Content, and Digital marketing agencies used during a pivot from old school SEO services to what really is just marketing, plain and simple.

    This was a really long winded way of saying that this multi-million dollar marketing campaign was a great one and we should all try to make killer campaigns like that or relative to our client so to speak.

    It’s just another reason why real marketing firms look at most SEO agencies as amateur hour, inventing more and more terms to try and slice off a segment of what really is just marketing (online and offline)

    Another example of that amateur stuff is ridiculous, corny, profane terms (RCS) to define…surprise…marketing. Complete with profane presentations we certainly are an industry that will continue to get laughed at outside the inner-circle of itself.

    To try and tie a campaign like this into SEO stuff is pie in the sky, laudable idea but not going to happen at that level.