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“Suicide Squad” Marketing Lessons to Prevent Committing Campaign Seppuku

jared leto joker suicide squad

After more than two years of hype and teasing, Suicide Squad finally released in theaters. The verdict? “Yeesh.”

David Ayer’s film about Batman’s backstock of C-level villains earned a slew of negative reviews, and although its box office did well on opening week, it’s second-week figures predictably plummeted. So what does this have to do with marketing? Everything.

More so than most films, Suicide Squad is a product of marketing rather than an artistic vision or a story that needed to be told. From the very beginning, Warner Bros.’ marketing teams refused to keep their hands out of the pie, letting their staff and test audiences dip their fingers in for a taste until the final product was such a mess that just looking at it could make you feel queasy.

And while the film has its brief moments of greatness (namely Margot Robbie), the poor creative decisions made for the sake of an expected marketing boost stripped the movie of most of its right to exist. For those of us in the digital marketing realm with our own quirky pet products and campaigns, we can stand to learn a lesson about how Suicide Squad’s inflicted self-harm on its way to the box office.

Don’t Bore People with Hype

The Suicide Squad film project was first teased in 2009, with the official announcement of production in September 2014.

Since that time, we have been beaten over the head with incessant “teaser” images of what the cast would look like. While these publicity shots are par-for-the-course for an established property like DC’s comic book villains, they did little to guide our expectations of the movie. What would the plot be? Which characters are leading? Will there be some sort of arc to anticipate?

suicide-squad-harley-quinn drinking tea gif

As it turns out, these questions linger even among those who went and saw the movie. The only parts of the film that felt refined were the looks of the characters, which had been established months in advance. So, we ended up with just under two years of buildup for a confusing and rudderless project that’s best offering — poster-worthy interpretations of popular characters like Harley Quinn and the Joker — was already handed out months ago.

Needless to say, the payoff was less than satisfactory for most. For businesses attempting to create campaigns, they should realize lesson is that “teasers” are only valuable when the lead-in to the final product reveal is just a few months on the horizon. Also, “teased” content should never be more satisfying than the final product it is pulled from.

Know What You Want to Make Before You Make It

The most damning criticism of Suicide Squad was its lack of a clear, cohesive narrative. Scenes felt jumbled up, according to reviewers, robbing audiences of an enjoyable story arc that produces a satisfying conclusion after taking us through the needed tension.

Critics like RedLetterMedia’s Half in the Bag program pointed out that the movie’s final cut felt very much like a victim of re-edits and re-shoots. Worse, they felt like an attempt to reinterpret the movie in the vein of other successful films like Guardians of the Galaxy and Deadpool.

deadpool surprised gif

Learning from this mistake, marketing teams for small businesses should resist the urge to “remix” their campaigns or products in an effort to catch up to the competition. Adding on “me-too” features is fine, as long as the original product can stand on its own.

For instance, Instagram Stories is receiving praise for its intuitive interface because it re-envisioned Snapchat’s Stories feature in a cleaner, easier-to-use environment. So, while the product is, by most measures, a shameless clone, it manages to remain memorable by virtue of playing to the strengths of the Instagram brand.

Similarly, rather than trying to throw in dashes of Marvel’s fun flavor with an after-the-fact colorful flair, the Suicide Squad production team should have stuck to their guns by following through with the dark, intense film they had originally imagined. By trying to appeal to everyone, the film somehow managed to narrow its audience even further.

Keep Your Digital Marketing Consistent and On-Track with EverSpark

While we would never claim to be able to pull off the amount of work it takes to market a major Hollywood movie, we know a thing or two about staying true to our client’s personality. Whether you are building a website, starting a content campaign or trying to spread your message across channels like social media, let us help save you the embarrassment of trying too hard like so much Jared Leto Joker.

Visit our digital marketing services page or contact us to get started.