10 Cloverfield Lane: Infecting Fans with Viral Marketing

10 Cloverfield Lane and its predecessor, Cloverfield became cult favorites not only because of the films themselves, but in large part due to the mystery and speculation that accumulated around their respective viral marketing campaigns. Cloverfield of course wasn’t the first film to utilize viral marketing as a way of generating buzz (most people would likely point to The Blair Witch Project for that title), but it’s fair to say that the marketing for the original Cloverfield perfected the strategy.

The first teaser trailer for what would eventually be known as Cloverfield was shown in front of screenings of the first Transformers film. The trailer didn’t even include the title of the film, only a release date. From there, the mysterious journey began. Interested fans soon unearthed several websites connected to the release date and other details from the trailer (none of which can be linked to currently because most were running on an outdated version of flash which is no longer supported by almost all computers.)

Once these websites were discovered and decoded, word spread to various film blogs, news, and entertainment sites. The intrigue around this project grew and grew up until the day it was released. Eventually, the first Cloverfield was produced on a $25 Million budget, and made $170 Million at the box office worldwide.

The first teaser for 10 Cloverfield Lane was released during the super bowl in February of 2016, with a release date showing the film was going to come out only one month later. With its connection to the original Cloverfield, fans of the film knew there was more to the story. They unearthed an official full trailer as well as an electronic correspondence between two of the film’s characters. All of this immense detail was revealed without ruining anything regarding the plot of the film itself. 10 Cloverfield Lane went on to earn $108 Million at the box office on a $15 Million budget.

Utilizing a strategy of viral marketing on the first Cloverfield was an extremely risky move. Cloverfield wasn’t an established brand and had no recognition whatsoever. There was no guarantee viewers would find, or even be interested in finding, the secret websites set up to advertise the film, however both of these films were great successes. Why? J.J. Abrams famously describes his method of storytelling as the “mystery box” where the filmmaker keeps as many elements as secret as he or she can so as to amaze the audience when the mystery is finally revealed. Creating a campaign of viral marketing around a film or other piece of media made with this “mystery box” mentality brings viewers deeper into the mystery itself, often revealing more questions than answers. This makes viewers invested in the story and the film before it’s even released, virtually guaranteeing that their interest will translate into ticket sales.


We’ve seen since the late 90s that viral marketing can be a great way to cheaply create buzz and excitement around a low budget film through word of mouth and free publicity. With its intricate and interconnected branches of its marketing strategy, Cloverfield and 10 Cloverfield perfected the art of essentially spending as little money as possible for the greatest reward.

Olivia Guns

2 thoughts on “10 Cloverfield Lane: Infecting Fans with Viral Marketing

  1. I genuinely love the cloverfield movies and how they tend to have a life of their own outside of the theaters before and after they’ve been released. I believe a certain fan theory for the first film is that there’s a photo of the monster on the movie poster. The only thing is, you have to take two copies of the poster reverse one of them from left to right and put it together with the first. The two together form a strange smokey silhouette that encompasses the entirety of the city. They definitely know what they’re doing and I can’t help but wonder who decided this type of marketing was how they wanted to proceed. If there is another spiritual sequel to the series I genuinely hope that I can participate in the un-boxing of the mystery.

  2. The “un-boxing” aspect from the first film reminds me a lot of the “I Heart Bees” campaign that was used to promote the video game Halo 2, one of my favorite games of all time. Bungie, the developer of Halo 2 released a trailer with a hidden message pointing to this website ilovebees. The website appears to be hacked and revealed a backstory of a stranded A.I. on Earth. This was a very early example of ARG, or Alternate Reality Game and it turned out to be very successful. As we can see it this type of marketing worked for the Cloverfield series as well, and like Brigham, I would love to be apart of the next easter egg hunt.

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