Moana: Disney’s Venture into New Seas, You’re Welcome?

Moana is a Maori and Hawaiian word that roughly translates to “ocean, wide expanse of water, or deep sea.” ( Leave it to Disney to take this translation literally and produce a marketing campaign that was equally expansive and in a sense, deep.

MoanaMoana is Disney’s latest animated feature film to come out riding strong on the so called “Frozen wave” established with the release and success of Frozen in 2013. To ensure this success, the official trailer stated that Moana was “from the creators of Frozen” to provide a credible base for the film to stand on with viewers.

Disney used a variety of marketing tactics from the traditional to pushing the boundaries of what is new. The few that I will be discussing in this post are the traditional posters, trailers, and television spots along with the new Weather Channel backgrounds and full out vessel takeovers. Much like with Tangled, this campaign had a more boy-friendly feel to it. It was filled with more action clips than a more traditional Disney campaign would include.

Firstly, it would not be a marketing campaign without trailers and posters to constantly remind us that the movie is coming. Moana had several posters created to show off the main characters, the setting, and intrigue the audience about the plot line to be followed. In addition to this, a teaser and full official trailer were created to further intrigue audiences about the film.

The recent Olympics in Rio De Janeiro also gave Disney a unique opportunity for this campaign. What better time to advertise then when it’s quite possible the whole world could be watching? Granted it most likely aired in specific markets, but there were still high volumes of audiences. Thus, producing an extended promo was a good call on the part of Disney to ensure maximum exposure with relevant audiences.

Moving on now to the newer and more unique marketing strategies that Disney perused; starting with its frequent marketing partner, The Weather Company. What this company does is offer geotargeted promotions through its Weather Channel App. These appear in the form of branded backgrounds on the current weather screens of its users.

While other movies have used these branded backgrounds, such as The Penguins of Madagascar in 2014 produced by DreamWorks Animation, Moana was the first to use the new animated backgrounds. The backgrounds that users saw were based on the current weather conditions in their area. The branded backgrounds mimicked those conditions and subtly brought them to life.

There is one shortcoming that I can see with this campaign thus far; it was only available in select markets within the U.S. For a complete list of these cities and markets and more information about these branded backgrounds, click here.

One more element was incorporated within this app to appeal to the consumer desire for convenience. The app allowed users to purchase tickets to Moana at local theaters through a specialized website:

A new adventure that Disney took on across the pond, in the UK, was turning an MBNA Thames Clippers’ catamaran into a Polynesian Wayfinder vessel. Thames Clippers provide river bus and cruise services on the Thames River in London. This was MBNA’s first partnership with Disney and with any company on a theatrical release for that matter. The goal was to immerse the customers in the movie and make them inclined to see it.

Perhaps saving their best promotional tool for last at the annual D23 Conference, Disney brought out the big guns to talk about the movie: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson who voices Maui in the film. It may come as a surprise, but The Rock can sing ladies and gentlemen. If you haven’t heard his song yet, please watch it below. It will hook you and have you singing for a while. Which leads me to my next and final point.

Marketing and promotion for this film extends beyond everything done before the movie’s release date. Disney has several of its own official YouTube channels, one of which is called DisneyMusicVEVO. Often these channels contain the songs and most popular clips from the animated films.

This serves as a marketing tool in two ways: one to lure new viewers into the theaters by hearing about such songs either from word-of-mouth or by stumbling across the videos. Two to catch repeat viewers who see the video and realize how much they liked the movie and return to see it again.

Disney has produced an impressive campaign to market Moana to a diverse set of audiences, while also returning to its core demographic of young females as it is a female-centric film. Personally, I have not seen the film, but am intrigued to do so since “Your Welcome” has been playing on my computer for multiple weeks now. If you are curious as to how well this campaign translated into dollars for Disney on opening weekend, click here.

What are your thoughts about the movie in general? What aspects, if any, of this campaign drew you in to see the movie? Do you think that Disney went too far in its campaign by taking over a tourist vessel or was it simply a genius marketing move on their part? Feel free to leave a comment below.

Piper Davis

6 thoughts on “Moana: Disney’s Venture into New Seas, You’re Welcome?

  1. To be honest, I have not watched the film. I do however think that Disney is not taking things too far. This is the business world and companies have to take as much as they can (survival of the fittest). This is what Disney excels at doing. They are the most persistent and ambitious company I have ever seen. This could be seen negatively, but as for Moana, this is good. Nice job Disney!

  2. I think pushing the “from the makers of Frozen” and the fact that they brought back directors and producers from classics like Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast really worked to broaden the appeal to both younger Frozen fans and their parents who were raised on the Disney films of the 80s and 90s.

  3. I went and saw Moana in theaters and I thought it was amazing. I honestly didn’t pay much attention to the ads, I went to see it with my roommate who is a huge Disney fan. I think that taking over a tourist vessel was a great idea. A lot of families with children probably saw the advertisement which made the kids even more excited to go see the movie, butI think that any Disney children’s movie is going to be popular no matter what.

  4. Personally, I liked that Disney went to the lengths that it did to market this movie. I especially liked how vague they were about it. Obviously, Disney showed off their characters and setting, but they never really explained much of the plot. It made me very curious as to what they movie was about. They marketed just enough to remind that the movies was coming, but not enough to spoil it for you. Everything from the fairly minimal movie posters, to the Weather Channel app, to taking over a tourist vessel helped peak interest in the movie. Disney wanted to try something new, and did a splendid job of it.

    While Moana may not be the next Frozen, it undoubtedly did well. Part of that reason is because it is a good movie, but credit also has to go to the intriguing marketing strategy.

  5. I haven’t seen the movie yet, however I plan to. I think the thing that drew myself in to go see it was the trailers, since I had no idea about the weather app or the boat theme in the UK. From a business perspective I think the tourist vessel was a great idea, however from, a tourist’s perspective, I think it might have come off a bit tacky if every single seat had the ad on it (based on the pictures I have seen). Sometimes I think too many ads for something can turn people off of the whole campaign. Of course Disney will continue to do well, however I am curious to see how they top this campaign for the next movie.

  6. I haven’t watched the film yet, but it is definitely on my too watch listen. The reason I do plan on seeing is from the marketing campaign as you stated well in your article. The main reason is mouth to mouth (a lot of my friends and my sister have seen it and told me it is good) as well as YouTube videos (trailers and clips) I have seen that seem very interesting. I had no idea that Disney also made an animated background for the Weather Channel App, I use this App so it is a shame that it only worked in specific locations (of course, it wouldn’t work in Cedar Falls). I also find it interesting that they partnered up in the UK and transformed a whole boat. Since it is Disney we are talking about, I don’t think that is over the top (it was just one boat) which actually surprises me. You’d expect from Disney to do more than just one in one country. Maybe not re decorate all tourists boats in the UK, but at least more than just one in the world. In my head, Disney always does big, so their Moana market campaign makes sense. But is it all the necessary? In the end, a lot of people go watch their new movies because it’s a new Disney movie. But at the same time, I cannot imagine Disney not going deep and full out for their marketing campaigns.

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