4 Marketing Lessons You Can Learn from Horror Movies

In light of the past weekend of spooks, gore and fun, we looked into what lures horror fans into watching scary movies. There are many theories which include it being a rite of passage for youths, the scarier the better and thus, proving your bravery to your peers or perhaps just morbid curiosity with the unknown. Of course, as marketers, we drew the conclusion that it’s because horror films touch on all the basic marketing components to make any marketing campaign successful.

1. Create a Complete Experience

The Exorcist

Do you ever notice how the music score playing in the background of every horror film you watch makes the scene 10x more scary than it actually is or how the sound of thunder and lightning suddenly start to make being in the dark that much more creepier? That’s because producers are building an ominous atmosphere to draw you into the film by creating a complete horrific experience. A good horror film score will set the tone for each scene by eliciting strong emotions of fear and anxiety, which sometimes include even physical responses such as sweaty palms or send your heart racing. The true test of a good horror film score is when it can still send chills up and down your spine, even if you’re not watching the film.

Marketing today is about telling a story and creating a memorable experience for your consumers to remember and draw feelings of positivity or happiness when they hear or think of your band. During the past summer, Molson Canadian created a complete marketing experience by releasing a Canadian Beer Fridge campaign for the Pan Am Games and Canada Day. The fridge would release when six languages of “I am Canadian” were spoken into the fridge’s microphone. This campaign united strangers of various ethnicities to work together for the common goal of winning free Molson beer, while highlighting Canada’s rich culture and diversity. At the end of the challenge, individuals who were once strangers shared beers, laughs and high fives. They physically linked participants to their products by having them interact with the fridge and then leaving them with a free takeaway, in addition Molson created a memorable and positive experience for all participants and bystanders, who they will always associate feelings of happiness and unity with their brand.

2. Build Suspense and Mystery


What’s a good horror film without fear of the unknown? Suspense and mystery mean everything to completing the perfect thriller and scary movie, and the same could be said for creating successful marketing campaigns. When you watch a scary movie, you’re hanging on the edge of your seats waiting for something to happen, as marketers, we want the same feeling of anticipation and anxiousness from our prospects when we release a new product or service.


2015’s MTV Music Video of the Year, “Bad Blood” by Taylor Swift garnered as much success as it did due to the suspense that was built leading up to the release of the music video. Filmed as a short  action film, Taylor released over 20 promotional “film posters” on Twitter featuring the various stars who would be featured in her new music video to lead up to the final release of the video. Taylor’s first poster teaser of herself received 62,604 retweets alone. Twitter supported the promotions by creating a custom emoji to appear whenever the hashtag #BadBloodMusicVideo was typed in. Today, with five months passed since the campaign launched, the hashtag generated 1,124,328 impressions on Twitter alone during a five-day period (October 25-October 30, 2015), with 53% of the tweets as original posts.

3. Surprise and Delight

As strange as it sounds, one of the reasons horror films do exist is because people enjoy being surprised and scared, so they can have a good laugh about it afterwards.  If every scene you watched in a horror film was completely expected, it wouldn’t make for a good thriller, would it?


The term “surprise and delight” has become a mantra for marketers in the last few years, stressing tactics to indulge your existing and prospective customers with an unexpected perk. WestJet Airlines’ “Christmas Miracle” in 2013 created one of the most successful and remarkable “surprise and delight” campaigns that still receives views today, with 42,083,557 views currently on their YouTube Channel. WestJet flyers were asked what they wanted for Christmas upon scanning their boarding pass and when they landed from their flight, their wishes were granted at the baggage carousel. The video went viral and helped WestJet edge out their competitors for their outstanding customer service. From big boxed items such as a new 50” screen TV to a ticket home for the holidays, WestJet undoubtedly created the ultimate surprise and delight experience for their customers.

4. Make Your Customers Your Marketers

Deviant Art
Source: Deviant Art

Why don’t the evil serial killers or murderous spirits ever die? Horror film franchises are infamous for overextending their stay by creating sequel after sequel because their audiences continue to watch their films and support the franchise. Cult classics which were released in the 80s still bare resonance with fans today, 30+ years after their initial film releases. Walk into any retailer, which sells Halloween costumes and you can be guaranteed to find masks and costumes for Michael Myers, Jason or Chuckie because these films continue to be relevant to a new generation of fans.

Source: Metro UK
Source: Metro UK

With social media, businesses can easily make customers their biggest advocate whenever they hashtag and/or post images of their products and services on their social media accounts (often without even been requested to.) Apple’s branding, innovation and sleek design has created notoriously loyal and passionate customers, who support and market the brand as a status symbol. It’s not uncommon to hear that Apple fans will line up for hours, days or even set camp outside the Apple store, just to purchase the newest released product on the first day.

So there you have it, four basic marketing lessons that you can learn from any horror movie, do you think I missed any? Leave a comment below and let’s chat. Hope you enjoyed reliving some of your favourite horror classics with me during this post!


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