#LOTRLive is a social media project aimed at launching a new wave of interest within the existing fans of the Lord of the Rings legendarium, as well at attracting new fanbase within the target audience. The idea of this project is to organize a network of Instagram accounts of the “real” Lord of the Rings characters and create a storytelling project in a manner of non-conventional and non-linear narration. This new way of digital storytelling will engage the audience by allowing them to participate in the story though direct interaction with the characters on Instagram.
The target audience of this project is predominantly teenage Caucasian males from the English-speaking civilizational West. Such characterization of the target audience is conditioned upon the Western European mythological base of the plotline in the original Tolkien’s stories with an intense medieval knights, kings, and queens’ aesthetic. The segmentation analysis showed that the majority of the target audience is constituted by introverted book-loving teenagers who enjoy imaginary worlds.
SWOT analysis of the Warner Bros corporation, the producer of the movie and video-games adaptations, illustrated strong positions of the company on the market supported by steady financial growth, rich experience in the industry and global recognition. However, spread of piracy, and social and political landscapes provide a space for improvement. The company and the story can be socially criticized for not representing sufficient inclusivity within identity politics, as well face challenges on the local markets due to political tensions and judicial discrepancies. The central plan of the project is to focus on reaching the segments of the target audience though social media targeting.
Situation Analysis (5Cs)
The Lord of the Rings legendarium franchise, an originally written story by J.R.R. Tolkien, is a perfect example of transmedia and cross-platform storytelling. It has created one of the world’s largest collaborations between fans, different media production companies, and general consumption. Excluding the Hobbit and other books of the legendarium, the Lord of the Rings book-trilogy alone has been ranked as one of the biggest best-sellers in the world with over 150 million copies sold by today. The original story and its spin-offs have since been adapted to a large movie franchise by the New Line Cinema production company, as well as a number of theater plays, radio shows, video games and many more.
The appeal of the franchise across various demographic groups is characterized as exceptionally large, with the only group not involved with the franchise being women 50 and older years of age (Mathjis, 2010). The TA of #LOTRLive is the fans and people who have been previously interested with the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit movie trilogies that were rates 12A. With the legendarium focusing on the good versus evil trope, knight’s aesthetic, as well as including scenic fight scenes and having 82% of all characters being males, the prevailing part of the TA would be also male (The LOTR Project, 2014, Table 1). As the whole of the Tolkien’s legendarium in many ways is based off of Celtic, Nordic, British and generally European mythologies, it awakens a certain sense of nostalgia within the consumers and has a historical appeal. This conditions popularity of the legendarium within the natively English-speaking middle-class audience of European descent.
Thus, we can see that the TA audience of #LOTRLive includes a large in size and a steady segment of the whole demographic, and is expected to have a stable growth rate. According to Census data, the US’s overall white teen population (12-17) is around 16 million people with just a little over a half of those being males (Moore, 2022). According to Global Entertainment and Media Market research report, by 2028 the whole of media and entertainment global market is expected to grow by almost 6% (Moore, 2022). So, the target audience and the market growth rate are expected to be continuous.
The project also especially aims at attracting the part of the audience who have been familiarized and consequently involved with the works inspired by the Tolkien’s original legendarium. Younger generation can be interested in modern fantasy works, movies, and video games, without necessarily being fully aware that the initial idea of the medieval fantasy entourage was procreated by the Tolkien’s lore.
Company (SWOT Analysis)
The cinematic adaptation of the original book series was implemented by New Line Cinema, a subsidiary of Warner Bros Corporation, which apart from the movies, also developed a large share of the LOTR video-games. The company was founded in 1923 and remains one of the leaders of the global entertainment industry.
The strengths of the corporation are a strong financial position that is continuous and increasing. Long presence on the market and subsequent experience creates a conducive environment for generations of ideas that are likely to achieve success based on deep knowledge of the industry. Warner Bros is a large corporation with over 8000 employees and global recognition. The biggest Hollywood blockbusters, as well as some of the world’s most successful franchises (Harry Potter) were produced by this company, which helped it become well known around the world.
However, there are some obvious weaknesses, such as high-risk probability, as it is impossible to predict which media-project will become successful. Another weakness is the necessity to adapt to the local markets and to consider local consumer’ behavior. The company is also frequently faced with severe criticism for either trivial themes, or lack of social responsibility and awareness within the media-space. Exceptional attentiveness is needed when analyzing social and political trends, as the players of the entertainment industry can often face harsh criticism for misrepresentation of certain social groups in their characters, as well as not addressing some of the pressing social issues in general.
The opportunities for Warner Bros include expansion of the means of digital distribution of the products and further increase of the revenue within the industry, and consequently, for the firm. This potentially can help Warner Bros strengthen their leadership position as an implementer of new technologies in media and entertainment industry.
The threats are common for the whole industry and are dependent on a rapid decline of traditional media usage. With the advent of streaming services, sales of DVDs and other conventional digital media are reducing, as piracy keeps spreading. As an internationally operating company, Warner Bros have to adjust to the policies of the different governments and adapt their products accordingly (i.e., censoring certain movie-scenes). As for financial threats, currency fluctuations in different countries can also significantly undermine general revenue of the firm.
Close ties of the entertainment industry with the cultural and social context condition their mutual influence. A rapid change within the trends of the social landscape compels the entertainment industry to follow these trends, and get severely publicly criticized for not doing so. As for the Lord of the Rings franchise specifically, a lack of female characters in the original series may pose a social challenge in regards to the social contextual environment. Also, the company faces significant challenges with promotion abroad. #LOTRLive can lose a smaller part of its target audience located in non-English speaking countries (i.e., China, Russia). In these countries, due to political constrains social media networks, such as Instagram, are banned and can be reached only with the use of various VPN services which can hold back the audience reach by a significant amount. As for economic and legal contextual constraints, there seem to be no challenges that could significantly undermine the company’s operation.
In 2018, Warner Bros signed a collaboration agreement with the leader of the streaming service Netflix which occupies the leading 25% of the streaming market (License Global, 2018). This collaboration broadens audience reach opportunities and allows Warner Bros’ products to reach their audience through the Internet and be consumed in the customers’ own homes via TV sets and mobile devices.
The main competitor of Warner Bros Corp are Walt Disney and the Universal Pictures with their market shares being 26,45% and 35,04%, whereas Warner Bros’ share is 14,26% (Rentark stats). The main competitor of the franchise is Disney’s Avengers. However, they are positioned as the leader of the superhero media world, with their target audience differing in age (the age rank is higher for the Avengers, PG-13). The marketing strategies are similar for the aforementioned franchises, which makes one of the major competition spots between the companies.
Market Analysis and Strategies (STP)
Target Audience Segmentation
In order to reach effective levels of relevance between the product and the customers, the target audience of #LOTRLive has been divided according to the following segmentation principles: demographics, psychographic, behavior, and geography (Dolnicar et al., 2018).
#LOTRLive is targeted towards teenagers and young adults between the age of 12 to 20, male. These are the people who come from middle-class families with an average income. The target audience is the Caucasian English-speaking teenage boys who are in the middle school, high school, or college.
Being involved in fandoms that are initially based on books is most likely to be appealing to an audience that can be characterized as “nerdy”. Such teenagers are usually described as bookworms and are inclined to be engaged in introverted activities, such as reading and playing video games, rather than sports. As the LOTR legendarium is based upon Nordic, Celtic and ancient British mythologies and appeals to the medieval Europe’s aesthetics, it is also liked by people who are interested in mythology, history, and imaginary worlds. Overall, the TA of #LOTRLive are dreamy and smart introverted teenagers who enjoy visually and imaginatively stimulating activities.
The TA is tech-savvy and are regular users of various social media. Amid COVID-19 quarantine restrictions, in the past few years teenagers in the United States have been spending up to eight hours per day on social media. The average attention span of generation Z is eight seconds, with the millennials’ attention span topping their younger counterparts only by four seconds (Fromm & Read, 2018). An average Instagram post is a perfect match for the attention span of a representative of #LOTRLive’s TA.
The medieval European aesthetic within the series conditions predominantly English-speaking countries of the civilizational West and Western Europe, such the UK, Ireland, Malta, the USA, Australia, and New Zealand. Overall, the “ideal” customer of the franchise is a story-loving teenage boy, who is familiar with the fantasy genre. The project aims at attracting young potential fans who now will have a chance to get acquainted with the original Tolkien’s lore.
In order to reach the target audience effectively niche marketing based on the customers segmentation will be applied. The number of people who will be eager to interact with the characters’ Instagram accounts is specific, which will condition high penetration among the target segments. This segment can be reached through ads on various interest-based communities on social media platforms, such as Facebook.
#LOTRLive is a part of a larger marketing campaign of the whole LOTR franchise, and is positioned as a serious epic fantasy genre that contemplates on the eternal dichotomies of life and death, good and evil. The Hobbit was initially written merely as a children’s book, but the whole legendarium soon grew into the classical literature segment oriented towards thinking and contemplation. The whole of Tolkien’s legendarium can hardly be called solely entertainment, it is positioned as philosophical adventure storytelling. In terms of price, the franchise is positioned as high budget epic fantasy movie series.
Tactical Plans (4Ps)
The book trilogy and a vast legacy of other stories written by Tolkien within the Middle Earth setting, create an immense corpus of stories that can be adapted into different media, such as movies, plays, comic books, and video games. However, all the aforementioned ways of adaptation constitute the traditional linear way of storytelling. The advent of digital media and emergence of cross-platform and transmedia storytelling makes up space for a new dimension of non-conventional storytelling and audience engagement methods. Nonlinear storytelling is a digital storytelling technique that implies not the traditional linear way of narration, but is divided into parallel branches (Letonsaari, 2019). #LOTRLive is nonlinear, as it brings a new push into the established fantasy genre products. The method has been previously used predominantly within the video-game industry.
The main idea of #LOTRLive is in an experimental manner tell stories of the Middle Earth through a first-person perspective, specifically, through the “personal” pages of the characters. #LOTRLive aims to create a friendly eco-system of personified Instagram accounts, each of which would serve as a platform for non-linear storytelling (including some of the stories not adapted into movies) and direct interaction with the fans.
The concept of the project is to create an impression as if social media existed within Tolkien’s legendarium. The users will be able to see what their favorite characters do on a day-to-day basis. The users will also be able to interact with the characters though common social media tools, like liking, reposting, commenting, tagging and texting via direct messages. As far as the project’s life cycle is concerned, it is planned to last for a total of 12 months till the next launch of the video game series.
As a marketing campaign, its main goal is to re-awaken a new wave of interest within the existent fanbase, as well as attract new customers. The cost of the project will include the spending on graphic design, social media management, as well as paid ads for traffic generation. However, for the customers interaction with the project is free of charge. Social media marketing campaigns of the competitors (i.e., the Avengers, Star Wars) have been done in the same manner. For example, gradual posts of a series of trailers, posters, and behind-the-scenes shots.
As a part of the marketing campaign for the franchise the spending will be justified, as they are relatively not substantial (social media management, graphic design, and ads). Warner Bros Corporation every five to seven years launches new editions of the Lord of the Rings video games, which needs marketing. Also, one more book of the legendarium, the Silmarillion has long been discussed to be shot. Thus, #LOTRLive can hook the audience to wait for the film adaptation, as well.
The original way of delivering the products of the franchise by Warner Bros are movie theaters, DVD discs, Netflix subscriptions, and the video games can be purchased online. #LOTRLive in particular will be accessed by the audience directly on Instagram. Walt Disney, one of the main competitors, reaches their audience directly though their own streaming service Disney+. Warner Bros would win marketing-wise if they launched a similar platform of their own, despite the stated collaboration with Netflix.
In order to launch the marketing process for the project, video commercials and digital graphic posters will be used. The video ads will be like a mini-version of a movie trailer that can be played silently and out-loud on various social media channels, such as Facebook, YouTube, TikTok, and Twitter. In promotion, the accent will be made on the link of the storytelling methods used via Instagram to other stories and characters within Tolkien’s legendarium besides the Lord of the Rings, as well as interaction with the characters, with the possible slogans, such as “Become an active participant of the favorite legendarium!”.
Another possible way of promoting the project is a collaboration with a famous company, such as McDonald’s, for instance. The poster ads can be printed on the packaging of the products with the links to the Instagram accounts. According to the budget plan, the Lord of the Rings toys can be sold with McDonalds’ Happy Meals.
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Moore, A. (2022). Entertainment and media market size and share. Market Reports World.