Marketing 'The Da Vinci Code'

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Case Details:

Case Code : MKTG134
Case Length : 12 Pages
Period : 2003 - 2006
Organization : -
Pub Date : 2006
Teaching Note : Available
Countries : Europe, USA
Industry : Media, Entertainment, and Gaming

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This case study was compiled from published sources, and is intended to be used as a basis for class discussion. It is not intended to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation. Nor is it a primary information source.

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"Publishers often stand accused of becoming ever more sophisticated and cynical in their pursuit of creating instant author brands, when ultimately it is as likely to be good old-fashioned personal recommendation that really sells." 1

- John Bond, Manager, HarperCollins Literary Division,2 in 2005.

"The critics certainly weren't kind to ("Da Vinci") but audiences heard so much about it, so how could they not see it? The controversy and the protests only helped to sell the movie." 3

- Paul Dergarabedian, President of Exhibitor Relations Co Inc. 4, in 2006.

'The Da Vinci Code' - Breaking New Grounds

On May 19, 2006, 'The Da Vinci Code' motion picture was released in many countries across the world. The motion picture went on to record the second-biggest film debut5 for the opening weekend6 at the global box-office with an estimated US$ 224 million in earnings. The movie was based on the hugely popular novel with the same name, 'The Da Vinci Code,' written by Dan Brown7 (Brown). Though the film received bad reviews by most film critics and faced protests by Christian groups across the world, it did not prevent the movie from achieving box-office success.

Media experts attributed the film's successful opening to the enormous interest among the readers of the novel and the publicity generated due to the protests by religious groups on account of its controversial content.

The novel was a religious fiction thriller, based on a series of clues, which lead to the unraveling of a closely guarded secret about Jesus Christ and Christianity.

The novel captured the interest and imagination of the people by taking them on a quest to unravel secret clues left at a murder scene, analyzing clues in the paintings of Leonardo da Vinci,8 leading them through a journey of medieval history with the Knights Templar,9 secret organizations like the Priory of Sion,10 the Opus Dei,11 and a quest for the Holy Grail.12

However, the main premise of the novel, that Jesus Christ married Mary Magdalene and had a bloodline that has survived till date, drew the ire of various Christian groups as it contradicted generally held beliefs in Christianity.

Another reason for the success of this novel, apart from its controversial content, was word of mouth marketing13 approach adopted by the publisher that helped the novel become a huge success. The movie was also marketed in a distinctive way when Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc.14 (Sony Pictures) in association with Google Inc.15 (Google) launched the 'Da Vinci Code quest,' an online series of puzzle games based on the theme of the novel (Refer to Exhibit I for details of the 'Da Vinci Code quest').

In addition to Google, Sony Ericsson Communications AB16 (Sony Ericsson) also teamed up with Sony Pictures to promote the motion picture. Sony Ericsson displayed the puzzles on its website and offered prizes to those who could solve them. Eurostar17 also tied up with Sony Pictures in association with government tourist agencies in Britain, France, and Scotland18 to promote the film worldwide and boost tourism in these countries.

Marketers cited the online promo by Google and Sony Pictures and the other promotional activities with Sony Ericsson and Eurostar as another case of buzz marketing or viral marketing that attempted to cash in on the popularity of the novel and to create excitement about the motion picture release.

Marketing 'The Da Vinci Code' - Next Page>>

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1] "Word of mouth 'winner for books',", March 3, 2005.

2] HarperCollins Literary Division is a part of HarperCollins publishers, one of the largest publishers in English language. The company is headquartered in New York and publishes books on a range of topics.

3] "The Da Vinci Code: A new box office record,", May 22, 2006.

4] Exhibitor Relations Co Inc., founded in 1974, is one of the oldest full-service motion picture research firms. The company provides information research services to the film and media industry.

5] As of June 2006, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith with an estimated earnings of US$253.9 million was considered as the biggest film opening for an opening weekend in global box office history.

6] Opening weekend refers to the first three days after a film release, starting from Friday.

7] Dan Brown is an American novelist born on June 22, 1964, in New Hampshire, U.S.A. He was a relatively obscure author till the release of 'The Da Vinci Code'. His novels are best known for being fictional thrillers with plots that contain a series of puzzles and ciphers that the protagonist has to solve to resolve a mystery or murder. Another unique feature of his work is that they focus on the confrontation between science and religion.

8] Leonardo Da Vinci, born in Italy (1452-1519), was known as a creative genius. He was a painter, architect, engineer, inventor, anatomist, physiologist, musician, and futurist. His world-famous paintings include the Mona Lisa, The Last Supper, and the famous drawing, The Vitruvian Man. He had also conceived of inventions far ahead of his time like the helicopter, battle tank, calculator, etc.

9] Knights Templar refers to a medieval Christian order that played an important role in the Christian crusades from 1100 to 1300 AD.

10] The question whether the secret organization, the Priory of Sion, exists is a controversial one. Claims to its existence are based on some transcripts called the 'Dossiers Secrets' discovered at the Bibliothèque Nationale, the national library of France, in 1975. However, most historians believe that the existence of this organization is a hoax.

11] Opus Dei is a religious organization founded in 1928 by a Roman Catholic priest Josemaria Escriva, who was made a saint by Pope John Paul II in 2002. The organization has around 85,000 members and aims to “give a Christian training to its members and to other people who wish to receive it.” In 'The Da Vinci Code' novel, the Opus Dei is shown as a secretive and mysterious religious cult.

12] The Holy Grail refers to a cup that was believed to possess miraculous powers and was used by Jesus at the last supper.

13] Word of mouth marketing is a promotional effort in which organizations publicize their products or services through personal recommendations.

14] Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc is the television and film production/distribution unit of Sony Corporation, Japan. The company is headquartered in California and has studio brands such as Columbia TriStar Pictures, MGM, United Artists, and GSN.

15] Google Inc. was co-founded by Sergey Brin and Larry Page in 1998. Google is the world's most popular Internet search engine and has a diversified range of products such as E-mail, blogs, etc.

16] Sony Ericsson Communications AB is a joint venture with a 50%-50% partnership between Sony Corporation, Japan and Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson, Sweden. It was established in 2001and primarily manufactures and sells mobile phones.

17] Eurostar refers to the high speed train service that connects train stations in London (England), Paris, Lille (France), and Brussels (Belgium).

18] These guided tours would help tourists trace the journey of the novel's protagonists as they traveled to places located in these three countries like the Louvre Museum (France), Rennes le Château (France), The Temple Church (London), Rosslyn Chapel (Scotland), etc.


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