Deconstructing the Blair Witch Project Marketing Campaign

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The Blair Witch Project marketing campaign is largely regarded as one of the most, if not honestly the most, famous and effective film marketing campaigns. It was the FIRST viral film marketing campaign, and it’s the one that largely credited for the way we market films today. 

If you know anything about the Blair Witch Project, you know that they didn’t have any more money to make their film than you. It has a budget of $60K and was filmed over the course of 8 days—That’s it.

And while these are amazing numbers that your next film probably won’t make, there are still a ton of lessons you can learn from the Blair Witch Project marketing campaign.

The photo shown at the top of this post was taken by treybunn2 on Flickr. 

Listen to the “Please Watch My Film” episode on the Blair Witch Project’s marketing campaign:

Download the companion PDF

We’ve created a handy-dandy companion PDF for this episode. It contains images, links and other goodies that were used during the Blair Witch Project’s marketing campaign:

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About the Blair Witch Project

I'm willing to bet that you know what the Blair Witch Project is, but in case you've never had a chance to see it or you've forgotten, we're going to quickly go over the concept for you:

It is a found-footage horror film and according to Wikipedia, the film synopsis is "Three students decide to go into the Maryland backwoods to cover the mystery behind the Blair Witch incidents. However, they lose their map and things take an unexpected turn."

The marketing campaign

The Blair Witch Project had the first viral film marketing campaign. Not only that but it was also the first one that came about via the internet.

But, unlike what most people think, it wasn't all dumb luck and chance. It wasn't a bunch of indie filmmakers who happened upon something amazing—the campaign as a whole ended up costing Artisan, the company that purchased the film at Sundance an estimated $25-million.

This film hit at just the perfect time for it to be a success using the tactics that they did. It was right before the advent of social media networks and YouTube which meant that the internet was a fast way to get information, but not as fast as we know it to be today. 

The marketing tactics

The Blair Witch Project used some seriously cutting-edge marketing for 1999, and, the best part about it is that they used effective tactics that you can still use today!

The website: Their website was the pinnacle of the overall project. They launched it BEFORE any trailers or teasers were even released. They used it as a hub platform that had everything that viewers needed (and wanted) to know about the film—timelines, missing person posters, Heather's found journals and an extensive message board where people could talk about theories.

Email list: The filmmakers talked about how they built up an email list via their website that helped them expand their audience, fill up the seats at Sundance and really carry the film far.

Film festivals: Film festivals are great marketing tools, not only that but they get people to your film so they can enjoy it. #BestOfBothWorlds! The Blair Witch Project premiered at Sundance in 1999, and their first midnight screening was sold out.

Disappeared the actors: A ton of buzz was created for the film after Artisan came on board and decided the marketing would be better if the main actors "went missing" so instead of doing a PR tour, they hid them. They did things like changing their IMDB pages to say "missing presumed dead" and interviewing fake relatives.

Supplementary documentary: Right before the film premiered in theatres, a fake documentary was aired on the sci-fi channel to back it up called the "Curse of the Blair Witch" which helped create more hype.

A consistent brand: The Blair Witch Project marketing campaign had a cohesive consistent brand that showed through in ALL of their marketing containers.

Major Blair Witch Project marketing campaign takeaways

There are a ton of things that you can learn from the Blair Witch Project marketing campaign, but here are our top picks:

  • Build a website
  • Grow an email list
  • Take a risk (though don't "disappear" people because in 2020 that could cause bigger problems)
  • Be consistent

And, finally, put in the work. While Artisan added money to the marketing budget, had the filmmakers not put effort in in the first place, the film definitely wouldn't have gone as far!

Need help with your film marketing?

At TaeHaahr.com, we want you to build the best marketing campaign that you can so your film gets seen (and, selfishly, so we’re able to see it)! Because, at the end of the day, we believe that if the right audience sees your film it not only helps you build a successful portfolio but truly impacts lives.

And if you’re brand new to it, we’re here to help. If you need help shaping your marketing, reach out and we’ll see what we can do. You can reach out to us at film@taehaahr.com.

Happy marketing!