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Who would have thought that a small indie studio from Sweden would end up producing one of the biggest viral hits ever?
Kung Fury was released for free on YouTube earlier this year by Laser Unicorns, and it has currently raked in well over 20 million views. It's now on its way to being made into a full-length feature film.
So what sort of marketing strategy did Kung Fury use explode out of nowhere and become a viral phenomenon?
1: Started with a remarkable, over-the-top premise
The trailer for Kung Fury spun a tale of a renegade cop who's forced to travel back in time to kill Adolf Hitler, with the help of chaingun-totting barbarians, dinosaurs and a Viking demi-god.
The premise was so crazy that everybody who heard about it was eager to tell all their action-movie loving friends about it.
The resulting buzz hyped Kung Fury up into a phenomenon that would cement its place in the pantheon of the greatest action movies of all time– all while being crowdfunded.
2: Highlighted memorable characters and unforgettably cheesy one-liners
Nazi soldiers, ninjas, dinosaurs, Vikings, a talking triceratops and Thor himself make up the rest of the supporting cast of colourful characters in Kung Fury which amp up the absurdity to new heights.
Added together with a multitude of cheesy one-liners such as “Tank You” and “Yeah, that’s my bicep,” Kung Fury became the perfect mix of hilarity and mayhem, broadening its appeal among action movie aficionados and fans of 80's pop culture.
Laser Unicorns had successfully managed to create a need for something people didn’t know they wanted to see, and people were interested in hopping on board to see just how crazy of a ride this was going to be.
3: Exploited the celebrity power of David Hasselhoff – doing what he did best
Kung Fury was going to be a tribute to 80s action movie mayhem, and Laser Unicorns took full advantage of this by releasing “True Survivor” – an 80s themed music video starring Baywatch legend David Hasselhoff.
It was released on YouTube just one month prior to Kung Fury’s online premiere and it immediately started getting media attention due to Hasselhoff’s involvement.
In it, Hasselhoff performs an action sequence of his own before belting out the theme song of the movie. KITT, his iconic vehicle from the popular Knight Rider series from yesteryear, made a prominent guest appearance.
The ending image showing both Hasselhoff and David Sandberg, the director of Kung Fury, sitting atop a dinosaur.
The sheer unabashed embracement of 80s nostalgia and absurdity showcased in the music video helped Kung Fury to garner more fans and curious eyes – the music video alone crossed over 19 million views on YouTube.
4: A polished Kickstarter campaign raised over $630,00 from 17,000+ backers to spread the word
Most online crowdsourcing campaigns struggle for attention with a bare-bones semblance of an idea, begging for to capital in order to be developed. Laser Unicorns, on the other hand, showed off a fully polished product pitch which made it stand out from the rest.
Their pitch video showed off a highly polished trailer, concept art, working stills, soundtrack and a sneak peek into the multitude of scene snippets which had already been shot.
5: Cultivated an active, engaging relationship with their supporters
The team behind Kung Fury made sustained efforts to keep in touch with their backers on Kickstarter, providing them access to their online production diary to easily get tabs on the status of the film.
They actively made use of these social media portals to share not just their own posters and photos from behind-the-scenes, but to also share fan art.
The director of Kung Fury, David Sandberg, also held two Ask Me Anything sessions on Reddit where he interacted with fans and supporters.
6: Leveraged YouTube as a marketing platform to reach out to a global audience
When Kung Fury was finally released online on YouTube for free as promised by the filmmakers, it didn't just reach its fans – it also reached the global audience of YouTube users who were casually browsing.
Famous YouTubers such as Kingsley (pictured above) even recorded themselves reacting to the trailer, music video and the movie itself.
This made the movie-watching experience a collective one, and the reaction videos helped the movie piggyback off of the audiences of influential YouTubers.
7: Branching out and expanding the brand into relevant niches
After the overwhelming success of their online release, Laser Unicorns continued to thrill their fans by unveiling a video game based on the movie called Kung Fury: Street Rage. It was released a month after the premiere for iOS and Android users, for free.
The filmmakers also have planned to release a comic book which will explore more of the lore behind the universe of Kung Fury.
Along with all of the above, the team are continuing with efforts to meet consumer demand for Kung Fury merchandise. All of this helps new waves of fans get into the franchise through new entry points.
At the same time, their efforts also show their supporters that they are still invested in what they have done and that they are continually working hard on making bigger and better things for their fans.
- Remarkable, over-the-top premise worth talking about
- Memorable characters and unforgettable one-liners (highly shareable)
- Borrowing the power of celebrity
- Highly polished Kickstarter campaign
- Cultivated relationships with supporters
- Leveraged YouTube as a marketing platform
- Branched out and expanded the brand