Brandable: Using Promo To Tell A Story
Photo by Leone Venter / Unsplash.com
When the new HBO series Lovecraft Country debuted in August, its marketing team quickly got to work developing an influencer kit filled with promotional products to appeal to the show’s demographic, while also supporting Black-owned businesses. Produced by renowned executive producers, including Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams, the sci-fi thriller is set in 1954 and tells the story of Atticus, a 22-year-old Black man who returns home after serving in the Korean War, and goes on a road trip with his friend Letitia and Uncle George in search of his missing father. Along the way, the group experiences racism and the supernatural—and given the current social climate, this show couldn’t have come at a more relevant time.
To get the word out about the new series, HBO sent out 300 packages to influencers that included goodies inspired by Atticus’s cross-country journey, and things that would be useful during any long trip. All the items were made by Black-owned businesses, and included a backpack from Life on Autopilot, sunglasses from Bôhten Eyewear, a “Sundon” candle from Bright Black, a $50 Grubhub gift card for recipients to use to support a Black-owned restaurant and the novels Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff, provided by Amalgram Comics and Coffeehouse.
The network also wanted to recognize the show’s creator, Misha Green, and included in the package a “South Side Futuristic Science Fiction Club” sweatshirt from BLK MKT Vintage and a notebook that serves as a “field guide” to understanding the cultural context behind the items in the bag, and information about the businesses themselves. Among those who received the kits ahead of a virtual screening on August 10 was Natasha Rothwell, star, writer and producer of Insecure; Angelica Ross, star of Pose and American Horror Story; April Reign, activist and #OscarsSoWhite creator, and Imani Ellis, founder of The Creative Collective NYC.
It’s also a move that ties directly to the show itself, which has both an interesting and complicated story and backstory. The show is based on and named after Lovecraft Country, a dark-horror-fantasy novel written by Matt Ruff that explores racism during the Jim Crow era and draws elements from the work of horror writer H.P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft is one of the most influential writers of the 20th century and is best known for his creation of a shared fictional universe called “Cthulhu Mythos.” The Cthulhu Mythos has a cult-like following, and is used to describe Lovecraft’s style of stories, which feature aliens and unusual, inhuman creatures. Lovecraft was also a known racist and many of his works included racist elements or themes, and Ruff’s book was written as a way to confront Lovecraft’s racism with his own work. Not only are the main characters faced with “monstrous racists,” writes the LA Times, but also with “literal monsters.” The promo kit served as a way to tie all of this together in a way that communicated the complex message of the show and its context.
Danielle Renda is associate editor of PPB.