NEW YORK ( MainStreet) -- If you're not using Katniss, Peeta, Haymitch or Effie in your business marketing strategy -- or worse, if you don't know who these people are -- you're missing a powerful opportunity to gain customers by capitalizing on The Hunger Games, a hugely popular pop culture trend reaching far beyond its original market of young adults. Today's release of a movie based on books by Suzanne Collins has fans worldwide in a frenzy about the world of Panem, the dystopian version of North America in which the characters live. Following in the footsteps of the Twilight saga, the popularity of the YA reading material has extended its reach far beyond its initial demographic, reaping rewards for Scholastic ( SCHL), the publisher of the book series, as well as Lionsgate ( LGF), the studio that brought The Hunger Games to life. Both stocks hit 52-week highs within the past week as pre-sale tickets set records.
The Hunger Games, based on books by Suzanne Collins, arrives in theaters today.
A host of other large companies are also reaping the rewards of The Hunger Games, so why shouldn't small businesses also profit? And, with a phenomenon so big, it doesn't have to be limited to the obvious booksellers or T-shirt retailers. Even companies that don't have a direct connection can profit if done correctly. "Typically small businesses have ridden these waves with merchandise, and if that is your product line you need to get those products on the shelf rapidly and promote their arrival via the channels you use for all of your marketing," says John Nolan, an adjunct professor of marketing at Pepperdine University's Graziadio School of Business and Management. But there are other ways to leverage The Hunger Games, even if a company does not have products related directly to the movie. "A business can attempt a news-jacking strategy, create products with names inspired by the film or create unofficial products to cannibalize the success of the film," Nolan says. Nolan points to nail polish company China Glaze, which created a line of polishes with colors inspired by the movie. Nearly a dozen fashion designers created their own variations of a dress worn by heroine Katniss, Nolan says. There's also The Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook, which serves up recipes to some of Katniss and Peeta's favorite dishes. Whatever a business decides to do, they should incorporate several marketing strategies at once to maximize exposure, cross promoting the efforts through Web site, social media, sales calls, press releases and marketing literature. "All of these methods are for a business to gain publicity and sales by capitalizing upon a current popular trend," Nolan says. Of course, The Hunger Games is simply an example. Whether it's Linsanity, Tim Tebow or The Walking Dead, harnessing pop culture can be a great way to add traction to your business with proper marketing. Here are three examples of businesses using The Hunger Games in their marketing strategies: