Case Study

Twitter helped Paramount’s Sonic the Hedgehog get ready for his close-up

How listening to stans on Twitter helped Paramount reintroduce “Sonic the Hedgehog”

It was months before “Sonic the Hedgehog” was scheduled to hit the big screen, and the buzz on Twitter had already started to build.

The world’s speediest hedgehog has a huge following on the platform, with more than 5.8 million followers on the account alone. Paramount Pictures knew that these weren’t just fans, but Sonic’s most-devoted stans.

Paramount understood that engaging with this fandom on Twitter early and often would be crucial to the film’s success. Research from Bain & Co. found that leading brands were handpicking audiences most likely to engage with their content and starting with them at launch.1 Influence has impact, and so Twitter was a natural place to launch the film.

Introducing: Sonic the Hedgehog

In 2018, more than a year before the movie’s scheduled release, Paramount created the account on Twitter and released a movie poster to tease the film. Fans were divided about the design: 

And when Paramount finally released the trailer for the live-action/animation movie, the reaction wasn’t what the studio was hoping for:

Sonic didn’t look like the hedgehog they knew and loved. He was more muscular, furry, and toothier than fans expected. Fans were even making their own edits:

Still, some fans were hopeful:

Within two days, “Sonic” director Jeff Fowler acknowledged the fan’s concerns and promised to do better:

The studio brought in some of Sonic’s original creators to do an extreme makeover on the movie character. Paramount even pushed back the release date from November to February 2020.

Back to the drawing board

In November 2019, Paramount released a second trailer revealing the new Sonic:

Fans were in love — so much so, there was a positive sentiment shift of 54%2:

A willingness to pivot is a defining characteristic of successful launches. As Bain research shows, companies that achieve their launch goals are nearly three times more likely to monitor the reactions of their intended audience and make adjustments in real time.3

To build on this momentum, Paramount continued to listen and keep fans engaged, asking for their feedback on Sonic’s new custom emoji using polls:

Sonic breaks the box office

When the film finally debuted in February 2020, it was a megahit. “Sonic the Hedgehog” had the best US opening ever for a game-to-movie adaptation and grossed around $300 million worldwide, making it one of the most successful video game movies of all time.

Paramount made a film that audiences loved: The film has a 93% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.

The story shows the power of building your launch strategy around Twitter’s influential audience, and listening and pivoting using Twitter’s tools. Sometimes happy endings happen in real life, too.

Sources:

1. Bain & Company, 2019 Launch Marketer Survey, US, n=650
2. Twitter Internal Data, 2019
3. Bain & Company, 2019 Launch Marketer Survey, US, n=650