How The Grinch Sold Christmas: The Marketing of the New Seuss Film


As audiences watched its green character Universal sees green.

For many people the question was: Why do we need a new Grinch movie? It was in 2000 when Universal Studios opted to go with a live-action version of the Dr. Seuss holiday classic, “How The Grinch Stole Christmas”. This was a clear expansion of the classic television production, made in 1966. Coming in at one hour and forty five minutes the Ron Howard production was heavily reliant on Jim Carrey being let loose to ad lib many scenes, as well as the deep exploration into Who-ville and the origin story of how the Grinch became evil.


But the TV special still more than holds up. The legendary animator Chuck Jones, of Bugs Bunny fame, adapted the story with Boris Karloff narrating and voicing the title character. Itself a stretched out production, even with the entire text of Seuss “Grinch” book being used it needed songs to be added and some trademark Jones physical comedy scenes pad out the 26 minute run time.



Despite these two versions, regarded as holiday classics, Universal went forward with reworking the tale for an entirely new full length animated feature. This time they went with animation partner studio Illumination, the outlet for the vastly successful “Despicable Me/Minions” franchise. Not so much a retelling as it is a re-framing of the story, the Grinch this time around is more mirthful, and maybe less distancing.

Universal has gone all out in selling this feature. It has approached this release as a full-scale holiday release, and with that all of the trappings and wrappings of a major studio project. They have even targeted this to be a major international player as well, (a curious thing to watch, as the 2000 film garnered less than 25% of its global take in foreign markets.) Internationally the film will be sporting 60 promotional partnerships, with an expected $80 million in marketing as a result.


That is a lot of green to invest in the spirit of Christmas. It becomes somewhat comical in fact to consider the varied amount of products bearing the Grinch graphics, concerning this is a story in which Seuss was lecturing gently against the commercialization of Christmas. Approximately six unique commercials were created for various companies.

To kick things off the official restaurant partner is not a fast-food outlet, but IHOP. The menu page on the restaurant site declares you “Grow your appetite 3 sizes”. There you can get a stack of green Grinch pancakes, finished off with cream cheese topping and green whipped cream. Or there is the Who-Roast Beast Omelette. The gastrointestinal distress may disrupt your holiday revelry in a manner similar to the character.



Other foods getting in on the branding are the similarly chartreuse-hued legumes Wonderful Pistachios. Less synergistic is Chex getting the cereal partnership, but they made the partnership make sense with a Grinch party mix recipe that can be served at holiday gatherings.



eBates is a bit of a curious brand to come on board, but they managed to make it work. This is the first ever movie the company has partnered with but they have a custom made commercial, where the Grinch is shopping for the various devices he uses in the film. He is shown nabbing rebates on his items, such as the net-firing candy canes.



One other promo partner makes no immediate sense. I mean, I suppose the genetic research outlet 23 And Me has a connective point in showing the origins of the Grinch, as that was a backstory component in this film — I guess? The main thing is the company hoping to inspire enough fans to buy their product for loved ones this holiday.


Beauty products do not immediately leap to mind as a natural connector to an animated curmudgeon, but such products are available. There is a wide line of nail polishes found from China Glaze which I supposed can be said to reflect some of the glittery palette of the film. (Look, I’m striving to make sense of these tie-in products!)



Slightly better, and yet more odd at the same time, is a line of beauty products from PUR Cosmetics. The makeup comes packaged with some graphics that are film specific, but best is the beauty mask they offer up. A hydrating covering that resembles the character’s visage, they call this the Resting Grinch Face Mask. Well done PUR, well done.


Finally, no movie explaining the travails of holiday consumerism is completely immersive in the excess of marketing without involving your pets. Now your dog, who has no concept of cinema, can enjoy Grinch toys and snacks, delivered by Barkbox. Order a promotional Grinch box and your mutt will also receive a free Max Reindeer Horn to wear for the holiday…of which it also has no concept.



Bah, Humbark!


for more bad film opinions and revelry of poor marketing by Hollywood follow me on Twitter @MartiniShark


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