Brilliant. Bad. A Little Bit Mad: Social Media Marketing for Disney’s Cruella

Taylor Lawrence
6 min readApr 24, 2021
Courtesy: Cruella on Facebook

In 2014, Walt Disney Studios provided audiences with their first look into the history of one of Disney’s most notorious villains, Maleficent. Fans were able to watch Maleficent’s backstory unfold as she became the iconic villain we’ve come to know.

Now, the studio is continuing that approach with the newest installment of the live-action film franchise, “Cruella.” This villain-centric feature film will be released on May 28, 2021 in theaters as well as on Disney’s own streaming platform, Disney+.

Users must have an active Disney+ subscription in order to purchase Premier Access to watch the film before it is released to all Disney+ subscribers. If Disney’s current pattern holds, it will be available on August 28, 2021.

In my opinion, the social media marketing for this film should be split into three phases: pre-release, release, and post-release.

Courtesy: Disney

The pre-release phase began on February 16, 2021 (which is, not coincidentally, 101 days prior to the release date) and would continue until May 27, 2021.

The release phase should begin with the debut on May 28, 2021 and continue for just over two weeks to June 13, 2021 in order to encompass 3 full weekends immediately after release.

The post-release phase should extend from June 14, 2021 to July 28, 2021 which will likely be the last day that Disney+ users can purchase Premier Access to be able to see the film before it is available to all Disney+ subscribers for no additional fee in August.

During all three phases, a social media campaign should run on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter simultaneously in order to maximize the potential reach of the campaign among the film’s target audience.

SMART Goals are an excellent way to determine whether objectives are being met during a campaign by ensuring that goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Sensitive. All of these attributes are a necessary part of setting attainable targets that will produce tangible results based on direct action.

If I were running the social media campaign for Disney’s “Cruella”, I would focus on the number of Premier Access purchases for this film relative to the most recent live-action remake to be released on Disney+ which was “Mulan” in 2020.

Courtesy: Disney+

It was estimated that 8.77 million users in the U.S. bought Premiere Access to “Mulan”. Disney should plan to increase that number by 5% for the release of “Cruella,” for a total of 9.2 million purchases. If we break that down into a SMART goal, we see that it is

  • Specific: increasing the number of Premier Access purchases by 5%.
  • Measurable: Disney will know if they succeeded if they see more than 9.2 million purchases.
  • Achievable and Realistic: a 5% increase is 438k purchases, the film currently has a combined total of 864k social media followers across Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
  • Time-sensitive: Premier Access is only available for two months following the film’s release.

The social media campaign’s overarching goal should be to entice viewers to purchase Disney+ Premier Access. The target demographic of the campaign would be social media users who are between the ages of 18 and 45.

Although “Cruella” is a Disney film and based off of a classic, it is not animated and some of the concepts may be too advanced for very young viewers to enjoy. The range extends to 45 in order to include those viewers who were children when Disney’s animated classics were in their heyday and may be interested in learning about the origins of one of the most iconic Disney villains.

Although other platforms may be used, the primary social sites would be Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Twitter is most popular with adults. Specifically, those who are 18–29 years old make up 40% of the user demographic. Instagram is also popular with young adults, as evidenced by the fact that nearly 75% of users are between the ages of 18 and 24. Facebook is once again popular with the 18–29 year olds, but also with the older demographic as nearly 70% of U.S. adults have a profile on the platform.

According to the official film synopsis, the film “is set in 1970s London amidst the punk rock revolution, [and] follows a young grifter named Estella, a clever and creative girl determined to make a name for herself with her designs.”

The description also includes the words mischief, flair, devastatingly chic, terrifyingly haute, wicked, raucous, fashionable, and revenge-bent. This vocabulary informs the voice that should be used when writing the copy for the social media posts in order to feel authentic to the Cruella brand.

Social media mockups of potential posts

Hashtags are a great way to discover social media content connected to a specific topic or event. It is good to have a mix of general and specific hashtags to reach the broadest audience possible.

General hashtags for this campaign could include #movie, #film, #movierelease, and #villain. These would be useful on Instagram where a larger number of hashtags are acceptable and where people often find new content by searching through hashtags that they enjoy.

Specific hashtags for this campaign could include #Cruella, #Disney, #DisneyPlus, and #PremierAccess. These would be more applicable on Facebook and Twitter (where fewer hashtags are preferable) to target fans who already love Cruella and want to see more.

The final aspect of a great campaign is drawing in new viewers by partnering with an influencer or other high-profile account to cross-promote content to both account’s followers. In the case of the “Cruella” movie, there are numerous publications that have featured the film whose articles can be shared and celebrated.

It would be extremely valuable to have interactions between some of the film’s stars and the Cruella accounts, but unfortunately neither Emma Stone (Cruella) nor Emma Thompson (Baroness von Hellman) have social profiles on any of the relevant platforms.

The “Cruella” release is likely going to be one of the largest events of the year for Disney, and it is important that they make the most of it during the entirety of the six-month multi-phase social media campaign laid out above. In terms of the SMART goal of 9.2 million Premier Access subscriptions, the most important phase will likely be during the film release as viewers need to be convinced to watch on Disney+ rather than in theaters, and that the movie is so good, that they just can’t wait until August to watch it when Premier Access is no longer required to stream.

Facebook will probably have the largest number of subscription link clicks because the platform lends itself to more versatile content than Twitter or Instagram. Users expect to see a variety of content including images, videos, shared articles, links, reviews, etc. and won’t shy away from clicking on a link that entices them. Posting daily content that illustrates the exciting story and impressive filmmaking, along with the direct link to purchase Premier Access and begin streaming immediately would hopefully go a long way toward meeting the goal.

Overall, I believe this social media marketing campaign strategy would be successful if the content is high quality, the posting is consistent, and the analytics are monitored throughout the campaign, with necessary adjustments made to reflect the trends as they emerge.



Taylor Lawrence

Social Media Manager, Graphic Designer, Small Business Owner