Studio Ghibli, the acclaimed Japanese animation studio behind “Spirited Away,” “Princess Mononoke” and “My Neighbor Totoro,” is releasing animation legend Hayao Miyazaki’s final film, “How Do You Live?” this week in Japan, but you’d be forgiven for not knowing that. Studio Ghibli has chosen an unorthodox marketing strategy: no marketing at all. There will be no trailer, plot summary, cast list or promotional materials, other than a poster that has already been released. Unless audiences have read the 1937 novel that the film is very loosely based on, they will go into the theater cold.
The strategy, which is very in line with Studio Ghibli’s closely controlled approach to merchandising and marketing, flies in the face of modern movie marketing. Studios want audiences to know what they’re in for to guarantee that they’ll come out to see movies with budgets well above $100 million. Studios will sometimes release upward of three trailers for a movie. But moviegoers––and even the people behind the movies themselves––have become critical of trailers and how they can “spoil” a movie before it has even hit theaters. It’s why Studio Ghibli’s strategy just might work, says Yakov Bart, an associate professor of marketing at Northeastern University.