A Social Media Campaign for Disney’s Cruella: So evil, it might just work…

Luis X Rivas
9 min readApr 24, 2021
From Pexels. Beytlick. (2021, April 17).

With the upcoming release of Disney’s Cruella slated for theaters and the Disney+ streaming service’s Premier Access on May 28th (Zemler, 2021), a clearly established social media marketing campaign must be implemented and ran on key platforms for the film’s pre-release phase, its release phase during the period it is out, and its post-release phase. This is for the purpose of pursuing a pre-defined goal and measuring and analyzing said goal in order to better understand what is trying to be achieved with the campaign. These include determining and following a target audience, the content development and calendar for all phases of the event, and an assessment at the conclusion of the campaign. Factors essential to the campaign include best practices when posting content, strategic use of hashtags, a clearly defined and consistent brand voice, and tools used to measure the campaign.

The film is set in London in the nineteen-seventies (Zemler, 2021), and the trailer’s visuals are well defined: rebellious, black, villainous, while still retaining the quintessential Disney movie vibe, albeit towards a slightly older audience than younger children. The film’s plot indicates that fashion is a large motif, which is important to take away for the campaign. Not only that, but anyone familiar with the 101 Dalmatians animated film, live-action film, and subsequent spin-offs know that dogs, particularly dalmatians, are a major plot point and focus as well, which is essential to understand in elaborating the following social media marketing plan.

According to Sarah Whitten (2021), the Disney+ streaming service has surpassed 100 million global subscribers as of March 2021, in just 16 months’ time, as revealed in a statement from Disney CEO Bob Chapek. As for box office performances, Disney’s animated film Raya and the Last Dragon, for comparison, having been out since March 5th, has totaled in around $52.6 million globally (Rubin, 2021). These are key indicators to look at when defining the success aimed for with Disney’s Cruella. Needless to say, capacity limits and COVID-19 protocols in place have severely affected box-office sales, but given that vaccination rates have been steadily increasing and 125 million Americans so far have been vaccinated (Weintraub & Weise, 2021), restrictions are likely to be loosened by the time of Disney’s Cruella theater release, which is promising for its box-office performance.

A SMART goal, which defines where a marketing campaign is headed, is defined by its specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound aspects (Boogaard, 2020). In order to meet these criteria, the following SMART goals for Disney’s Cruella have been defined:

  1. Reach over 120 million Disney+ subscribers by June 15th by actively promoting the film before and after its May 28th release date on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
  2. Amass $90 million in theater box-office sales globally in two months from the May 28th release date, by actively promoting the film before and after its release on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Photo by Isaac Smith on Unsplash


For these social media marketing efforts to come to fruition, our main focus will be the Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter platforms, with some additional content curated for TikTok which will be exchangeable with Instagram. Larger efforts will be dedicated to Instagram due to the visual focus of the film relevant to the platform, mainly the seventies-inspired dark and edgy fashion. This, in addition to the abundance of Disney enthusiasts and animal and dog lovers present on Instagram, makes for a strategic match. Twitter will cater to a similar audience albeit with less focus on the visual aspects but maintaining the female teenager and young adult demographic in mind, while Facebook will help more with the family-friendly aspect of the film.

Target audiences

Disney is known for its family friendly films; however, the trailers for Disney’s Cruella give off a darker and grittier vibe which may not be suitable for infants. The film has received a PG-13 rating (Lue, 2021) for “some violence and thematic elements”. The PG-13 rating is nothing new for Disney films, as Lue (2021) points out other notable blockbusters from them such as Mulan and Pirates of the Caribbean. However, the premise of the movie is built around the famous character Cruella De Vil’s backstory and how she slowly transforms into a despicable villain. These themes are darker than other Disney PG-13 movies, which implies a more carefully targeted audience.

Photo by Jayme McColgan on Unsplash

For Instagram and Twitter, the target audience will be young teenage girls and adults, ranging from 14- to 30-year-olds, including students, full-time or part-time workers, and young mothers, some of whom most likely watched the original 101 Dalmatians animated film or its 1996 live action adaptation starring Glenn Close, and are familiar with titular actress Emma Stone’s work. For Facebook, the target audience will slightly broaden to include younger children, mainly girls, who are 8 years old and up, as well as their parents, who may be well familiar with the 101 Dalmatians story as well as Emma Stone. This will help in covering the PG-13 aspect as these children would attend the theater or watch at home with parental supervision, while spending quality time with their families.


The film’s voice should remain consistent across Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok, as it is the expression of its personality (Solar, 2020). The voice should be in line with the film’s personality: edgy, rebellious, and bold, just like the personality of the film’s aesthetics and English retro fashion. This voice should be inviting and nice, while also exciting. The intent is to not come off as lackluster and neutral, as it would be incongruent with the film’s personality. This should be the same for all content throughout all platforms.


According to Digital Marketing Institute (2018), some basics when it comes to the use of hashtags include not getting carried away with using a hashtag every couple of words, as the number of these depends on the platform being used, keeping them short and memorable, being more specific with them, and avoiding forcing them onto every post. Digital Marketing Institute also affirms that using more hashtags on Instagram leads to more engagement (2018), and up to ten or eleven relevant hashtags should provide the best reach. One or two should be used per post on Facebook and Twitter (Digital Marketing Institute, 2018).

The use of the hashtags will vary by post and platform for the campaign, but for the sake of consistency, hashtags will be picked from the following list: #Cruella, #101Dalmatians, #DisneyPlus, and #CruellaFit. The #CruellaFit will be used mainly for user-generated content, or UGC, from users interested in sharing their seventies’ gothic Cruella-inspired outfits, as well as for partnerships. The #101Dalmatians may include an emoji of a dog.


A proposed partnership would be with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or ASPCA. The ASPCA has a strong presence on Instagram with over 445 thousand followers (Instagram, n.d.), and posts content promoting pet adoption and raising awareness against animal cruelty, as well as helpful tips and content for taking the best possible care for pets. This partnership would include a series of stories which would be stored on the ASPCA’s highlights with the #101Dalmatians, as using other hashtags related to the film would feel incoherent with the purpose of raising awareness against animal cruelty. This same hashtag will be used in the ASPCA’s posts for this partnership, focusing on promoting dog adoption and sharing facts about the dalmatian breed as well.

Another strategic partnership with a lot of potential would be with the very popular Tika the Iggy Italian greyhound fashion icon. With over 1 million followers (Instagram, n.d.), this doggy influencer creates content pieces showing off her cute and fashion-forward outfits, highlighting both the animal lover and fashion aspects of Disney’s Cruella. The #CruellaFit would mesh well with this partnership in a series of Cruella-inspired retro, goth and chic outfit posts and stories, which would help bring in more UGC as well due to Tika the Iggy’s massive following.

From Instagram. Tikatheiggy.

Visual examples for content calendar


I am confident in the success that these partnerships will bring in, particularly with the Tika the Iggy #CruellaFit fashion dynamic, which is very fitting for her personality and content-style. Nevertheless, looking back at the strategy and analyzing it can help in developing new ideas. If I were to be in charge of the social media campaign for Disney’s Cruella again, I would focus more on a strategy based on reminding audiences just how evil Cruella De Vil was in the original animated and live-action films, incorporating elements of her story from them into the campaign, all while exercising caution with the delivery.

There’s this inherent challenge in selling the wickedness and cruelty of her character and the film overall without coming off as too edgy or dark that parents would hate for their children to watch or turn off a lot of the millennials from the female demographic. The worst possible outcome would be the misconception that the film intends on normalizing Cruella’s animal cruelty. I would like to tackle this challenge head on if given the opportunity to direct this marketing campaign again and come up with creative ways of marketing this aspect without it becoming morbid or an attempt at sympathizing with her character.


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