I’ll warn you ahead of time: I’m in a marketing mood today, so a goodly chunk of the day will be spent on commercials (good and bad). While I may not obsess over marketing the way our pals over at DHADM do, I’m sure most of you have realized that I’m fascinated by mechanics of advertising a product. Before we begin my adver-fest, let’s take a look at a good example of how not manage your existing brand.
When Universal wanted to get the word out about last summer’s Serenity, they turned to Affinitive to help mobilize the substantial cult following of Joss Wheadon’s space western. That base, who became known as The Browncoats, were all over the Internet drumming up support for the film using word of mouth, reviews of the show’s DVD set, etc. etc. In the end, Universal didn’t see the return they wanted, but the effort took a small, but loyal cult base and blew it up to something much larger. (Indeed, the Firefly DVD set and the Serenity DVD release were both #1 products on Amazon for a while). Now Universal is looking that gift horse in the mouth, and then giving it a good hard punch.
While a few fan sites have folded, and some creators of fan art have closed down their shops, some of the Browncoats decided that, rather than meekly giving into to the vast copyright lawyer army of Universal, they’d simply send the studio a bill for their services as marketers and cheerleaders for Serenity. Currently the invoice is sitting at 1.7 million dollars. While there’s not even the slightest chance in hell that Universal would ever pony up the cash (let alone reign in the lawyers), this is a perfect example of how the Internet allows fans (you know, the people stuff like films, television, and music are made for) to use their numbers to their advantage and call foul on the more reprehensible practices that are routinely put into play by the entertainment giants.