Mario Sundar

LinkedIn's 2nd PR hire. These are my thoughts on products, public relations, and startups.

Flogging a Dead Snake

As much as I wouldn’t want to flog this dead snake any more, I couldn’t help notice a very nice write-up by the Church of the Customer on SoaP: 5 Lessons for Marketers that surely merits a read.

I agree with most of the ideas put forth by Jackie, but I beg to differ on a couple of points. The three points that I agree with border on the principle that memes are here to stay, aided in large measure by a product’s participatory target audience. I couldn’t agree more with that.

The term “meme” (IPA: [miːm], not “mem”), coined in 1976 by Richard Dawkins, refers to a replicator of cultural information that one mind transmits (verbally or by demonstration) to another mind.

But let’s also remind ourselves that not all memes are created equal. Not all memes are intended to succeed and that in some cases memes could evolve via natural selection.

Moving on to the two points I don’t necessarily agree with:

1. Embracing citizen marketers reduces risk.

To answer Jackie’s question as to how $15 million in one weekend could be disappointing, let’s compare apples with apples.

As I’d mentioned in my pre-SoaP-release post on the DailyFix, the gold-standard movie that SoaP would be compared against was Anacondas which in it’s total run made $65 million, defying a poor 29% critic’s rating. Also,

The first Anaconda remains the high water mark for snake movies. Its $16.6 million start in 1997 would translate to $24 million today, adjusted for ticket price inflation.

And that’d be $24 mil. without a drop of blogging ink spilled in its favor. In comparison, a surprisingly well rated SoaP (69%) ends up with $13.8 million over a 3-day weekend , despite a fan base that grew so large and vocal as the movie neared release!

“With all the expectations, you have to say we would be disappointed. But Snakes on a Plane did what tracking said it would, and it basically performed like a regular horror movie” – David Tuckerman, New Line’s President of Distribution

And therein lies the problem, my friends – all the A-list bloggers and all the fanatical Snakes-on-Bloggers, couldn’t make SoaP, The Phenomenon that it was made out to be!

The question is: What difference did the meme make in the Box-Office results of this film?

2. The experience is the difference between profit and failure.

Hollywood has come out of its slump this past summer and producers are going to shift to safer bets as they always have. Meaning more ‘Pirates of the Carribean’ and less ‘Snakes on a Plane’. Here’s CNN’s verdict:

Samuel L. Jackson’s “Snakes on a Plane” had sky-high expectations, preceded by a frenzy of Internet buzz and parodies. Yet it landed in theaters with the modest box office typical of a B-movie fright flick, raising questions about the value of Web mania in luring people to movie theaters.

As viral marketers, agencies will have to measure up against the gold-standards (in their respective fields) that they will be compared with and the one way to prove marketing’s success is through results (in this case Box-office based).

In the past an inability to provide marketing ROI has come under intense scrutiny from various sources, and I believe that’s one of the reasons technologists hate marketing. Marketing has long been marketed as an art form, but with the dawn of a new wave of marketing where every click on the web can be measured, we are going to be looked at as scientists and artists.

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One Response

  1. […] I’m not going to comment – since I think I’ve said everything I can about Snakes on a Plane – but instead just encourage you to go read the latest from Todd Copilevitz and Mario Sundar both do one more post on the movie and the citizen marketing efforts that heralded its arrival. […]

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