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Case Study : Universal Pictures / Serenity

Tuesday 4 April 2006, by Webmaster



Despite developing a cult following, Joss Whedon’s television series "Firefly" was cancelled prematurely. While the film was still in development, the first season of "Firefly" was released on DVD and encouraging sales convinced Universal to push on with a full length feature called "Serenity" based on the series. With a relatively large cult following existing relatively untapped across several fan sites, Universal’s agency, Special Ops, sought to utilize Affinitive’s technology platform to consolidate and mobilize the group and help build excitement leading up to the theatrical release of the film and subsequent DVD. Solution

Utilizing the flexibility of Affinitive’s technology platform, Universal was able to create a community around the release of Serenity that harnessed the power of a large member base that exceeded the most optimistic of expectations. Members were encouraged to form regional groups to promote the film and perform activities that would help generate word of mouth, like creating bumper stickers and gift cards to accompany the DVD release. Results

While the theatrical release of Serenity met only modest success at the box office, the Browncoats campaign maintained momentum through the DVD release, whose success spurred additional sales of the original Firefly DVD. At one point following the release of Serenity on DVD, both Serenity and Firefly were #1 and #2 on Amazon.com’s bestseller list despite the Firefly DVD being over a year old.

The community itself also grew far in excess of what was originally projected. By the campaign’s end, there were more than 75,000 members of the Browncoats, with over 85% of all members having been recruited by other members. The platform proved to be scalable enough to handle sustained periods of heavy traffic and activity.


Due to the long-term success of the Firefly/Serenity franchise, Joss Whedon has expressed interest in creating sequels to the film and even revive the television series although no formal plans are in the works.