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Firefly / Serenity : How To Piss Off Your Fan Base

Sunday 29 October 2006, by Webmaster

Browncoats Have loyal fans? Die-hard, loyal? Want to piss them off? Ask Universal Studios/Universal Pictures how to do it right.

I found this tidbit on Slashdot this morning and I just couldn’t stop shaking my head. I wonder what corporate genius thought this one up? Who is responsible at Universal Pictures or Universal Studios to make sure that the Marketing Departments and Legal Departments are on the same page? Who didn’t get the memo at Universal Studios that you just don’t go after the "Fan Boys" after you’ve encouraged them to promote your movie? These people have more time on their hands to undo all the positive things they did to promote your movie, and look out - they are fighting back.

Being a Joss Whedon fan from Buffy the Vampire Slayer days (yes I’m also one of "those"), this story has particularly piqued my interest. The movie Serenity based on the FireFly television series featuring Nathan Fillion, had lackluster performance at the box office. However, much like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it has a huge cult following. If Universal doesn’t know it, they soon will - these fans mostly live on the Internet and a LOT of them blog.

Prior to the release of the DVD, Universal Studios took the step of engaging the FireFly cult audience. Affinitive was the company hired to tap and engage this audience, from which they created a community called "Browncoats". Even Joss Whedon called it "Free Advertising" and had a favorite Fan Art Piece. The results of tapping these fans ended up being nothing short of phenomenal, the campaigns were even featured in articles on the San Francisco Chronicle and Media Life Magazine. Other than payment to Affinitive, this cost Universal NOTHING in advertising, the fan base didn’t charge a dime to write or create their FanArt.

With the news hitting Slashdot and now starting to take root on other blogs, it is not going to be long before a lot of loyal fans turn into loyal enemies. Hopefully someone at Universal or Affinitive will do something to quell the surge of bad Word of Mouth Marketing that’s about to come their way. Hopefully Affinitive can explain to their client that Viral Marketing is a two-way street.