The Real Story Behind Snakes on a Plane

[Update: Snakes on a Blog has linked to this post!]


Moderator: Alex Williams, Director of Community Development, SplashCast. He’s also the founder of Podcast Hotel.
Corey Denis, IODA Digital Marketing Manager, IODA
Molly Wright Steenson of, just accepted into a PhD at Princeton.
Kris Krug, President of Bryght
Krug began by telling us what the movie was about. Snakes on a Plane was a 2006 movie in the US which bombed, despite a lot of internet hype. Wikipedia sums up what he’s said so I’ll link to it instead.
It led to parodies on Youtube which were actually quite funny. There was even a music video which makes reference to the movie in their lyrics. The Suspension of Belief society even had a gathering where everyone turned up dressed like in the movie.
The most famous line in the movie was spoken by Samuel Jackson ‘”I’m tired of these MF snakes on this MF plane”. As a result, parodies were created using mashups of his movies, e.g. Star Wars (“I’m tired of this MF Jedi”)., a website showing photos of snakes on inanimate objects, started off well. Krug notes the girl who created the blog received millions of pageviews initially. However, once it was recognised officially, the effect wore off. Panelists noted this trend.
There’s also a blog. Denis noted that this blogger was invited to the red carpet premier of the movie and was even interviewed by mainstream media.
The big question is, despite all this user-generated content and buzz about the film, why did it bomb?
Denis felt that user-generated content was more successful than the movie. Krug noted this movie provided good learning points which could be used in future productions. (I’ll consolidate these at the end of this post)
Steenson asked what happened after the hype. Does the community continue with the idea? Denis said New Line Cinemas ‘messed it up’ by using standard, traditional marketing techniques to follow up with the internet buzz. It was also released too late, so the aura of mystery was lost.
New Line also pumped in extra money to modify the movie, after getting user feedback. Krug felt it was unnecessary to pump in an extra US$5 million just to add the extra scenes. I’m not totally sure about this. It’s nice to see a traditional movie company put their faith in user-contributed content.
A member of the audience asked what were the elements for such a ‘phenomenon’ to happen to other products such as books. Denis replied simply, “Know your audience.” Samuel Jackson put this trust in the movie, and his fans supported him. Steenson said the ability to laugh at oneself was a big factor. Don’t pretend to be cool.
Another member of the audience pointed out that there was another movie that had spinoffs – the Blair Witch project, which was successful in the box office. The only reason why it did not have as many spinoffs as Snakes on a Plane, was because Youtube wasn’t invented then. The audience murmured in agreement.
One of the panelists referred to the OkGo Dance which didn’t make it to MTV but received over half a million views on Youtube. Denis said there’s no such thing as bad publicity – it’s how you handle it. I agree! For instance, she wouldn’t try to delete any bad reviews on her band. I think that’s a basic principle if you want to have a sincere relationship with fans or readers.
Krug points out that user-generated content should be used to generate higher quality content rather than just sell more widgets. (My question is then, which big company would not want to make more money, above everything else? There are many good shows which don’t make much money, and worse movies which have taken done better)
Take-home points, for me:

  1. User-contributed content is here to stay. If used properly, it can turn people into fans and create a cult status.
  2. If you generate lots of excitement about your product, don’t wait too long to launch it. (I’m thinking of the iPhone right now)
  3. Know your audience. Befriend them. Don’t restrict how they express themselves about your products.

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