“Give Thy Brand to the Consumer”

MarketingProfs.com offers The 12 Tenets of Social Media Marketing which are both funny and wise. Their audience is broad, they’re talking about marketing anything. But what they have to say is very relevant to those marketing specifically to fans, especially this pearl o’ wisdom:

XI. Give thy brand to the consumer

They will take very good care of it, for they will give it back to you in better shape than when they got it. Fear not that thy consumer shall have input in your brand. But heed closely thy clueless ad agency so it does not chargeth thee a hefty fee when in fact the consumer creates thy ads.

They will take very good care of it. Don’t fear their input. Don’t pay others for your fans’ creativity. Right on.

Fan made movie trailers

Here is a cute little introductory piece in the Arizona Republic about fan-made trailers for imaginary movies. It’s got 2 things worth noting. One is Fox Atomic’s wise embracing of the phenomenon:

At Fox Atomic’s Web site, foxatomic.com, the Blender offers the raw materials so that people can upload and make their own mashups to share from movies in the library of Fox, Fox Searchlight and Fox Atomic.

“We want to be the anti-studio,” said Jake Zim, vice president of online at Fox Atomic. “Instead of fighting it, we want to embrace it, where we get a message out for our product. We recognize the value in engaging our audience in our content.”

The article recognizes that this is a way to get fans engaged and offer free publicity for studios. They also recognize that many of these pieces are so good they could be (and sometimes are) done by professionals. Yet they insist on referring to them as “time-wasters”:

Thanks to the popularity of Internet videos like those found on YouTube, movie-trailer remixes, also called mashups, are among the top time-wasters among Web surfers.

Why is this a waste of time? Is it a time waster if I go to a movie theater? Is it a time waster if I watch a tv show? Is it a time waster if I read a book? Or is it only wasting time if my entertainment is fan-generated?

Or are they saying it’s a waste of time when fans MAKE this stuff? In which case I have even bigger problems with the term.

Fans are providing a poorly understood but essential role in making and viewing these things. They are affecting the shape of the entertainment industry, the economy of that industry — and with it the economy as a whole, they are reshaping social relationships to one another, they are creating and validating new forms of art and media production. They are doing so many important things that are lost when they are dismissed as “time wasters.”

Creating a sponsored community

synecdochic at Live Journal writes about being approached by the makers of the forthcoming film Blood & Chocolate to create a fan community to accompany the film:

A month and a half or so ago, the marketing agency for MGM Studios contacted us — us being LJ — and said they wanted to set up a sponsored community for the upcoming release of their movie “Blood & Chocolate”. Except they were totally clueless about how LJ worked, what would be successful, what would sink like a rock without even leaving a splash, etc, so they said: why don’t you guys figure out what would work best? And then they said, hey, we hear that LJ is a place where online fandom tends to congregate. What could we do to reach out to that community?

I want to be really careful about the disclaimers up front here, but I also want to talk about it, because it’s one of the most intriguing challenges I’ve had as a writer so far, and also, I think the end result that we all came up with is one of the most interesting, compelling, and just plain fucking cool premises for a marketing campaign I’ve ever seen.

The whole post is well worth reading as a fascinating example of an industry reaching out to online fans and the thought processes behind how you get people to invest in a community they didn’t generate and how to translate that into spending money on the product. In brief, they came up with a scheme to create a livejournal diary written by the main character, getting synecdochic, a fanfic writer, to pen the diary and (I’m assuming) to respond to comments on the diary in character. All in all, totally cool concept and it’ll be fascinating to see how it works.

CBS gets in on the action

Yesterday I reported on Disney’s talk at the CES in which they talked about the importance of online fans. Now CBS, in their talk there, are also talking that talk:

LAS VEGAS – Fans of CBS shows will soon be able to slice clips from prime-time shows, send them to friends and even “mash” them together in ways that only a short time ago would have triggered complaints of copyright infringement.

CBS Corp. chief executive Leslie Moonves said Tuesday during his first keynote at the International Consumer Electronics Show that his company would embrace products and technologies that allow viewers to “time shift” and “place shift” his network’s shows and interact with them in new ways.

Moonves said college basketball fans, for instance, would be able to use videoconferencing to hang out in a “virtual skybox,” cheering in a group and discussing plays along the way.

Fans of “Star Trek” could visit a computer-generated Starship Enterprise in the virtual world of “Second Life.”

CBS is also designing its Web sites to encourage interaction among fans of the CBS crime drama “CSI” and “The L-Word,” which appears on the CBS-owned Showtime cable channel.

Corporate-sponsored mashing up seems to be the new trend, and a cool one . It’s good to see a shift from “THEY’RE STEALING OUR INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY!!!!” to, as Moonves says, “letting fans share snippets makes sense because it allows the network to tap into the passion dedicated viewers have for a particular show.”

Universal vs. Serenity Fans

Back in October a Serenity fan site got not just a cease-and-desist letter, but also a PAY UP NOW demand from Universal Studios, apparently for violating copyright in t-shirts being sold through the site.

“11th Hour Art’s offering for sale and sale of unauthorized “Serenity” shirts may give rise to multiple violations of law, giving rise to various causes of action for copyright infringement, counterfeiting, and unfair competition, among other claims. Recovery on one or more of these claims may include attorney’s fees, treble damages, statutory damages, and punitive damages.”


The Demand continues, and includes such stipulations that within 72 hours I must agree to: pay a retroactive $8,750 licensing fee; the permanent closing of my shop; turn over any merchandise referring to the Universal Property; and provide the last 12 months complete sales records… there’s more, but that’s the gist… oh, except for the threat of federal court and the statutory damages thingy of $150,000 per infringed work… don’t want to go leaving that part out.

The questionable image in my shop were, for the most part, already pulled down by Cafe Press after the first email notice I got last week. I was then already going through my shop and revising the wording in some descriptions as needed to fully comply with the notification. At present, the only instances where the word “serenity” is mentioned is to explain the translation of the Chinese characters, but without any references to the movie of that name.

I can confidently state that my Cafe Press shop is totally free of any associations with “Serenity” the movie… unless of course Universal now claims ownership of the actual word “serenity”, no matter how it is used, both in English and Chinese. In that case, there’s a certain adult diaper manufacturer who’s in deep doo doo now… pun is like, totally intended…

I’m exhausted, emotionally and physically. I’ve spent most of the past few days since the notification overhauling my shop. I’ve put aside all other projects, and haven’t gotten that much sleep doing this. I’m actually starting to feel ill… this whole thing is just sickening…

As you can see if you click that link, outrage ensued, not least in the form of hundreds of comments. The matter now seems to have been resolved, but, as is always the case in these episodes, not without cost to the would-be plaintiff:

Guess this whole traumatic episode is a variation on the Mars vs. Venus way of seeing things. I think like an artist and guerilla marketer, not a lawyer… and it’s mighty surprising just how much fuss can arise from that different way of seeing things. So *that’s* how things got so complicated. As a die hard guerilla marketer, I thought the image was a modestly mild way to put the word of Serenity out in the world; but the legal point of view sees the image as taking advantage of the intellectual property. Honestly, my intent was just the opposite of taking advantage of our shiny movie… but y’all knew that.

Live and learn. Or rather, live, get hit with a scary demand become a tortured wreck before it’s resolved over a week later, and learn…

But lest you think that suing fans is all damage and no fun, this does seem to have strengthened the sense of community amongst the already-tight fans of this fan-driven show:

Actually though, despite all the torment and stuff, the part of this story that is truly mythic, wonderful, and will, always, always be the heart of what makes this ‘verse so gorram amazing is all of you… the Browncoats… who stepped up, had my back, stood at my side, and, most assuredly, were taking strategic tactical positions from high ground too. Folk came from all around, even revealing themselves from the cover of lurkdom, to let me know I wasn’t alone in this… and when I heard, “Browncoats got your back”, I knew that no matter how scary or crazy it got, somehow, things would work out. It’s been a rough time, it’s taken it’s toll on me… but I discovered something rather wonderful, or perhaps re-discovered something wonderful… the people that have come into my life because of a work of art disguised as a TV show, are the best folk it’s ever been my privilege to know.

How are fans to know when they’ll be appreciated and when they’ll be sued? Especially when these lawsuits seem to get dropped or ‘resolved’ so very frequently after they’re threatened?