OK, fine! So it wasn't actually Samuel L. -- it was a recording of Samuel L. that called Garland. When he gathered the voicemails on Sunday, what did he hear? "I can't stand all these %@#!$#@%#@$ snakes on this %@#!$#@%#@$ plane!"
Now, I'm not entirely sure that this movie is my cup of tea. Yes, I enjoyed lots of slasher movies in my earlier years (Shu-shu-shu-shu-shu. Hah-hah-hah-hah-hah.*). However, I think I've grown significantly over the years.
I had a point. Oh! The cool thing about the movie isn't the scene where a couple, trying to get into the Mile High Club buys the farm in the lave (evil laughter). It's the fact that Samuel L. solicited so much word of mouth to generate buzz for this flick. He listened to his fans and supported them, even when they suggested substantive changes to the movie. An army of fans rallied around the project, starting websites, selling t-shirts and other merchandise. They even pressured the studio to change the name of the film from Pacific Flight 121 to Snakes on a Plane, which the studio did.
This movie has achieved cult status -- and it isn't even out yet.
What does this have to do with your business?
The studio execs were surprised and Time magazine did an article on this "phenomenon." Though word of mouth is the least studied marketing method, it just happens to be the most effective...and the oldest.
There is an endless list of products that people have bought because someone else said it was the neatest thing since deep-fat fried turkey (I ate it only because I heard people raving about it --Eh!). Our customers know what they want and, for the most part, there's no amount of focus grouping or consumer psychology that will shake them once they've decided that a thing is cool.
The thing is: How to we more effectively dial-into WOM buzz? Companies are beginning to spring up to answer this question. Their magic bullet? Ask 'em. Customers will tell you what they want when we stop talking. They'll tell us what they want, how they want it, when they want it, what color they want it in and what they want you to call it.
We just need to do more listening than talking.
Like this movie, the fans decided that they "owned" the film. They were more than consumers. They were stakeholders of the highest order and they felt that their opinions counted. Luckily for them, Sam Jackson listens to fans. As he pointed out in a recent Time magazine interview, most directors only work on about a dozen films in their professional careers -- he has over 100 movies to his credit. In all that time, he's learned that his fans are smart about their entertainments and will vote with their feet if they don't get what they want.
Your customers, too, are voting every day about you and your product and services.
Have Samuel L. Jackson call a friend and tell them to see his movie...
* A reference to the Jason, Friday the 13th movies that dominated the 80's and 90's slash and dash movies.