Here’s a good article discussing how some of Hollywood’s most brilliant viral marketing has gone haywire, whether it’s a case of mistaken identity, security, or public pandemonium. The new movie, “2012” has created quite a stir, with the Art Bell types convinced the world is going to end in, well, 2012. Remember “Forgetting Sarah Marshall“? If you recall, there was a terrific marketing campaign featuring unbranded billboards reading, “You Suck, Sarah Marshall,” or “My Mother Always Hated You, Sarah Marshall.” It was fun for us, but it sucked for the real Sarah Marshalls of the world, some who struck back with posters that read, “You Suck, Judd Apatow,” referring to the film’s producer.
It’s a good lesson for marketers. Sometimes there is a fine line between genius marketing and your Aunt Betty and Uncle Buck fleeing for the hills to take cover. Campaigns like this are a testimony to the power of really good viral buzz, and a reminder that sometimes not everyone in the audience has all their forks in the drawer. Don’t hold back, but be prepared for the possibility of backlash, or in these cases, back-firing. After all, when you need to call in Nasa to say the world is not going to end, you know you’ve touched on something big.