The cognoscente’s meme of the day is whether or not harsh words on Twitter cut off Sasha Baron Cohen’s “Bruno’s” U.S. box office hopes at the knees. Time’s noted film critic Richard Corliss believes that a decline in opening day revenue to the following day was due in part to bad cyberword of mouth. That is, a flood of movie going Tweeters expressed less than favorable reviews of the film. Given the fact that the average filmgoer cares less about what professional critics say and more what their friends tell them, bad word of mouth can be especially damaging when it is shared in real time. In the old days (maybe 15 years ago) a crummy movie could make it through the weekend with box office intact until folks met at the water cooler on Monday morning.
Pundits who have an excessive amount of time on their hands are combing through Twitter logs to validate or nullify this theory. I believe even if there is a kernel of truth to the “Bruno” mess, there’s a great lesson to be learned for anyone who has a product or service to market or sell: in the Web 2.0 world, a marketing campaign only starts once a product is released. Understanding social buzz and (more importantly) knowing how to react will give new life to the phrase “expect the unexpected.” All the social media monitoring tools and services won’t do a film studio or soft drink company one iota of good if they are not equipped to respond to bad worth of mouth with some agility.
Anyone can plan for success; planning for disaster is another thing. As Monty Python says, “No one plans for the Spanish Inquisition.” Somehow, I sense “Bruno” may be up there with an inquisition.