The shark is one of the most feared creatures on our planet. To be a shark is to be known as aggressive, powerful and intimidating. We have sharks in our oceans, in our boardrooms, in our courtrooms and now in our skies!

Last year, a low-budget disaster B movie on the Syfy channel called Sharknado took a bite out of Discovery Channel’s much-anticipated summer Shark Week with 1.37 million viewers. Turns out there’s a big audience for sharks, science fiction and campy B movies. We are talking more than 5.5 million fans. I am one of them and proud to be labeled a geek.

The made-for-TV movie was such a hit that it spawned a sequel, Sharknado 2: The Second One, which premiered last week on the Syfy channel with more than 3.9 million viewers. Audiences, myself included, were thrilled to see the return of our hero, Fin, as well as a slew of actors in awesome cameos. In fact, the director said they had so many actors wanting to participate that they didn’t know what to do with them all.

So why is a movie whose plot is as laughable as its acting making such a splash?

Success! Who Would Have Imagined?

The Sharknado brand is killing it thanks to the combination of network media and social media.

First, the news media was a huge factor in the success of Sharknado 2. Journalists from all over covered the film’s impending release, giving the Syfy network a major PR win at no cost other than the fee of its PR agencies. And that was money well spent, considering that the media gave the movie so much publicity that it was SyFy’s highest-rated original movie to date. The movie was heavily covered by The Today Show, in part because its on-air personalities Matt Lauer and Al Roker made cameo appearances.

Second, social media gave the movie a huge boost with 580,000 related tweets sent during the premier last Wednesday. By the end of the first airing, there were more than 500 tweets a minute near the end, pushing the film to Twitter’s top trending position. The anticipation created by the media over Sharknado 2 was so high that Discovery bought ad space during the movie to promote Shark Week. I guess people flip out over the idea of sharks raining down from the sky and eating us in the streets.

OK – Time for the Lesson

So what can legal marketers learn from these tornadoes with teeth? Turns out, there’s a lot to digest. 

  1. If you know your audience and appeal to it, it will support you. Syfy knows its audience, and knows that Syfy fans are some of the strongest and most loyal fans out there. They are a tight community, they are smart and they are tech-savvy. Catering to them helped give Sharknado 2 a huge social media boost. 
  2. Great success can come from low budgets. Sharknado 2 is not a Hollywood summer blockbuster; it is an independent film.
  3. PR is so not dead. The media was incorporated into the strategy, they were a part of the film (i.e., the aforementioned The Today Show cameos) and it worked. Syfy raised awareness of the film so that those interested had all the info they needed to know when the film would premier.
  4. Social media is king. Let your audience do the work for you – 581,000 tweets on opening night can’t be wrong.
  5. Take a creative risk. Be human, have fun, break through the noise by being a creative thinker.
  6. Recognize success and feed it, make adjustments, and produce a sequel.

If we are going to succeed as law firm marketers, we need to continue to learn from our campy and geeky sides. Our emotions and loyalty to other brands and services should be explored and applied to our legal marketing and PR campaigns for our attorneys and law firms. Understand the power of social and enjoy the human interaction with like-minded people by sharing stories and connecting. Sharknado is insane and ridiculous, but a brilliant use of social media, the press and a community.

Do you have ideas about how to incorporate creativity into legal marketing? Want to chat about Sharknado? Contact Terry M. Isner at tisner@jaffepr.com