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When fans take over your content marketing for you

Published December 11, 2013 at 7:34 am

Fans of the much-loved television sitcom darling “Seinfeld,” which reigned supreme during the 1990’s, endlessly appreciate its attention to detail and absurd quasi-fictional world. This often included fake movies with titles and premises just a hair beyond what we see all the time in the Cineplex.

From “Checkmate” to “The Chunnel,” these fictitious films were just some of the many images and phrases that became ingrained in the minds of viewers and still spawn fond remembrances to this day. And there’s rarely a greater hint that you have a hit on your hands than a well-traveled internet meme, whether it comes from a television show or a breakfast cereal.

But what happens when fans start making merchandise that promotes your product unofficially? This is one of the great issues of our times: companies need to maintain a hold over their intellectual property without suppressing the creativity (and missing out on the brand expansion opportunity) that these unofficial instances represent.

Artist and designer Jay Shelowitz is turning heads with a poster that has fans remembering the glory days of the much-loved New York comedy. A real movie poster for “Rochelle, Rochelle,” a fake artsy erotic film that was something of a running gag on the show, seems to have sparked a mini-fanquake, with much attention paid to the details Shelowitz included.

While he did link an image of the poster to Jerry Seinfeld’s official Twitter, it also seems to be simply a product of Shelowitz’ fandom and not an official commission. Businesses need to tread carefully here when they create marketing that they hope will go viral, to make sure they remain the master of their domain—or at least their property.

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