It should be obvious at this point, but if the internet goes wild for your brand, embrace it

Yes, AMC’s Dune popcorn bucket looked like a sex toy, but it smelled like money.

If you’re not chronically online, you may have missed that AMC Theatres went viral for their Dune: Part Two promotional popcorn bucket.

A popcorn bucket, with a close-up of popped popcorn behind it.

The reason? The collectible tin, modeled after the franchise’s iconic sandworm, looks more like, well, a really freaky adult toy.

The resulting attention has been something all marketers lust for, yet none could predict. But there is one person who isn’t feeling the love: AMC’s chief content officer Elizabeth Frank.

Who controls the memes, controls the universe

Frank recently told Variety, “We would have never created it knowing it would be celebrated or mocked.”

Sure, but the tingly tub of terror was responsible for the kind of media engagement you literally can’t buy:

  • Thousands of posts on Reddit, TikTok, and Instagram.
  • Coverage in The New York Times and NPR.
  • Its own “SNL” sketch with 2.1m YouTube views.

No matter how celebrated or mocked the popcorn bucket may be, there should be no victory too embarrassing for a company that lost $397m in 2023.

There may be few people who’d sit through a three-hour space opera just to get Satan’s little sex toy, but scoring a real-life meme might be enough to convince those interested in the film to see it at AMC.

Bless the coming and going of meme

Accidental viral marketing can be make-or-break moments for brands. Take, for example, when The Dress went viral in 2015. Roman Originals, the company behind the actual dress, wasn’t behind the viral post. But joining in on the meme drove 1.2m visits to their site.

On the flip side, when McDonald’s Mulan Szechuan Sauce was name-checked by the cartoon “Rick and Morty” in 2017, the burger giant dropped the ball.

Failing to recognize the power of the internet, McD’s half-hearted response included a limited quantity of the sauce at a handful of locations — transforming an overwhelming throng of nerds into thousands of disappointed (and rioting) fans.

Fear is the profit killer

For better or worse, digital marketing has become inseparable from internet culture.

And when viral moments come, they hit hard and pass fast, like the mighty sandworm of Arrakis. (May his passing cleanse the world.)

The smartest brands are the ones that grab on and ride the sandworm to glory.New call-to-action

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