Sharknado 2: That Happened (And What Museums Can Learn From It)

Last summer I wrote a blog post titled 4 Things Museums Can Learn From Sharknado. It was fun to write, a little bizarre, and still one of my top read (and searched for) posts.

Why? Because a Sharknado can happen anywhere.



No, I haven’t completely fallen off of my rocker. Nor am I pulling a Tara Reid (is that redundant?). While it’s true that a Sharknado cannot happen in the literal sense, it can happen in the figurative sense – with a little planning, creativity and strategic thinking, of course!

First, let’s consider why Sharknado 2 matters. Why does this cultural phenomenon even exist?

It’s simple really: Sharknado.

Without the cultural phenomenon that was the first movie, there would be no Sharknado 2. If you’re asking yourself, “Where is she going with this?” just bear with me…

According to Nielsen, Sharknado had 1.37 million “live plus same-day” viewers last summer. Sharknado 2 more than doubled that number this week and drew an impressive 3.9 million “live plus same-day” viewers (I was one of them). That’s a remarkable jump in eyeballs.

jumping the shark 1


jumping shark 2


This pop culture super storm is the perfect mash-up of Americana and ‘Murica. By embracing the ridiculousness and zeitgeist of the first film – and building on its ever expanding foundation of followers (and champions – more on that later) – the team behind Sharknado 2 followed a few simple rules that made the film a hit before it even aired, and that we museums could learn from for our own purposes.

Celebrate What You Do Well and Build On It

Recognize what you do well and embrace it. Celebrate it. Own it. And find ways to build on it. The Asylum – the group behind the Sharknado franchise (yes, it’s now a franchise) – is great at kitschy scifi movies and, after the surprise success of the first film, Sharknado 2 quickly received the green light. Online content and commentary told The Asylum what viewers liked and they were able to capitalize on the digital explosion of reactions/feedback – everything from blog posts, tweets, and traditional media reviews – and use that information to develop Sharknado 2  – not to mention, build excitement around a sequel – for the people. Thankfully Sharknado 2 wasn’t simply a repeat of Sharknado. Yes, there were tornadoes full of sharks, but the location, characters, and “feel” of the film were completely different – a direct result of the The Asylum’s awareness of their audiences needs and expectations. Even sharknadoes need room to grow and develop. Find ways to make your popular signature events and programs…MORE. The best place to look for that inspiration, you ask? The people who enjoyed it the first time around – your community.

Create Participatory Experiences

Did you know that you could pay to “die” in Sharknado 2? That there was an Indiegogo fundraising campaign to produce a particular scene? You could even download a Sharknado app and “shark yourself!”. And, if you weren’t in the movie (there’s always hope for Sharknado 3!), you were probably live tweeting about it, along with millions of other people, including your friends, celebrities, corporate brands, and the movie’s stars themselves.  It almost seems like Sharknado 2 was made with the twitter experience in mind (which, of course, it was).  Which raises the question for us: How can we create buy-in for our experiences? What can we offer people that will have them talking to their friends about it? How do we create a culture of interactivity in real time – while the storm is still brewing?

sharknado tweet

We Get By With A Little Help From Our Friends

Holy cow cameos! Everywhere you looked there was somebody who is (or, more likely, was) a somebody in Sharknado 2. And the great thing about it all is that there was a cameo for everyone at your watch party; there were people I had no clue about and someone else would shout, “hey, that’s so and so!” I was the first one to spot Will Wheaten on the airplane, while a nerdier friend pointed out his wife. There was a resounding “JARED!” during the subway scene. It was incredible. From Matt Lauer and Al Rocker to Biz Markie, Judd Hersch and Sandra “Pepa” Denton – everyone wanted to be a part of Sharknado 2. Chances are, you have advocates and champions in your own community who, while not be willing to “die” for your institution – unless you have a sweet zombie program scheduled, are likely willing to have some fun with you. I’m not talking emceeing a formal program (even though that’s totally fine), I’m talking about parody YouTube videos and sharing fun tweets. Think outside the box (or shark in this instance). Find a way to take their interest and make it fit – the more champions we have the better off we are. Look for opportunities, or better yet, make opportunities for those local voices/personalities to benefit your mission.

sharknado watch party

Sharknado 2 Watch Party!

Lead Time Matters

How often does it feel like you are working on an event or project at the 11th hour? If you’re like me, its wayyyyyy too often. I’ve been following the Sharknado 2 buzz since Sharknado – before there was an ‘official’ sequel announcement. As the movie got closer I received more updates, saw behind-the-scenes photos, and watched interviews with the cast. Sharknado 2 created the kind of excitement that had people scheduling their day around the film so they could watch it in real time. Watch parties were scheduled, tweets were typed, and people were sitting at home glued to the screen because the air date of Sharknado 2 was announced over six months ago. The Asylum didn’t slow down and take a breather – they took fans along for the ride from development through production. Asking for help with the sequel’s name and confirming the leads soon after the announcement kept Sharknado fans connected and in the know throughout the process. Lead time matters.

And last, but not least, without too much explanation:

Don’t Be Afraid To Have Fun (And Laugh at Yourself)

I "sharked" myself.

I “sharked” myself.

So, in summary, let me quote our main protagonist Fin in his Independence Day-like penultimate speech, just before the climax of the film: “No one wants to get eaten, but I’ve been eaten, and I’m here to tell you, it takes a lot more than that to bring a New Yorker down…”  What, you ask, does that have to do with anything else I’ve written about in this post?  Nothing really, but, like Sharknado 2 itself, isn’t that part of the fun?

What will your Sharknado be (and will it be good enough for a sequel)?

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