Today's guest post is by Julie Farin, @JulieFarin.
By now everyone has heard about the Bronx Zoo’s baby Egyptian cobra – I’ll call her “Tina” (short for Serpentina) since she hasn’t been given a proper name yet – who went hissing and missing in the Reptile House last week and went on to become an overnight media sssensation.
The story became national news – not because of any concerted effort by the Bronx Zoo – but because of an anonymous Twitter user who set up an account as @BronxZoosCobra, cleverly issuing snarky tweets about the pencil thin 20-inch, 3-oz. slitherer’s adventures “out on the town” after her great Madagascar-esque escape. For example, on March 30th she tweeted: “Does anyone know if the Whole Foods in Columbus Circle sells organic mice?” and “Getting on the ferry to Ellis Island. Let's hope this goes better than that time on the plane. #snakeonthetown”
After the Twitter page was featured on local NY television newscasts and in NY newspapers, @BronxZoosCobra snared more than 200,000 followers (including Mayor Bloomberg) in less than a week. Soon after, Café Press and other web sites jumped on the marketing bandwagon selling cobra T-shirts, mugs, and other souvenirs capitalizing on the forked-tongued slinker’s new-found celebrity (http://www.cafepress.com/+bronx-zoo-cobra+mugs).
This tremendous PR and marketing opportunity fell smack onto the Bronx Zoo’s doorsteps. It has the potential to do for the Zoo what Night at the Museum did for the American Museum of Natural History. I envisioned a paparazzi-filled press conference complete with a Bronx Zoo/Save the Cobra logo emblazoned on a step-and-repeat once the cobra was safely captured, where the Mayor and zoo officials donning cobra T-shirts would encourage visitors to meet the snake in-person (or should I say, “in-serpent”) once she fully recuperated.
Her instant fame could be used as a unique fundraising tool for the Zoo by spotlighting her as the star attraction (think San Diego Zoo pandas) and a must-see destination for tourists and New Yorkers alike. The NYC Convention & Visitors Bureau could even create weekend packages featuring a visit to the Bronx Zoo. The cobra’s celebrity could also serve as an opportunity to educate the public by clearing up any misconceptions about the proper care and feeding of snakes as house pets. (And, let’s face it, ever since that whole Adam & Eve incident back in the Garden, these belly-walkers could really use some positive PR.).
Instead, Bronx Zoo director Jim Breheny announced in a rather uninspired manner that the snake had been found…coiled up in a darkened corner of the Reptile House (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kgjkPuxLuQY).
He deflected any endorsement of the Twitterer who had helped make the cobra (and his Zoo) a national story, and did not specify when the Reptile House would re-open. However, he did say that the former fanged fugitive was nameless, and that they may consider a “name the snake” contest in the future (the NY Post and NY Daily News were already all over this, so the Zoo finally decided to partner with the Daily News for this contest).
In the meantime, @BronxZoosCobra is still tweeting in captivity (#freethebronxzooscobra), and even managed to hijack both RyanSeacrest’s Twitter account and web site on April Fool’s Day, which is only serving to make this satirical writer more sought-after…if we ever figure out the snake behind it.
RepMan readers: What name would YOU give the baby Bronx Zoo Cobra? Remember, she’s Egyptian, yet a native New Yorker…and also has some boundary issues. The most creative name submitted wins a (slightly-used) Prince William & Kate mug direct from the UK.