Sharketing’: Why Sharks May Be The Next Great Brand Ambassadors

Cats rule the Inter­net, but sharks are hav­ing their own moment. Brands and mar­keters cer­tain­ly aren’t shy about jump­ing into shark-infest­ed waters.

Lisa Lacy By Lisa Lacy. Join the discussion » 0 comments

Cats clear­ly rule the Inter­net, but sharks are hav­ing their own moment. From Shark Week, to “Shark­na­do”, to Left Shark, con­sumers’ enthu­si­asm about sharks has nev­er been high­er. Brands and mar­keters cer­tain­ly aren’t shy about jump­ing into shark-infest­ed waters.  Which brands are tak­ing so-called “shar­ket­ing” to the next lev­el?

Discovery’s 2015 Shark Week pro­gram­ming, which wrapped up last night, will also include “spe­cial week­end” pro­gram­ming in August, which the net­work says means 2015 will be the “Sum­mer of the Shark.” The net­work also added embed func­tion­al­i­ty from live video stream­ing app Meerkat this year, which, Dis­cov­ery says, includ­ed “jaw­some” behind-the-scenes con­tent, as well as sto­ries from shark experts and a live feed­ing from Baltimore’s Nation­al Aquar­i­um.

There’s good rea­son to keep those view­ers engaged. Shark Week 2014 drew in more than 42 mil­lion fans.

To fur­ther cap­i­tal­ize on the dis­pens­able income of these shark enthu­si­asts, Dis­cov­ery says view­ers can find beach tow­els, appar­el, and more at Tar­get, as well as plush toys, puz­zles and lunch kits at Toys “R” Us, in addi­tion to its own mer­chan­dise. What’s more, Dis­cov­ery says two ships in Princess Cruis­es’ fleet were decked out for Shark Week, includ­ing pre­miere screen­ing par­ties, games, and give­aways.

This is like­ly what inspired anoth­er net­work, Nat Geo Wild, to launch its own com­pet­ing week-long shark pro­gram­ming, Shark­Fest, which also played out the week of July 5. They even called out Shark Week in a pro­mo­tion­al video, say­ing, “You know what’s fun? A fes­ti­val. You know what’s bor­ing? A week.”

Although, per Top­sy, #Shark­Week gen­er­at­ed about 180,000 men­tions in the last week, while #Shark­Fest spawned about 3,000.

But that’s just the tip of the ice­berg.

Also con­sid­er Syfy’s “Shark­na­do” movies, which, as of an August 2014 press release, had pulled in 18.2 mil­lion view­ers to date.

The third movie in the fran­chise, “Shark­na­do 3: Oh Hell No!”, which will also include the tal­ents of none oth­er than David Has­sel­hoff, Mark Cuban, and Ann Coul­ter, among oth­ers, pre­mieres July 22. (Accord­ing to reports, Syfy also recent­ly cut a cameo in the movie by embat­tled Sub­way spokesman Jared Fogle.)

Syfy has even cre­at­ed has a Go Shark Your­self app, which allows view­ers to place images of them­selves in shark­na­dos. The app has between 50,000 and 100,000 down­loads, accord­ing to Google Play.

Addi­tion­al­ly, Steven Spielberg’s film “Jaws”, which made $471 mil­lion world­wide when it was released in 1975, cel­e­brat­ed its 40th anniver­sary this year with a return to the box office.

Even pop star Katy Per­ry is cel­e­brat­ing Shark Week, and fur­ther cap­i­tal­iz­ing on the Left Shark from her Super Bowl half­time show, by team­ing up with jew­el­ry and acces­sories retail­er Claire’s on a Left Shark phone case.


All of this shark enthu­si­asm is clear­ly not lost on mar­keters – so much so that there’s even a port­man­teau: Shar­ket­ing.

As with any cul­tur­al phe­nom­e­non like this, there are plen­ty of exam­ples of brands using #Shark­Week to churn out con­tent they hope gets noticed. But the fol­low­ing three cam­paigns real­ly take so-called shar­ket­ing to the next lev­el:

Narragansett Beer

Rhode Island-based brew­ery Nar­ra­gansett is hon­or­ing its role in the infa­mous can-crush­ing scene in Jaws by re-releas­ing the design of its 1975 can and pro­mot­ing the hash­tag #CrushIt­Like­Quint. Per Top­sy, the hash­tag has gen­er­at­ed about 500 men­tions.

And, accord­ing to a rep, the brand donates a por­tion of the pro­ceeds from the 1975 retro cans to the Atlantic White Shark Con­ser­van­cy.

Oberto Beef Jerky

The beef jerky brand want­ed to push the pro­tein-rich nature of its prod­ucts, so it went “fish­ing for the largest preda­tors in the world with a giant piece of beef jerky,” cap­tur­ing this video, which has about 370,000 views. The relat­ed hash­tag, #Jaw­Some­Jerky, has about 1,000 men­tions in the last week.

Volkswagen Of America

The Ger­man auto man­u­fac­tur­er, which returned for its fourth year as a Shark Week spon­sor, col­lab­o­rat­ed with Dis­cov­ery on

Sharks ReScored, an online expe­ri­ence and Dis­cov­ery-pro­duced doc­u­men­tary that is part of its Golf Sport­Wa­gen launch. Sharks ReScored is about chang­ing per­cep­tions of both wag­ons and sharks “and the col­lab­o­ra­tion aims to use music as a way to explore sharks, pro­vid­ing insight into how they are a vital part of the ocean’s ecosys­tem,” accord­ing to Volk­swa­gen.

Per the brand, the online expe­ri­ence includes: a trail­er of a mini doc­u­men­tary; the “Sport­Wa­gen or Shark?” game; and inter­ac­tive score footage that uses eye-track­ing tech­nol­o­gy to show how music influ­ences per­cep­tion of sharks. At the end of the inter­ac­tive expe­ri­ence, fans can view the full three-minute mini-doc­u­men­tary about the mak­ing of the music that also aired dur­ing Shark Week.

Why Sharks?

Why not, say, bears? Or alli­ga­tors? Or giraffes?

Sharks are appeal­ing to con­sumers – and there­fore mar­keters – for two rea­sons: evo­lu­tion­ary and chem­i­cal, accord­ing to David Scott, for­mer CMO of ana­lyt­ics firm Fore­See Results and author of “The New Rules of Lead Gen­er­a­tion: Proven Strate­gies to Max­i­mize Mar­ket­ing ROI”.

From an evo­lu­tion­ary per­spec­tive, we’ve been taught to fear and admire preda­tors. It allowed us to sur­vive,” Scott said. “That same reac­tion also releas­es endor­phins that give us a rush of adren­a­line. That adren­a­line feels good. Makes us feel high.”

In addi­tion, Scott Hamu­la, asso­ciate pro­fes­sor and chair of the Depart­ment of Strate­gic Com­mu­ni­ca­tion at Itha­ca Col­lege, said every­thing is com­ing up shark late­ly in part because the major­i­ty of con­sumers – from Baby Boomers to Mil­len­ni­als – have some emo­tion­al shared shark con­nec­tion, whether that’s from “Jaws” and SNL’s Land Shark skit or Katy Per­ry and “Shark­na­do”.

In addi­tion, Hamu­la said the unusu­al num­ber of attacks being cov­ered by the media this year have like­ly height­ened aware­ness and dis­cus­sion.

Will Blesch, CEO of strate­gic mar­ket­ing and advis­ing firm Break­through Busi­ness Brand­ing, said sharks are appeal­ing in part because they are aggres­sive hunters that usu­al­ly go out alone.

They are unafraid to go after what they want,” Blesch said. “This lack of fear, this bold­ness, the fact that they usu­al­ly hunt alone, are all aspects that scream indi­vid­u­al­i­ty. That’s some­thing the aver­age Amer­i­can con­sumer iden­ti­fies with.”

Do you think sharks will con­tin­ue to res­onate with con­sumers, mar­keters and brands? Why or why not?

Lisa Lacy

Written by Lisa Lacy

Lisa is a senior features writer for Inked. She also previously covered digital marketing for Incisive Media. Her background includes editorial positions at Dow Jones, the Financial Times, the Huffington Post, AOL, Amazon, Hearst, Martha Stewart Living and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.

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