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 DiscoveryStore.com 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:
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.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OeNoijVRLsE
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 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?