The aim of a business is to find and keep a customer. This is the role of marketing. Marketing is supposed to know the customer so well that the product or service sells itself.
All fine in theory.
This week is the 30th anniversary of Shark Week on Discovery Channel. Context is important. We didn’t get this show in Canada from its launch because the U.S. Discovery Channel was never licensed for distribution in Canada. We got Discovery Channel Canada in the 90’s.
My sons and I loved watching Shark Week. Each year the scientists, researchers, biologists and cameramen, were conducting more amazing activities to help increase our knowledge of sharks and remove some of the mystery and fear of these magnificent animals.
We bought the small rubber sharks and other fish and sea mammals to create our above ground shark week. We had a good-sized Rubbermaid tub full of “sea creatures”. And it is still in the basement for when grandkids enter the picture (in the future).
So, I was quite keen to see what was in store for the 30th anniversary. What could be better than “Air Jaws”, the great whites off South Africa that leap out of the air when catching seals and sea lions? What could more thrilling than diving with great hammerheads in the Caribbean? Or studying shark attacks and all the factors that may have impacted certain trends and deaths in select years and locations?
Well, it seems that more than just Shark Week, we got “Shaq Week”, with Shaquille O’Neill, retired NBA player aka “The Big Aristotle”. We also got “Shark Tank vs Shark Week”, where members of the show Shark Tank try to convince their fellow “millionaire land sharks” to invest $50,000 on a specific shark-related charity/research project.
And this means that Shark Week has “jumped the shark.” Its celebrity status is now morphing into a perceived need to feature celebrities to keep the magic of Shark Week going beyond its original concept.
Personally, I disagree with these shows being added.
I kind of understand why someone wants to tap into current commercial successes to build on Shark Week. However, I believe it became too Hollywood, and lost its original meaning. Much of this year’s programming is irrelevant to me and my original interest in the fantastic photography and insights into these wonderful animals. I don’t need to see the funny jabs between Kevin Hart and Shaq. I think they are both funny, but not at the expense of the sharks.
Likewise with the Shark Tank folks. Great show. Interesting concept to raise money. Although fifty grand from these wealthy people seems a pittance and only a token bit of respect for the one group that would get funding. If these “sharks” truly believed they would have ponied up a lot more. Open up that shark skin wallet or purse and take the sunglasses off the Queen. Or President, in this case.
A great marketer studies the trends of the previous years, looks for gaps and areas of strength to build upon. I am struggling to see how this new approach is anything more than another reality TV show with limited appeal. But that is my opinion.
I haven’t studied the ratings and the amount of sponsorship and ad revenue that was generated. Heck, the full week of programming is not yet complete. It might be a commercial success for this year.
But what about next year?
A great marketer must be careful not to chase shiny objects and bank on cute titles to shows, as noted above.
I have not seen as much media coverage as years past. I will have to see what I can find as the rest of the week unfolds.
A great marketer must also capture customer, in this case viewer, insights and reactions and use this to help craft next year’s event. And this research should include more than simply reading a few tweets or a blog post from someone in the middle of the prairies. Front line viewer research is necessary.
A true customer focused organization would think of this week for their primary viewing audience and not forsaking them to capture new fringe viewers because of the celebrities added to the programming.
I am not hoping or advocating for a failure of the concept. I want Shark Week to be around for 30 more years.
I don’t want it to change into “Shark Idol” or “Dancing with the Sharks”. I want it to stay true to its roots. With the exposure of these shows over the years, there is more research and greater learning that has occurred. Safety has improved and myths have been debunked. Knowledge is power and understanding these creatures has eased fears for people who live or visit their habitats.
The only jumping of the shark I want to see is that 16 foot great white leaping clear out of the water. Real sharks that are magnificent. Not land sharks that are often just mouthy.