Don’t Snark Shark Week, What Marketers Can Learn

July 5th, the start of Shark Week 2015, came in with a Shark Week countdown website, a promotional video featuring rock legend Billy Idol’s voice exclaiming It’s Jawsome” and more Shark apps such as Shark Finder and Sharks ReScored, as well as the potential of advertising revenue that is described as Discovery Channel’s Super Bowl.

What can marketers learn from Shark week?


When something works, repeat it

The first Shark Week aired July 17, 1988.  Viewership has been gaining momentum in an exponential way over the past 2 decades.  See viewership graph of 1988 to 2011 from Ad Age.
From 2003 to 2012, Shark Week consistently attracted more than 20 million viewers. In 2013 more than 27 million people tuned in and 2014 brought record viewership of 42 million.
August 2015 marks the 28th year of Shark Week and is poised to be the best shark week ever while securing it’s tenure as the longest running promotion on cable television.

Know your Audience and market products & services that are relevant to them

When it comes to the fans, Discovery Channel knows they have the sweet spot advertisers love. Variety reported the following viewer statistics and demographics:

Shark Week 2014 made its biggest ratings splash ever; including a first-place finish among all networks — broadcast and cable — in men under 50.  It became the most-watched Shark Week ever for women 18-49 (639,000), women 25-54 (621,000) and adults 25-54 (1.4 million), according to Nielsen’s “live plus same-day” estimates. The women 18-49 total is also the highest ever for any week in Discovery history.
During the seven-day stretch, Discovery had six of the top 10 ad-supported cable originals among adults 18-49, adults 25-54 and men 25-54 and eight of the top 10 among men 18-49.
For the week of Aug. 11-17, 2014, Discovery was the No. 1 primetime cable network in adults 18-49 (1.17 million), adults 25-54 (also 1.17 million) and adults 18-34 (540,000). And in men 18-49, its 636,000 made it the No. 1 network on all of television. (Variety August 19, 2014)

Watch this week and you will see: Nissan, Volkswagen, Reds Apple Ale, Esurance, Beautyrest, Olive Garden, the list goes on  . . .  all hoping to capitalize on Shark Weeks popularity with their target markets.

When something doesn’t work, don’t do it again

What you won’t see during Shark Week 2015 are the controversial Mock-umentaries Shark of Darkness: Wrath of Submarine and Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives, a fictional film about a serial killer shark disguised as a legitimate documentary that was slammed by fans. Discovery’s President, Rich Ross, has vowed to avoid this type of programming in the future and promised viewers that that type of shows has “run its course,” adding that it wasn’t a good fit for the network in the first place, despite the high ratings. (International Business Times July 2 2015)
Lesson learned, and applause to Ross for favoring Loyal Fans over ratings.

Building Loyal Fans Strengthens Your Brand

Shark week is Cable TV’s longest running promotion, 28 years strong and still has a growing fan base as evidenced with the Stats mentioned earlier. And this from writer Lauren Johnson:  10 Brand Tweets That Prove Shark Week Has Essentially Become a National Holiday:
It’s hard to put a finger on why exactly sharks capture people’s fascination, but it seems they inspire the right mix of awe and fear.  “It goes back to ‘Jaws’ and the imprint it made on our culture,” said marketing expert Adam Hanft.”  While other networks have tried to replicate its success with events like “Big Cat Week” and “Tornado Week,” none have been able to build the same buzz and rabid fans. (Advertising Age, Aug 20, 2012)
What else inspires the right mix of Awe and Fear? Perhaps Fast and Furious?  Shark Week is Fast and Furious in Water. The action is thrilling and the fan base is similar.  While Furious 8 is a Twitter buzz keeping fans longing for Summer 2017, Shark Week 2015 is airing a second round of shark specials in August 2015.

When something is working for one of your Competitors, take a crack at it

Syfy Channel took a que from Discovery and took a $2 million chance with a Shark Themed action packed adventure named Sharknado that paid off big time.  Sharknado aired for the first time July 11, 2013.  “Due to an increase in publicity (mostly through Twitter), Syfy repeated Sharknado on Thursday, July 18, 2013, one week after its premiere. The airing was watched by 1.89 million viewers, an increase of 38% over its initial airing. Then on July 27, a third airing of Sharknado got 2.1 million viewers, continuing the increase in popularity of the film and setting a record for most watched original film encore in Syfy history.” (Wikipedia & TV by the Numbers)
And that is how a cult classic is made.  Syfy Channel will be following up the success of Sharknado 1 and 2 with Sharknado 3 airing July 22nd, 2015.
Shark Week 2015 TV Schedule

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