Earlier this week I wrote an article entitled What Jaws, Brand Managers And Consumers Have In Common. This piece spoke to the need to get personal when it comes to customer relationship management.
Little did I know at that time that I would be scribing another article with sharks as the main topic of discussion. But, given the insane popularity of the SyFy cult-hit Sharknado and the yearly ritual (26 years and counting) that is the Discovery Channel's Shark Week, how could I not? Think about just how much the word "shark" has permeated American pop culture over the past month or so.
Clearly there is something afoot that is almost reminiscent of the whole vampire craze that swept the nation not long ago. Remember how everywhere you turned something was branded with a vampire or had a vampire-esque feel to it?
So what is it? Why the fascination with sharks? Aren't we all supposed to be deathly afraid of them?
According to Charles Riotto, president of the Licensing Industry Merchandisers Association "sharks have captured the imagination of consumers around the world, with shows and events focused on these intriguing creatures becoming more popular than ever."
Riotto says it is that capturing of consumer's imagination that ties directly into the retail merchandising success of a given brand or company.
"As with any desired brand, licensing and the availability of licensed merchandise helps fans display and extend their devotion beyond the core programming, and stay connected throughout the year," he added. "It's a way for fans to jump into the proverbial tank and actively engage with the brand, and a way for the brand to capture an even broader audience."
For Elizabeth Bakacs, Vice President of Licensing for the Discovery Channel, she is thrilled with our collective fascination with sharks as it is doing wonders for the the Shark Week brand and all related products but cautions it's not all about the bottom line.
"The fact that sharks are becoming an industry trend right now is great for our Shark Week programming, our Shark Week product at retail and overall awareness and conservation for the species, which is a big priority at Discovery Channel," she said. "Consumer products are one way for us to reach the Shark Week audience year round with everything from Shark Apps and a Sharkopedia book to 'I heart Snuffy' t-shirts and Shark Week cupcakes."
As for the phenomenon that was and continues to be Sharknado, Jeff Li, Vice President of Syfy Ventures says the brand offers endless opportunities.
"The bold and over-the-top Sharknado brand is the perfect fit for a wide range of fun merchandise, providing partners with the unique opportunity to drive consumer excitement and retail sales."
And you can look for that fun merchandise in a store near you as it was recently announced that official Sharknado merchandise - including T-shirts, bags, posters, accessories and even costumes (launching just in time for Halloween) - will be available to consumers in the coming weeks.
As For Marketers
Well for that side of the aisle I reached out to Addison O'Dea, Senior Producer at Sub Rosa, a company that helps creates closer relationships between brands, consumers and organizations.
I specifically wanted to ask him about Sharknado as, like many others I'm sure, continue to be fascinated by the success of this film.
Steve Olenski: What does the success of Sharknado mean for the marketing industry?
Addison O'Dea: The success of Sharknado very clearly illustrates to the industry that the power of the crowd to drive interest cannot be overestimated. While Twitter activity has dwarfed viewership in the instance of Sharknado's initial airing, the true power of this meme will be reflected in the secondary markets -- the re-airing, merchandizing and, amazingly, even in the show's theatrical run and sequels -- not to mention grist for talk show hosts for weeks following.
Olenski: Has it shifted the marketing landscape?
O'Dea: The broad observation so dramatically highlighted by the Sharknado phenomenon is that social interest and virality can massively outpace actual consumer consumption -- and that markets can be created through timely content and bit of earned good fortune.
Olenski: If success is as simple as a ridiculous plot, poor effects and an "accidental" social media surge, do marketers need to rethink their strategies around engagement?
O'Dea: Not at all. Content will always merit attention and investment; it's as simple as that. The lesson learned here for marketers is not only to be strategic and foresightful, but to always be attuned to the streets and nimble enough to capture and leverage a fast-moving opportunity that originates through serendipity.
Mako shark (Photo credit: Wikipedia)