Smart Marketing: Shark Week!

Back in 1987, the now-famous Discovery Channel was just two years old, and it was seeking an innovative way to attract viewers. Though the blockbuster movie Jaws had debuted 10 years earlier, the channel found that they still had an audience that thrilled to shark tales – they experienced a spike in ratings every time shark-related programming aired.

During a brainstorming session at the channel, an executive named Steve Cheskin blurted out, “Shark Week.” And the rest is history.

Today Shark Week is 25 years old and it is the channel’s longest-running promotion. It is always building buzz and attracting more and more viewers.

Other channels have tried to follow suit. The History Channel featured Civil War Week, and Animal Planet debuted Tiger Week. But nothing has ever matched the phenomenal success of Shark Week.

As a marketing consultant and brand expert, I totally understand the draw of Shark Week, as I myself am fascinated with sharks. They are predators who come at you when you least expect it – and this plays into our everyday fears about life and how unpredictable it really is. A shark in the water is also a fascinating juxtaposition – the water is calm, beautiful, and peaceful – but the minute you see that dorsal fin above the water, it becomes a place of great terror.

Since 2003, Shark Week has attracted more than 20 million viewers in its audience. Last year, in 2011, it is estimated that more than 27 million people watched it.

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