Shark Week Mania: When Should Your Brand Dive In?

By Theresa Braun

Recently, brands have become more and more eager to achieve “real time relevance”--and for a good reason: studies show that “opportunistic content” drives a 400-600% increase in engagement. In order to break through the clutter online, brands are required to create timely, engaging content that really resonates with consumers.

Current events in pop culture have become “chum in the water” for brands, each trying to secure  their “Oreo Super Bowl Moment.” Well-executed attempts are definite engagement-bait. If done poorly, however, brands will have consumers fleeing for the shore.

When a national or world event arises and has consumers on social media in a feeding frenzy, how do you know when the water’s fine and you’re welcome to jump into the conversation?

Ask yourself these three questions: Is it timely? Is it relevant? Is it memorable?

Often, brands only hit one or two points out of the three.

Particularly lacking is the relevance factor. If there’s a natural tie-in between your brand and a current event: go for it. But if it’s a stretch (and you’ll feel that stretch when it’s there), your brand will only end up looking desperate and ridiculous. Forced relevance is the difference between Oreo posting about the #RoyalBaby and Pampers joining in. When you try too hard, you’re just embarrassing yourself.

The Discovery Channel's annual Shark Week is not only a “bad time to be a seal,” it’s also a bad time to be a brand that’s a shark, ruthlessly trying too hard. Here’s a look at which brands “jumped the shark,” and which ones were “bloody brilliant.”

Brands That Jumped The Shark


Sure, the Coke logo can easily be transformed into a wave, but other than that, this is a missed connection. The Facebook post was cute and timely, but not particularly memorable or relevant.


Pizza Hut

When you put teeth on a cheese pizza to make it look like a shark’s mouth, you can easily slap on a clever caption and say you “need a bigger boat,” but you’ll just be grasping at straws.


The Golf Channel

What does golf have to do with sharks? Sure, “golfers tend to steer clear of water” do a lot of people/things. The tweet was completely irrelevant.

Brands That Were Bloody Brilliant

Ben & Jerry’s

In anticipation of the “Return of Jaws” documentary on The Discovery Channel, Ben & Jerry’s cleverly played on the name of one of its most popular flavors, “Phish Food.”


With a promoted tweet, the Procter & Gamble brand shared an animated Vine video with the tagline: “We get out blood, too.” The wave-related brand name provided an easy tie-in, while the execution was certainly memorable.

The Weather Channel

August is peak hurricane season, so to promote its coverage, The Weather Channel tweeted a 15 second YouTube video with commentary pointing out that, while Shark Week is “a bad time to be a seal,” Hurricane Week is “a bad time to be a shark.” Smart.

Real time content can be the vehicle that allows brands to participate in pop culture conversation their customers truly care about. But to really work, the strategy must transcend the hot topics and align with the brand's identity. The goal should not be just to accumulate likes or retweets; real time relevance (emphasis on “relevance”) goes beyond building engagement--it’s ultimately about building brand love. Don’t shoot and miss.

What brands have you seen do real time relevance well? What brands have flopped?