Nature’s Original Branding Experts

You are more likely to win an Academy Award. You are more likely to be in a plane crash. And you are even more likely to get eaten by a hippo. So why do sharks have such a bad reputation? Clever marketing.


I’m not suggesting that somewhere out in the Atlantic there is a coalition of marketing sharks. But you have to admit that this species have generated fantastic word of mouth, great visual imagery and a very powerful and persistent brand identity. So what can we learn from these creatures?

1. Make an impact when you act

Very few people die from shark attacks each year. They might have a good hit rate with seals but when it comes to humans they are rather ineffective. Yet they still manage to strike fear into the lives of every land-dweller. Why? Because when they do act, they make an impact and generate lots of media coverage.

And that is exactly what any effective, long-lasting brand needs to do. It doesn’t need to be present 100% of the time. It just needs to choose its timing carefully (when it has just lost its place in the top of consumers’ minds) and create a big impression when it does act. That old quality over quantity chestnut!

2. Make sure your physical depiction matches your brand

One of the advantages of sharks as a brand lie in the fact that they aren’t a good looking animal that tries to lure you in with its cuteness only to attack at the last minute. Everything about the physical depiction on a shark represents it’s brand associations. The multiple rows of sharp teeth. The jagged fins. The cold, uncaring eyes. You can look at a shark and know it is time to move away.

Same with any brand logo. To be as effective and long-lasting as the brand of the sharks, any new consumer should be able to look at a logo and tell exactly what this brand stands for. Maybe they won’t get the exact details of their service provision but they should be able to draw on words used to describe the brand.

3. Let others take your brand further

Finally, there is an unwillingness in business to share brands. Underlying this protectiveness is the idea that others will damage the brand or ruin any connotations that have been built around the name or logo. Part of the strength of the shark brand is that hundreds and thousands of entertainment sources have built the shark brand with very little work from the original brand itself.

Jaws made us all stay out of the water. Endless National Geographic shows display gruesome encounters between these sea beasts and their prey. And every person looking to toughen up their image automatically puts a shark tooth around their neck. If a brand is strong and clear enough, it doesn’t matter if there are a couple of incorrect associations (like the vegetarian shark in the cartoon movie Shark Tale), the overall brand concept will pervade and be even stronger thanks to the effort of third parties.

Without any conscious marketing, this aquatic creature still manages to strike fear into the hearts of everyone. And that is without any conscious marketing. So imagine what you could do with your marketing budgets if you tore a leaf from the book of this species!