If you were formerly enjoying the tweetable wit and wisdom of a particular San Antonio-based killer whale, I regret to inform you that he will no longer have access to the company wifi.
Making the necessary call
It was a necessary corporate decision. This latest tragedy was obviously unexpected, but not just for the trainer whose life was taken. That’s the real tragedy. Our sympathies go out to her friends, family, and coworkers.
For the sake of this blog, let’s think a moment how this tragedy affects Sea World from a branding perspective. Sea World had been opertating from a perceived genius social media approach of the tweeting killer whale. Unfortunately, Shamu lived up to his species reputation (whether deserved or not) and has put the company in a bind. Their most popular personality and social media brand is no longer socially acceptable.
When the unexpected happens
What do you do when your mascot kills a person unexpectedly in front of a live audience? Set aside the Shamu Twitter profile for a second. Sea World would still be in a bind. Just use Twitter Search and type “shamu hungry” (without the quotes). You’ll see three pages of tweets from people making jokes about this tragedy. They’re not referencing the Shamu account; but rather, just referencing Shamu the brand / animal.
How will Sea World rebound?
Sea World’s marketing is tied up in the identity and reputation of this killer whale. The theme park is slammed with frenzied restructuring of this marketing, public relations, and merchandizing nightmare.
How will Sea World handle this online reputation crisis? Stay tuned to the news and the interwebs to find out. This will make a very interesting case study for recreation-based ORM.
POLL: How are they handling it?
I’m curious to hear your thoughts. Should Sea World have expressed apologies on the Shamu account, or did they make the right move by just redirecting fans to a non-Shamu site?