Jumping the Shark

2nd March 2018

When I was a kid I was a big fan of Happy Days. Arthur Herbert Fonzarelli was the epitome of cool and his catchphrases became part of everyday life. But Happy Days became infamous in TV history for its fifth season. In a bid to increase ratings, Fonzie jumped over a shark while on water skis. Unfortunately, the ratings gimmick backfired. ‘Jumping the shark’ has become an enduring idiom in TV and film for something that is past its peak or is an unsuccessful gimmick. The term has since moved into many creative industries, including financial marketing. When something’s gone beyond creditability, thrashed to extinction or has been pushed too far away from its origins it has simply ‘jumped the shark’.

So how do we avoid jumping the shark in financial marketing? Creating the wrong objective for any marketing activity is a sure way to start putting on the water skis. Objectives need to be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant and Timebound).

Content marketing is all the rage and is a brilliant engagement vehicle. But to assume that all content needs to be thought leadership is creating a very tough objective that is not necessarily what an audience is looking for.

Genuine thought leadership is very very hard. Stephen Hawking is unlocking the history of the universe. Elon Musk is sowing the seeds for interplanetary exploration (and driving a car across the solar system with a towel in its glove box, filling the hearts of every Hitchhikers Guide fan with joy). John Maynard Keynes ‘General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money’ shaped economic decision making for great swathes of the 20th century.

At its heart content marketing is about giving an audience information that they find interesting and thought provoking, so much so that they feel comfortable in engaging with you and/or sharing it with their own followers and connections. That content does not need to be thought leadership, or worse, masquerading as it. We can both curate and create great authentic content, explain an existing idea in a fresher way, tell people about exciting industry developments and product innovations, allow happy customers to tell others how happy they are and answer customer queries and questions.

Another way in which we can jump the shark is by not building learning into all marketing. Great marketing is about testing, learning and developing and repeating that loop ad infinitum. One of our key channels today, the internet, constantly develops and changes as we all develop and change what we want from it.  Our approach to it needs to be similarly convicted, consistent, inquisitive and experimental. But most of all it needs to be measured

In this environment, doing the same thing because it worked before is a recipe for a jump. We should establish banker activities and benchmarks to beat. To do this we need to embed measurement methodologies into everything. Great marketing is as much about great data as it is about great ideas.

And if you think you’re next marketing push is in danger of jumping the shark, in the words of Fonzie, ‘Sit on it!”

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