The Battle of the brands. Can Sea World win?
Business at Sea World is off by about a million visitors per year. No one doubts that this dramatic drop in visitations to the theme parks has been due to the bad publicity generated by the documentary Black Fish.The documentary relied upon stories and testimony from former Sea World employees documenting the tragic deaths of a few Sea World employees by the parks Orcas (Killer Whales). But the damage to the theme park brand hinged on the poor treatment of the park’s sea mammals. It is alleged in the documentary that the whales are stressed beyond all reasonable boundaries, isolated, confined and drugged. All this in the name of entertainment.
Sea World has just struck back and has released a new Sea World advertising campaign designed to mitigate the damage done by PETA and Black Fish by attacking their agenda and offering the positive testimony of staff veterinarians.
This is a battle Sea World can’t win. The reason is brand. You see brand is built upon beliefs (not truths) and without passing judgment on who is right here, it is just simple common sense that says the belief in ethical treatment for animals is a more strongly held belief than a belief that entertainment is ok. Human beings also hold as a brand precept that everything has a cause and effect and few are willing to believe that a confined giant animal lives a full and robust life when compared to their wild brothers and sisters. Just ask Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey who have announced that they are fazing out live elephants from their shows (despite their own denial of mistreatment) because of very similar accusations. The problem that Sea World faces is more severe. The Circus is still a Circus without Animals (Check out the Big Apple Circus or Cirque Du Soleil) but Sea World without Orcas and Dolphins is… well a wet desert.
Swim with the Dolphins
I have no doubt the next victim will be all of the Swim with the Dolphins parks. All you have to do is watch the amazing film The Cove to feel that the cost of populating these parks is way too high. It is an unnatural stress placed once again on tranquilized and intelligent creatures who would prefer not to swim with us.
I think Shamu is history.