5 things we learned about marketing from Tiger King
Spoilers for Netflix’s Tiger King ahead!
Hey all you cool cats and kittens. The past month has been rough on us all—balancing client deadlines, Zoom meetings and homeschool, all while trying not to snap on those with whom we’re quarantined.
Thankfully, the universe delivered a small gift on March 20 to help save our sanity—or at least provide a welcome distraction—in the form of a true crime drama so unreal you might wonder if the stir craziness is causing hallucinations. We’re talking about Netflix’s Tiger King, and if you haven’t watched it yet, you may want to stop reading and get on that. If you haven’t heard of it, you must be living under a rock … which, come to think of it, seems like an acceptable form of social distancing. But we digress.
Amidst the animal maulings and criminal behavior we found a few marketing lessons to be learned from the show’s wild cast of characters (tigers excluded).
She who wins Google, WINS
Bhagavan “Doc” Antle may be as sleazy as they come, but the guy knows a thing or two about the power of SEO. In one episode, he schools us on how Carol Baskin and her Big Cat Rescue have managed to gain such notoriety:
“Do you know the power you have if you search Google around the world and you’re the first choice every time??” he raves. “She is the one; she’s the first choice every time. She’s at the top of all search.”
In an adjacent scene, we see a slice of Carol’s content creation habits as she churns out a video about the bowel movements of her big cats. We were snickering too—until we found out that she has nearly 1.2 million YouTube subscribers.
Carol knows (or accidentally stumbled upon the fact) that content—particularly video—is the way to stay on top of the SERPs.
But unfortunately for our friend Joe Exotic, there are no shortcuts. He attempts to steal some of that coveted traffic by renaming his cub-petting business “Big Cat Rescue Entertainment”. Sneaky. At first glance, it seems to be working. But things quickly backfire, which brings us to our next lesson …
Be careful of those copyrights
Advertising can be a legal minefield, so the best marketers use caution when it comes to naming, use of images and video assets, content production, etc. Joe seems to have missed that chapter in Marketing for Dummies, and quickly falls into a vicious legal battle with Carol Baskin over copyright infringement of the Big Cat Rescue name. The lesson here? Mind your marketing Ps and Qs.
Brand evangelists are worth their weight in gold
There’s no bigger boon to a marketer’s investment than a loyal fan base that’s willing to advocate for a brand. In one scene, Carol Baskin weaponizes hers. After learning that Joe is pimping out tiger cubs at malls across the country, she enlists her army of followers to email the management and get Joe banned. (Turns out, the draw of a cute baby tiger doesn’t quite outweigh the liability.) And while we wouldn’t necessarily recommend that tactic, it certainly illustrates the power of brand evangelists.
Back up your files
S#!% happens. Specifically on large expanses of land in Oklahoma where sketchy characters and dangerous predators run wild. But even in tamer environments, it’s important to save all those precious video and design files—preferably via secure, offsite servers that are less likely to succumb to suspicious fires. We learn this from Rick Kirkam—the producer who hopes to make millions off of his Joe Exotic reality show. His first mistake: not backing up his files. His second mistake? Storing them in an alligator enclosure.
A solid reputation is the greatest competitive edge
Strong reputations take years to build—but the investment pays off. Case in point: Thanks to her squeaky clean image as the “Mother Teresa of Big Cats” Carol Baskin manages to evade some pretty serious accusations. Flimsy murder case notwithstanding, she keeps her hands pretty clean during her savage legal takedown of Joe; all the while, further distancing herself from the Joe Exotics and Doc Antles of the world. Allegations of her own hypocrisy bounce off like Teflon. Whether you’re team Carol or team Joe, there’s a pretty clear winner in this story, and it’s the woman who methodically polishes her image, even as her enemies multiply.
It’s no coincidence that the case study of marketing success in Tiger King—Carol Baskin and her Big Cat Rescue—is also the one who comes out on top when the dust settles. Joe, when you’re out of the clinker, give us a call for some modern marketing guidance. On second thought … maybe don’t.
Stay safe and sane in quarantine, ya’ll!