The Sad, Tragic and Probably Profitable Death of Dawn Brancheau

The stadium fills with thrill seekers. They’ve come to witness man’s frail attempt to control the unpredictable power of nature. In this contest between apex predators, man seems overmatched from the start…because he is.

The behemoth is 22 feet long and 6 tons of muscle, cunning and instinct. It’s been honed by thousands of years of survival into a killing machine; it is the killer whale. Man meets this challenge with intelligence and little else.

There wasn’t much warning. Dawn didn’t have a chance to exercise her training, but it wouldn’t have mattered anyways. Everything appeared to be going well. It is entirely possible that when Tillikum first took her pony tail in his mouth and dragged her under the clear blue, 54 degree water of the main tank, that Dawn hoped he was just being playful. For all we know, he was.

The press seems to think that this incident is a PR issue for Sea World. The Washington Post discussed some PR options for Sea World. In the article, Glenn Bunting, of a Los Angeles based PR firm, recommends, ” …they need to explain how it happened, why it happened and make sure it doesn’t happen again to reassure the public.” Glenn is correct about preventing another incident, but is wrong about needing to reassure the public.

Sea World has nothing to worry about. The audience understands the stakes involved. They don’t need reassurance. This unfortunate outcome is the show that they subconsciously wanted to see.

Sea World and all of their trainers know exactly why the stands stay full for every show. It’s because of the possibility of what happened to Dawn Brancheau. As tragic and horrifying as her death ultimately is, everyone involved knew the score. If the consequences of a misstep in that tank were any less than potential death, the show would lack gravitas. You can probably train a Manatee to do some neat things, too. But who is showing up to see that?

Sea World doesn’t need to rebrand or reposition. They need to take the misfortune at its true value. Dawn Brancheau went to school, trained and prepared everyday to stay one step ahead of “death by Tillikum”. She loved killer whales. She loved her job. She knew that when you climb into a tank with an animal that has “KILLER” in its name, there are only two possible outcomes: it lets you live, or you aren’t so lucky. She was following her passion, and the dance with “nature” was what people pay to see. Sea World should publicize the bravery and dedication of Dawn Brancheau: of the men and women who work with these animals everyday, even in the face of this sort of violent end.

This is far from a PR/Marketing Issue. Sea World knows what it sells. It knows what the customer wants. And when the tragedy of this incident abates, the crowds will hunger for more.

Is it too early to see the Marketing potential in this horrible turn of events? Are we wrong?

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Category: Welt | Tags: , , , , , , 6 comments »

6 Responses to “The Sad, Tragic and Probably Profitable Death of Dawn Brancheau”

  1. Welt

    Large crowd for first show back at Sea World http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,587591,00.html

  2. Karly

    as somebody who as been swimming with dolphins, and attended this type of show, I can tell you the LAST thing I go for is to see a trainer mauled or killed. I have gone because of the beauty and magnificence of the animals, that’s all… and I can say that’s the reason most other people go too, it’s quite cynical to say that the audience, mostly FAMILIES WITH SMALL CHILDREN are there to see “shamu” rip somebody apart, please wake up.

  3. Steve Martin

    Sorry it took so long to get back to you, I just woke up… “This unfortunate outcome is the show that they subconsciously wanted to see.” Is this the segment you are referring to for your point of view? If you read the whole entry, you will realize the subconscious that people wanted to see, is man’s control over a creature much more powerful than ourselves. It’s power goes hand in hand with “beauty and magnificence”. I hope this helps clarify things for you…Thanks for your opinion and keep reading.

  4. CincyHefe

    I’d have to say that swimming with dolphins and training a 6 ton aquatic mammal to do tricks in the human equivalency of a bath tub are two very different, two very unrelated things. “Killer whales” are called “Killer Whales” for a reason, I don’t remember the last time a “Killer Whale” saved a human from a shark attack, on the other hand, porpoises have been documented to get along quite well with humans.

    However, I do have to agree with you that children do not go to Shamu shows to see the live action version of their plush toy sashimi some silly woman. On the other hand there is a saying for events like this, “It comes with the territory” if your a polygamist in Swaziland you’ll probably get AIDS, if you play with a big ‘ fish ‘ chances are you’ll get bitten.

    Overall I’d have to say that SeaWorld probably doesn’t think about marketing at this point, Unless of course “Dine with Shamu” is replaced with a Waterworld-esque battle between Smokers on Jetskis and Killer Whales. Now that’s something worth paying for, Dennis Hopper in a last mammal standing battle with Free Willy.

  5. masinfoplus

    Thank you for writing one of the best informational articles I’ve read in a long time. You make sound points that I can relate to and grasp. This is great!

  6. todoinformacion88

    I do not even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was good. I do not know who you are but definitely you are going to a famous blogger if you are not already ;) Cheers!


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