Never underestimate the allure of free beer in your crisis management strategy.

It seems that SeaWorld is on its way back. In the aftermath of the “Blackfish” documentary in 2013, park attendance dropped between 20 and 25 percent. Initially reluctant to admit anything was wrong (seem familiar?), SeaWorld management did a 180 (seem unfamiliar?). It announced an end to its captive Orca breeding program. It began to wind down its animal shows. It redirected its resources to conservation in partnership with the Humane Society of the United States. Even the staunchly anti-SeaWorld PETA had to grudgingly admit that it was a step in the right direction.

But despite all of those actions, SeaWorld languished. It’s easier to cancel a vacation than book one, and there are plenty of options in Orlando (and elsewhere). SeaWorld management then, quietly, began reinvesting in the “product” offering – the park itself. It repriced its admission to offer more value for the money than ever-increasing Disney tickets. It redesigned its promotional campaigns. It established new channel partnerships.

Oh. And they started giving away free beer this summer.

It may seem like a gimmick, but when you were founded by Anheuser-Busch, it makes sense. When you’re planning a vacation with kids, every little bit counts. Giving parents free beer is enough to tip the scales for many people – to the tune of a 5 percent increase in attendance this year. On that pace, SeaWorld will fully recover the attendance it lost in three more years.

Hmm. The formula becomes clear: Crisis occurs. Admit you were wrong. Make the necessary business changes. Then make the necessary marketing changes. Add alcohol. Win.

#marketing #blackfish #seaworld

Read a more detailed summary of the financial picture on MarketWatch.

Photo credit:

Jason T Voiovich

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