Why Everyone Should Take Branding Lessons From Left Shark

In case you missed it, here’s a recap of the moment Left Shark was introduced to the world courtesy of YouTube user pnthrpaw.

I’m not going to lie, I had no idea what the fuss was all about when BuzzFeed articles started popping up about Katy Perry’s Left Shark. Who would have thought the thing to go viral from the most-watched television event in history would be a dancing shark that just wants to feel like a teenage dream?

At first I really did not understand Left Shark’s hype. But as I watched Katy Perry’s halftime performance over again, I began to realize Left Shark had done something none of this year’s value-driven ads were able to do completely.

Left Shark’s personal brand reminded us all that it is okay to be human. Thus, a star was born.

It sounds simpler than it should be: the shark got up there, he danced a little out of tune, and he became a viral sensation.  But think about it for a second: here we are, all sitting on our couches with eyes glued to the screen, just waiting for someone to screw up. We are looking to see which football players miss a pass, what ads flop in the face of their competition, and whether or not Perry is going to bash Taylor Swift through her halftime antics.

Humans thrive on seeing people make mistakes on live television because it serves as a reminder that these larger-than-life stars we’re watching are not as larger-than-life as they seem. Similar to what people expect on social media, we want to be reminded that corporations and celebrities are, at their core, made up of humans capable of failure.

Enter Left Shark. Like many hard-working Americans, he put in long hours and loads of preparation to do his job well. When the time came to dance his heart out, he put everything he had into his performance because Americans don’t deliver anything less than their best efforts when aiming for success. Did his dance moves end up being flawless? No.

But here’s the thing that makes Left Shark the true MVP of Super Bowl Sunday: did he ever apologize for his performance? Not once.

Left Shark reminded us all that people make mistakes, and that is completely okay. His danced moves symbolized that underneath people’s efforts towards perfection, they understand not every goal is achievable. The key to effective branding is staying authentic, and Left Shark is not afraid to admit his dance moves were not perfect.  He will never attempt to pretend he is something he’s not.

I heard this great quote at my last American Business Associates meeting that basically defines Left Shark- “you can do anything, but you can’t do everything.” Like Left Shark, I will always aim to put everything I have into my social media efforts, but I will always know my limits and when to admit I cannot handle certain challenges. I would rather brand myself as an honest, hard-working individual than someone who isn’t able to follow through. I want my audience to know I am not afraid to be a human.

I encourage everyone to work towards their own version of a Super Bowl Sunday performance, whether it be landing that coveted internship, winning your next 5K, or just spending more time with the people you love. But I think we all need to walk away from Left Shark’s viral success recognizing as we continue to set goals and work hard in 2015, it is important to stay as authentic as possible and remind not only our audiences, but also ourselves it is really okay to be a human.

Go ahead, find your inner Left Shark. Flap your arms around a little out of tune. I promise you in the end, those dance moves will not bring you down. They’ll give you positive brand reputation, consumer loyalty, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll feel like a teenage dream.

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