Marketers: Avoid “Jumping the Shark” at the Moment of Truth


The term “jump the shark” specifically refers to a scene in the hit TV comedy series Happy Days. The writers for the show created a storyline where Arthur Fonzarelli (a.k.a. “The Fonz”) is on water skis (wearing his trademark leather jacket, of course) and he literally jumps over a shark.

Many faithful watchers of Happy Days have noted the “shark episode” as the moment when they realized the storyline had been forever altered and that the show had run out of fresh, imaginative, and relevant ideas.

Today, the term “jumping the shark” could include any TV show/ religion/ political candidate/ business service/ widget that desperately tries to remain relevant in the eyes of the consumers but the “storyline” has so significantly declined from its intended focus and purpose that the original appeal is lost.

The Moment of Truth

During its natural life cycle, most every brand suffers from a loss of relevancy and begins a downward slope towards mediocrity or irrelevancy. At the beginning of this downward turn is what I have termed the “Moment of Truth”.

Moment of Truth

At the Moment of Truth, a marketer can either inject relevancy back into her brand or she can make a desperate (and often hollow) attempt to regain relevancy by doing something that fundamentally detracts from the brand’s soul and core purpose.

Take, for example, my early post about the Ford executives considering the option to “mainstream” the Ford Mustang for the general population by developing a Wagon model. I believe that if Ford does make a Wagon model of it’s famed muscle car, the Mustang enthusiasts will see this as such a significant departure from the Mustang’s original allure and that it may slip into the abyss of “products past”. (I mean really, does “Wagon” and “muscle car” belong in the same “storyline”? I think not!).

As marketers, we are faced with Moments of Truth all of the time. The moment may be grand and obvious or small and subtle. Whatever the structure or cause of the Moment of Truth, what really matters is that when faced with a Moment of Truth marketers stick with the original “storyline” and purpose of the brand and not desperately try to “jump the shark”.

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