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9 Branding Lessons We Can Learn From “Tiger King” - Bunker +58 | Branding and Design Studio

The popular Netflix show Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness, better known as just “Tiger King” is a true-crime documentary miniseries about the life of Joe Exotic. This zookeeper is part of a deeply interconnected society of big cat conservationists and collectors accused of abusing and exploiting wild animals. 

It took us a minute to catch on to the revolution and watch the show, but curiosity got the best of us, and we caved. Many conversations were happening online around those who loved it, others who hated the show, and we all questioned. Did Carole Baskin feed her husband to the tigers? The memes just kept coming, and we couldn’t stop ourselves. Wherever you stand, this has ignited a global conversation about all kinds of topics. 

Since our superpower is branding, and we can’t turn it off, we couldn’t help but see the power of branding all over this show. We decided to use this as a teaching opportunity. (We know this makes us sound a bit like workaholics, but we just love what we do, give us a break). 

We identified at least nine branding lessons we can all learn from Joe ExoticCarole Baskin, and the rest of the Tiger King gang. Let’s get started. 

1- There’s a market for everything.

There’s a market out there for anything if you know how to sell it. No matter what your business offers or what your business idea is, in case you haven’t started your business yet, there is a market for it. Look around you, everything you’ve ever bought, products or services, was created and still exists because there is an audience interested in it. 

A lot of it comes down to your value offer, market size, target market or niche, and how you sell your offer, among other things. 

If you know the value of your product or service and do a good job conveying that message and proving your worth to your potential customers, you’ll sell. To do an excellent job on messaging, you must know your audience and be clear on who they are, what they need, and how your product can fulfill that need.

Joe, Carole, Doc Antle, and Jeff know this very well. They took every chance they got to build a business around their passion and obsession with big cats and everything they could come up with around them. 

2- Your story matters.

All the characters in the show have a very different background and different stories as to why they do what they do, and why they’re so passionate about big cats. The origin story about these people and their decision to build their lives around their businesses is a massive part of why we are all hooked and take sides so passionately. 

Their story shapes their businesses inside and out. It is also why they have the audience they profit from, why their customers stay loyal, and, ultimately, why they got a TV show deal. We are all storytellers. 

Many of the tribe rallying around each of them do so because they see something in their stories that they can relate to. Even the people that voted for Joe Exotic when he ran for office connected with a part of his story strongly enough to make them cast a ballot for him. 

Sharing your personal story, your team’s or your business’s is a big reason why your audience turns into customers and even do repeat business with you. Your customers need a reason to choose you over your competition, and a lot of that goes further than just your value proposition.

3- Differentiate yourself. 

Everybody has a unique proposition, even if you offer the same product as your competitor. Joe, Carole, and Doc Antle all had big cat parks people could visit and enjoy. Although the core of their businesses is the same, they all offered very different experiences, products, and services around their main attraction. 

Restaurants, merchandising, videos, movies, entertainment, music, live experiences, and private events, you name it, it was probably offered or tried at some point and made them a profit. 

Finding your niche sets you apart from the competition. That unique thing you bring to the table will open a whole new audience for you and help you cement a place in the marketplace on your terms while cultivating brand loyalty. After all, the pie is big enough, and there’s a piece of it for everyone.

4- The power of an online presence.

One of the most significant assets for Carole and Big Cat Rescue is their social media following. She has been cultivating it over the years by early adopting the online platforms and capitalizing on them long before her competitors. 

Her online presence not only gave her a whole new market and audience, but still, today, helps her raise funds and promote her legislation efforts, and keeping her business at the forefront, gaining territory over her competition. 

We can see Joe, Doc, and everybody else playing catch-up and trying to create engaging and differentiating content to nurture their audiences. They also used these platforms to discredit each other and further their agendas by shifting the narrative. 

If it weren’t for social media, none of us would have probably even watched the show. If you still don’t think a robust online presence is a business essential, you’re running the risk of going unnoticed and letting others take over your audience. Today, if you’re not online, you don’t exist.

5- Consistency, discipline, and determination.

One day at a time, repeating their core message over and over, they built a name for themselves and their businesses. They built their brands and reputation and made sure to capitalize on it and create their little empires. It took them years to build what they have or had, and there’s no doubt they all stuck to their guns and worked diligently to achieve their goals even though things went south real quick for some of them. 

None of their businesses were built in a day. They weren’t perfect, but they got things done. There are three things they all had in common. Determination, consistency, and discipline to work tirelessly for their goals, even if they were misguided, dangerous, or harmful. (Our goal here is to highlight positive things about this whole deal, we’ll leave our personal opinions for other conversations)

Building a successful business and brand takes all three of these things, not only from the company’s leadership but also from the employees, volunteers, and anybody involved in the business. Rome was not built in a day, but one day at a time. 

6- Pick your business partners and team wisely.

To have a team that sticks by you no matter what and helps you grow your business is #goals. To develop and nurture a strong brand, you need your team to be on the same page and be pursuing the same goals, keeping communications consistent, and directing their efforts in one unified direction. If you have trust and cohesiveness in your team, it will show in your brand. If you are not aligned internally, it will affect how you come across and how the public perceives you. 

Just take a look at how things developed in the show for the different businesses and teams as they started to fracture or change. Find a partner that can bring skills and experience that shares your values and vision, with good business and personal ethics, and more importantly, someone that respects you. Which we all know wasn’t the case with all of Joe’s “business partners.”

7- It’s all about controlling the narrative. 

Remember when we said your story mattered? It is so, so powerful. Everything your brand does and says should relate to the story that you want to tell and want people to remember. You need to strive for a brand story that you create and control. Don’t let other people, or your competition, determine what the market knows and thinks about you. 

There is no proof that Carole fed her husband to the tigers. Still, thanks to Joe and this show, we all think she did, and we’ve already made our decision based on the little information we have about it all. 

Here are some tips that’ll help you create and control your brand narrative. Be genuine, keep it simple, think about how your customer will perceive it, and put yourself in their shoes; keep it interesting; don’t give it all away at once. And last but not least, our favorite, be empathetic. Empathy helps you establish a more reliable connection with your audience. 

8- Stay true to your brand values and story.

Brand authenticity is becoming more critical by the minute. Defining or identifying your core values, mission, vision, and the story is the first step to a truly authentic brand. Everything about your business should stem from these elements allowing you to create consistent and cohesive messages every time your brand shows up. 

We can say many things about the people on this show. Still, they sure are consistent and authentic to whatever it is they stand for and communicate. We know what they believe, what they represent, and how they will be remembered. They all have clear, defined, and strong personal and commercial brands.

9- Reinvent yourself.

We’re not saying you have to get a Netflix show even after you go to jail like Joe to keep your brand relevant and growing. Still, we do invite you to think creatively and strategically. There are always new platforms, needs in the market, and opportunities to tap into to keep your brand and business fresh, current, innovating, and profitable. 

Whether you’re looking to be timeless or crisis-proof, it is essential to be able to adapt. Who knows, maybe you can create multiple streams of income, or become a reality-tv star after you’re not even in business anymore. Your brand can change, adapt, and evolve. Don’t be afraid to try new things. As long as you are genuine and stick to your core values and essence, you’ll be ok

We’d love to hear your thoughts! If you liked this and found value in this, please share! 

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