Is B2B content marketing jumping the shark?

jump the shark

‘Jumping the shark’ is one of my favourite expressions. Wikipedia tells us it means “the moment in the evolution of a television show when it begins a decline in quality that is beyond recovery. The phrase is also used to refer to a particular scene, episode or aspect of a show in which the writers use some type of “gimmick” in a desperate attempt to keep viewers’ interest.”

Specifically, it refers to an episode in Happy Days when the desperate writers had Fonzi, yes, jump over a shark while water-skiing (see the clip above — it’s a classic).

Now for the segue to relevance
For some brands, content marketing is starting to jump the shark. As each successive eBook, video or infographic seems to earn lower and lower levels of engagement, they become increasingly desperate.

So you get:
‘Wacky virals’
‘It’s so cool! We dress up in funny clothes and rap about industrial ventilation!’

Shouty titles
‘Crush your industrial ventilation problems in three insanely easy steps!’

Gratuitous profanity that chickens out with asterisks & @symbols and stuff
‘F*ck your godd@mn bullsh%t industrial ventilation!’

Infographics that are really just pie charts in drag
‘The Industrial Ventilation Game!’

Gross over-promise
“How the right industrial ventilation can double your share price’

Why is this happening?
Because the industrial ventilation company in question (VentCoCom, Peoria Illinois), got high on content marketing and trashed its own content brand by churning out drek.

Their engagement plummeted, retweets disappeared and downloads evaporated because they did much too much and thought about it far too little.

In B2B content marketing, less is very often more.
Maybe we should all do fewer pieces and work on each one a lot more.

Maybe we should make sure each piece we produce is properly promoted and syndicated and atomised and spun off and blogged about – before we move on to the next one.

Maybe we should all protect our content brands as vigilantly as we protect our product brands. So that we become famous for delivering great content. And we earn our audiences, one reader at a time.

It’s that or the water skis.


As the former marketing director of VentCoCom Corp Inc, I take issue with your characterization of our campaigns as shark-jumping.

In fact, “F*ck your godd@mn bullsh%t industrial ventilation!” was one of our most downloaded pieces and, if you look at the numbers, industrial ventilation really CAN impact a company’s share price. Consider, for example, a lawsuit filed by the orphans of an asphyxiated employee (true story, though in this case, the employee had a prior asthmatic condition). Or the grossly inhibited productivity caused by inadequate airflow (they don’t call them ‘sweat shops’ for nothing).

Before moving on to greener pastures, my team was working on a spaghetti Western viral called, ‘That’s Damn Fine Ventilation’. We had the horses and everything.

I love that episode of Happy Days. Thanks for re-posting it.

Weird. It was while I was staying in the glorious metropolis of Peoria Illinois that I saw that infamous Happy Days episode. It troubled me off and on for ages, I kept wondering if I’d lost my sense of humour or what. Then I found I had.

I think you found it now Alistair.

(Ever think it may have been Peoria that haunted you?).

[Oh, and Ross E: happy days indeed…]

“Infographics that are really just pie charts in drag” – hilarious! I lmfao’d! Thanks for that.

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