On February 24 a whale at SeaWorld killed trainer Dawn Brancheau in front of astonished spectators.
Three days later, on February 27, SeaWorld resumed shows. SeaWorld president Jim Atchison stated that the animal, a killer whale named Tilikum, would remain part of the show.
SeaWorld is dodging a potential branding disaster. It is hard to imagine anything more terrible for a family show than the public killing of a trainer. This is the sort of negative event that could cause long-term damage to the SeaWorld brand if handled incorrectly.
But SeaWorld is taking the right steps in responding. The company is mourning and honoring the trainer, communicating directly and openly and, most importantly, moving quickly to put the incident in the past.
SeaWorld is reviewing policies to be sure that the odds of this happening again are small. The company isn’t taking things lightly.
By restarting the shows, however, SeaWorld is able to get back entertaining people and building its brand.
I suspect SeaWorld might actually emerge with a stronger brand; we all now understand the power of the killer whale and appreciate the skill and bravery of the trainers.
SeaWorld is a good model for how brands should respond to bad situations.