‘Shark Tank’ Offers Valuable Insight into Marketing, Entrepreneurship

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James T. Berger
Senior Marketing Writer

Published May 30, 2013

Of late, I have been quite taken by ABC’s weekly “Shark Tank”.  In this semi-reality show, entrepreneurs heretofore manqués come before an articulate panel of immensely wealthy men and women and try to sell their ideas to the “sharks,” who are ready, willing and able to invest in the entrepreneurial ventures IF the entrepreneurs can pass a rigorous test.

As a student and teacher of marketing, I find great educational value from this program.  In addition, it is highly entertaining.  The show is edited, so not all interactions between the would-be founders and the investors are shown because each presentation has to fit into a specific time frame.

For the most part the presentations by the entrepreneurs are well thought out and highly effective.   Most also have done their homework. Often they present strong industry and market research data.   The sharks ask probing and intelligent questions and eventually weed out the weaknesses in each presentation.  Since the sharks are so wealthy, even if their investment fails, it is merely a “drop in the bucket.”  But, as one shark said recently, “I count my thousands one at a time.”

As a marketing professor, what I like most is a manifestation of what I have been teaching for so many years.  When students and others ask me “What is marketing?” I do not respond with the complicated Kotler definition, which I find pretty meaningless.  I say: “Marketing simply is the ability to properly and accurately address four crucial questions:

  1. Who is the target market?
  2. What are the needs of the target market?
  3. What is the distinctive competency of the product or service?
  4. How do you intend to communication the distinctive competency to the target market?

So simple yet so complicated.  Many budding entrepreneurs are filled with “ideas.”   Of course, ideas are the germ of innovation, but an idea without a plan to make money is useless.  I have often told my students, the difference between an idea and a profit-making business is the difference between an amoeba and a human being.

“Shark Tank” runs weekly on ABC on Friday evenings in the 7-8 pm time slot.  Watch it.  It’s fun.

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About The Author

James T. Berger headshot
James T. Berger, Senior Marketing Writer of The Wiglaf Journal, through his Northbrook-based firm, James T. Berger/Market Strategies, offers a broad range of marketing communications, research and strategic planning consulting services. In addition, he provides expert services to intellectual property attorneys in the area of trademark infringement litigation. An adjunct professor of marketing at Roosevelt University, he previously has taught at Northwestern University, DePaul University, University of Illinois at Chicago and The Lake Forest Graduate School of Management. He holds degrees from the University of Michigan (BA), Northwestern University (MS) and the University of Chicago (MBA). Berger is an often-published free lance business writer who has developed more than 100 published articles in the last eight years. For more information, visit www.jamesberger.net or telephone him at (847) 328-9633.