You’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat: How to Catch the Big Fish in a Changing Current

On a daily (or at least weekly) basis I hear businesses – particularly small businesses – say things like, “Heh, we don’t need the Internet” or “Twitter won’t pay the bills” or “Yeah, we know we should be on Facebook but we’re not really sure what it…” It makes me chuckle, naturally.  But it also makes it clear to me that there is a need in the marketplace for education.  Marketers have a real opportunity to educate small businesses about the basics of using emerging media to enhance their business.  Why should they use it is more important for them to initially understand than the how.  It’s not enough anymore to simply have a Web site or even to have a toe in the water of emerging media. Businesses that understand the changing marketplace and align their brands accordingly will have a leg up on the competition.  But before all that: let’s start at the beginning.

Remember Jaws? You know, the Spielberg classic in which a small resort town is terrorized by man-eating sharks. There are some lessons from that film that I equate to what businesses face in today’s market when trying to understand emerging media.

In Jaws, shark hunters are hired to track and kill a shark (believed to be responsible for at least two deaths) before the summer tourist season gets into full swing; to avoid scarring away tourists and the money they bring to the town.  The Chief of Police Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) sets out to find the shark. Brody, along with shark hunters, gather their gear and load up the boat and head out into the vast ocean. Brody begins to place bait in the water when he suddenly is taken by extreme surprise as the shark rears his head just above the water’s surface.  In one of the most memorable cinematic lines in history he utters words that still resonate with us and can be used to describe various situations across an array of disciplines: “You’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat.” 

This is exactly how I see businesses that struggle to understand new media.  When I think about businesses that underplay (or ignore altogether) emerging media as a tool in their marketing arsenal, I envision them as Brody.  A veteran at their craft.  A master at selling widgets (or financial services, construction equipment, food (restaurants), bicycles, art, wine…). They have been in business for generations and “that’s the way we’ve always done it” is almost a mantra.  Another line I often hear that’s a personal favorite is: “you don’t understand my business”.  The very nature of that statement makes me wonder if they understand their business.  They are – in essence – Police Chief Brody.  An expert in their field, respected by many, and revered as an innovator, they take on the challenge of finding and killing the shark with the same tools, the same boat, and the same crew as they always have.  However, once they’re in the ocean they are stunned to learn how different things look.  This shark is unlike any they’ve ever seen.   Now it gets fun.

So, now the business begins to understand that they are ill-equipped to catch such a large fish.  But they want that fish more than any fish they’ve ever caught in their career. It’s not about saving the tourism industry or to make upper management happy: this is personal.  This catch will be their legacy.  They must catch it. But they need a bigger boat.  Where do they get a bigger boat? Do they need any other new tools? What tools are there these days? This is what we call the “Ah-Ha!” moment. 

There are myriad emerging media that can be used to help businesses land the big fish (or a whole bunch of small fish, whatever their pleasure).  This blog is not about the how but more about the why -  (More on the how in the next post) - Why they should at least entertain being educated about the tools that are available.  They will still use some of their stand-by tools.  The stand-bys are what got them here in the first place!  But the current is changing and with it comes a new species of fish that aren’t harder to catch, but rather they are different to catch. 

I personally love Brody.  Always have.  He is rugged and the years in this field are beginning to show in his face.  His knowledge is vast and the rookies both respect and loathe him.  He has a long, successful history.  And he does, ultimately, kill the fish.  But was it in the most efficient way?  He is exhausted by the end of the journey and appears to have no energy left to hunt anymore fish – possibly ever.  Do you want your business to catch the big fish (or a boat load of little ones or a mixture of both)? Do you want to use every possible tool available? Do you want to expel so much energy towards this one catch that you contemplate never hunting again?  All you need is a bigger boat.  


  1. Lots of wonderful points about social media and how not enough of the "small guys" take marketing seriously!

    -Heidi (from Pennwriters)

    Heidi Ruby Miller

  2. Joelle,

    Interesting perspective on emerging media, and I love the tie in to Jaws. I think that the world has changed dramatically since the days of "Jaws" and Brody's struggle. If Brody were around today and he saw the proliferation of GPS systems, location based mobile devices, and other technologies he would have changed his tune. Now that we can target and personalize relevant messaging effectively, there is no need for a bigger boat. Instead, the fisherman can snag many right-sized fish if they use the fundamentals of new media. But you still need to be prepared, and know what you are getting yourself into.

    If I were Steven Spielberg writing Brody's line today, it would probably be "Forget about the size of the boat, fish where the fish are".


  3. Companies look better if the followers number is larger so what we need to catch more fishes? A nice well structured website plus a net of channels that spread the word about our company. It makes complete sense to me!

    Nice Post!