Throw The Fish Already: Marketing Lessons From Pike Place


“We got a SALMON!” the man at the front calls. “OOOH OOOOOHH SALMOOON SALMOOON,” shouts his team in a drumbeat of response. Seconds later, a fish flies through the air and lands with a thump in the arms of a tall, bearded fisherman. The other merchants cheer. The crowd cheers. People snap pictures. Another group rushes toward the commotion, laughing. It’s a normal day at Pike Place Market in Seattle.

Both a tourist destination and a local farmer’s market, Pike Place has been operating since 1907 and is a must-see spectacle if you’re ever visiting the Emerald City. Noisy, bustling and full of produce so fresh and delicious that you question if you’d ever really had an apple before, (Seriously. One bite and you’re ask yourself, “What the hell have I been eating?”) the market is more than just a foodie oasis—it’s a master class on marketing.

So what can the flying fish teach small businesses about how to get attention? A whole lot, actually.

Have a schtick.

Seattle is known for a few things: The Space Needle, natural beauty, the Seahawks and Pike Place Market. The latter is most famous for its merry band of cheeky fishmongers slinging Halibut through the air from booth to booth. They do it a bajillion times a day and people come out from all over to make a pilgrimage to see this very phenomenon. They’re KNOWN for it. You should be known for something, too. Find out what it is and yell about it to the rooftops—more on that in a minute.

Make a scene.

At nearly any place in or immediately outside of Pike Place you can hear the sound of people ordering fish. You can hear the fishermen chant and you can hear the crowd holler when someone either catches or, as happens sometimes, someone DOESN’T catch it. You know something worth looking at is happening and it draws you in. Your brand should do that too. Drum up some attention, make some noise and make people notice.

Offer people a taste.

You can’t walk four steps in the market without someone offering you a piece of apple. Or pear. Or a date. Or a piece of organic, fair trade, coconut-infused chocolate. They get their product in people’s hands and they’re hooked. When you’re thinking about your marketing think about this: How can you give your potential customers a little glimpse into what you offer? Once you figure that out, do it!

Throw the fish already.
Building suspense is cool, but so is showing your audience what they’re here for. People gather in crowds all day long to see the fish fly—so they let ‘em fly. Again and again. Show people why your brand is special, make them happy and keep them coming back for more.

Next time you’re looking for marketing inspiration, look no further than your local tourist attraction. Changes are, they’re doing it right.


About Author

For the past twelve years, Aimee Woodall has stretched the boundaries of non-traditional marketing and public relations strategies.   Aimee Woodall is the owner of the Black Sheep Agency, a Houston-based strategic brand shop specializing in cause-driven marketing, public relations, social media and community outreach. You can contact her at 832.971.7725 or email

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