We’ve written about strategies to sell more season passes for attractions before.  There is a lot of crossover between aquariums and other attractions but loyalty marketing for aquariums is unique.  We spoke with one of America’s largest aquariums about customer retention and messaging.  Here’s what we learned:

Ever wonder what the top of an aquarium looks like?

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An Approach to Loyalty Marketing for Aquariums


First of all, aquariums have live animals which makes messaging trickier.  The industry has experienced some public backlash in the wake of the documentary Blackfish.  As a result, more aquariums are moving towards research, education and conservation.  Fewer aquariums are doing interactive “shows” and instead offering learning presentations.  We were advised that there’s a list of “bad words” that aquariums should avoid – words that give the animals human emotion or negatively portray the living conditions are on the list.


Knowing who you’re communicating with is key.  Aquariums offer learning opportunities for children, a new experience for tourists, a stroller-friendly outing for a stay-at-home mom and much more.  Is your aquarium a great date night destination?  Are there creative ways to get millennials engaged in your new exhibit?  A greater understanding of your customer helps you know what they want and opens up new marketing possibilities.

 Retention Ideas

Depending on whether your aquarium is for profit or not changes what you offer.  Generally speaking, information is gold.  The deeper the relationship with the customer or donor, the more access you should give them.  That means high value customers learn about new animals first.  They may even get a chance to name the animal or see them before the public.  Here are some other ideas for events to keep customers coming back.

  • Annual donor (or member) black tie event
  • Free entry for friends and family
  • Sleep over at the aquarium event
  • Breakfast events with veterinarians
  • Adopt an animal program with email updates and plush doll
  • Animal naming contests
  • Have a dedicated retention team that calls renewals

Did we mention information being gold?

This may be the most difficult thing to execute because it requires constant updates from animal caretakers.  Nevertheless, it’s huge.  Like ~ beluga whale huge.  There’s a certain point after a few visits to the aquarium when a visitor feels like they’ve seen it all.  We need to give them the inside scoop on what’s happening behind the scenes: surgeries, animal rehab, or research.  Tell them how your aquarium helped the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service save animals lives.  Ask the head veterinarian to write blog posts telling us what’s going on the quarantine tanks.  Anything you can do to make people feel more included, give it a try.

Did we miss anything?  Let us know in the comment section below.