National seafood branding: Do we need it?
Should Australian seafood have a common national brand to promote its products in international and domestic markets?
By Peter Horvat
The idea for an Australian seafood brand has been floating around the industry for a long time. There have been trials, meetings, research and agencies engaged to come up with a solution. As part of the FRDC’s engagement and discussion about marketing with the seafood industry, the suggestion has again been raised.
Most other primary producers – beef, dairy, fruit and vegetables – are also considering the same idea. The summer 2014 edition of the Australian Farm Institute’s Farm Policy Journal explores the question with six in-depth articles.
It was the topic of the institute’s 2014 John Ralph Essay Competition: ‘Does the Australian agriculture sector need a common national brand to promote its products in international and domestic markets?’
The articles cover the opportunities and risks of a collective brand. Opportunities highlighted are: increased consumer awareness, working collaboratively and reduced costs. The winning entry suggested producers should build on the Tourism Australia campaign branding products as Restaurant Australia “Ready”.
However, the articles also cover several of the risks associated with developing an all-Australian brand.These include not properly planning or testing the strategy behind the brand resulting in poor execution, the failure of one “master brand” (see Brand Architecture) to meet the needs of all producers, and reduced awareness or cannibalisation of individual company brands.
Most significantly, if there is no quality control to ensure that products meet the brand expectations, it could result in damage or a reduction in perception of Australian produce.
What is a brand?
A brand is the non-generic name for a product or service; however, marketing specialist David Ogilvy described brands as “the intangible sum of a product’s attributes”.
So a brand is much more than a set of basic attributes such as name, function, design or size. It extends and combines with expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose that brand over another.
Companies and marketing teams know that a brand can be used to create a specific value perception in customers’ minds concerning the qualities and attributes of each non-generic product or service. For example, when consumers think of Rolls-Royce motor vehicles or French Champagne they get the perception the products are more luxurious.
This has been created through the strategic use of marketing – product, price, place and promotion – to convince consumers of its luxury category. If all aspects of the marketing mix are not aligned, it can devalue the brand.
How would Australian seafood be perceived by consumers? What would its brand signature be: luxury or commodity? Some sectors, such as pearls, wild abalone and rocklobster, are clearly working towards the luxury market.
Figure 1 shows how brands can be built or used in different ways to provide an overarching message that: draws products together (master brand); uses existing brands to endorse or support another brand (endorsed brand); tells a story about where a product is from (regional brands); or distinguishes one company brand from another (individual brands).
Why brand Australian seafood?
The findings of consumer research funded by the FRDC and the Australian Seafood Cooperative Research Centre show that Australian consumers want to buy Australian, with 90 per cent of Australians more likely to buy food products labelled “made in Australia”.
But the reality is that consumers cannot readily identify where the seafood they buy is sourced. Both consumer and industry groups reinforced this point in submissions to the recent Senate Standing Committees on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Inquiry into the current requirements for labelling of seafood and seafood products.
There is a clear opportunity for industry to brand its seafood as Australian, but does this require a new brand?
One option is to adopt the existing ‘Australian Made’ logo, launched in 1986. The logo was renamed the ‘Australian Made, Australian Grown’ logo in 2007 when the Australian Government decided to use it as the centrepiece of its new food-labelling initiative, ‘Australian Grown’.
In 2011, driven largely by Seafood Services Australia, ‘Australian Seafood’ was allowed as a descriptor for use with the logo.
The campaign already has strong support from industry, government and consumers, with significant retail partners including Australia’s two largest supermarket chains, Woolworths and Coles.
The logo is now used by more than 1900 businesses on more than 10,000 products sold in Australia and export markets around the world.
For further information visit the Australian Made website (www.australianmade.com.au).
Australian seafood branding
Seafood branding in Australia has historically been the domain of packaged and processed seafood – tinned or frozen.
The Simplot Australia brand John West, for example, has been a fixture in Australia homes for the best part of 50 years and today is still one of the best-known food brands.
But branding is increasingly being taken on by other businesses with direct links to their fisheries.
Austral Fisheries – Glacier 51 and Skull Island (endorsed branding)
On the Austral Fisheries website (www.australfisheries.com.au), CEO David Carter puts forward the company basis for operating: “Our Business Statement is simple: Austral Fisheries catches and sources sustainable, quality seafood”. This simple statement underpins the company brand and gives a clear indication to consumers that the company is focused on producing high-quality seafood while being environmentally responsible.
This underlying thread – quality and sustainability – has been rolled out in its two signature brands: Glacier 51 Toothfish, and the recently launched Skull Island Tiger Prawns. Both products are endorsed with the Marine Stewardship Council blue tick, and use all aspects of the marketing mix to clearly position the products as being high quality.
Sustainable Barramundi (endorsed branding)
The Australian Barramundi Farmers Association (ABFA) is focused on ensuring consumers can readily identify the product of its members as Australian. In its submission to the Senate inquiry on seafood labelling, the ABFA identifies itself as an advocate for increasing seafood consumption in Australia and truth in labelling.
It is keen to ensure there is effective labelling so that consumers, including diners in any venue, can make informed decisions regarding their meal choices.
Linked to this is the ABFA’s proactive marketing strategy, developing a Sustainably Farmed Barramundi Certification Program and brand, to assure consumers of the origin and sustainability of the produce, via clear seafood labelling.
President of ABFA Marty Phillips says clear labelling and traceability of Australian Barramundi provides consumers with the information needed to confidently choose a sustainable Australian product.
“Certification is only awarded to those Australian producers who have gone through a stringent compliance exercise and been externally audited to gain accreditation in sustainability and food safety,” he says.
Love Australian Prawns
Prawn fishers and farmers have invested enormous amounts of effort and money to find, catch or grow the very best prawns they can. However, while Australian consumers love prawns, the product has not always received the attention it deserves.
Market research and basic economics show that competing (with other prawns and species) on price alone is a race to the bottom, where no-one wins. But if you can tell your story, appeal to emotions and not just wallets, then you give people a real reason to love Australian Prawns. And this is why the farmers and fishers have joined together to market their products and sell their industry.
The campaign is based on extensive research and professional insight into consumer behaviour. It is built around the single brand – two prawns forming a love heart, combined with the tagline ‘Love Australian Prawns’.
The Love Australian Prawns campaign started in 2013 (with year two underway) and was the first national campaign for an entire seafood category. Materials developed included merchandising kits containing posters, cabinet stickers, recipe and information leaflets and an A-frame.
There were also 800,000 recipe booklets provided to more than 825 Australian Woolworths supermarkets and 600,000 booklets provided to more than 370 independent seafood retailers.
Prawn fishers and farmers are now leading the way for the seafood industry with unified and professional marketing, and the rest of the seafood industry is watching.
What is your sector doing?
History of brands
The term ‘to brand ‘or ‘branding’ comes from the Old Norse “brandr”, which means ‘to burn’. This form of marking or identification was used for cattle, timber and crockery with the markings or symbols of the owner applied using a hot iron rod. The concept of branding was essentially to depict ownership, in particular of things that had value. This practice dates back several thousand years.
Branding evolved from a way of identifying ownership into a way to identify the creator of a product during the 1800s. Business success was based on ensuring their products were of good quality. For example, if you sold good coffee, whiskey or beer, people would come to your shop and buy it.
And as long as you made sure that your product quality was superior to the competition, you were set for success.
The shift from simple products to brands has not been sudden or inevitable. The next evolution in branding arose out of the standardisation of production in the the mid-20th century. This led to many similar products being on the market, which required companies to find new ways to differentiate themselves from their competitors.