Seafood marketing: it's about the whole picture

Improving community perceptions and seafood prices is the aim of new research to make Australian fisheries and aquaculture more profitable

By Peter Horvat

Marketing to a consumer and selling at a premium price is very simple: if you have the right product, at the right price, available at the right location and you promote it to the right people. Unfortunately most fishers and companies in the seafood industry struggle to bring all of these elements together.

When it comes to improving business profitability there are two basic approaches: reduce the cost of production or harvesting; or increase the price paid for your product.

For more than 20 years the FRDC has invested in research to help fishers reduce costs or improve efficiency. This includes new processes or new materials and technologies, for example, new on-board freezers, improved animal health or more energy-efficient trawl gear.

When it comes to increasing prices, marketing is a key strategy. However, according to a recent industry survey, only 40 per cent of Australian fishers invest in marketing to increase prices.
It is not an easy task to increase demand and get consumers to pay more for your product.

The key is to change the value proposition for consumers. This means looking at the different elements of your product marketing strategy – place, product, price and promotion. These should all aim to position the product in a way that will deliver value to the consumer.

Knowing what a consumer wants may deliver some insight that could be easily translated into increased prices. For example, if quality is a key attribute for customers, then small improvements to handling on boat, when packing and when transporting could lead to better prices. The reality is that most people buy with their eyes, so if it looks good the odds are high you will get a better price.

Market research is essential to collect the data that can tell you whether your product provides what consumers want and where its potential is.

This includes:

  • consumer research – basic information that will help producers to understand what the customer wants and needs;
  • market and trade data – how much product is being sold, where and for how much. This can give producers a starting point for their marketing; and
  • supply data (production and sales volume) – know what is in the market and when. Too much of one product can reduce price.

There is a broad range of marketing activities that producers can use either individually or together. These include: consumer education, digital engagement (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter), trade shows and markets, public relations, advertising, and point-of-sale materials and promotions.

In discussing marketing, many people make television advertising a priority. While television is a powerful medium, it is expensive and should be used when costs can be justified because it meets a specific marketing need.

Marketing and advertising activities can take place at many different levels. There is a very specific company or product level (‘Eat Joe’s prawns’), which progressively broadens to sector (‘Eat prawns’) or regional campaigns (‘Eat Eyre Peninsula seafood’), and to very broad generic campaigns (‘Eat seafood’).

The costs and benefits of campaigns can change for individual producers depending on the level at which the campaign operates. Multiple campaigns can run concurrently without necessarily damaging each other, and can in fact complement each other. Efforts to promote Banana Prawns (product), would benefit from the ‘Love Australian Prawns’ campaign (sector) and also from an ‘Eat seafood’ campaign (generic).

National concept launch

The Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR) has recently undertaken market research to help the industry take its first steps towards a whole-of-category, industry-wide marketing initiative.

DAWR carried out the research under instruction from the Australian Government as part of work to develop an Australian fisheries communication strategy to increase the community’s confidence and pride in the Australian seafood industry.

According to findings from 27 focus groups, 20 in-depth industry interviews and a large online survey (1722 respondents), fishers and fisheries are low on the radar for many Australians.

The general Australian community knows little about the industry, what fishers do or who they are. Because of the low levels of recognition or understanding, the general Australian community can be more easily swayed by negative messages about fishers and fisheries.

It also means that fishers lack the same cultural connection that Australians have with land-based farmers.

The good news is that seafood consumers and the community do not hold negative views about the seafood industry and that it would not take too much to build a sense of pride and a cultural connection with the seafood industry to create a positive image.

Images tell the story

The market research led to the development of a creative marketing concept and communication strategy, and discussions with industry are continuing about how to make use of the concept and strategy.

Speaking at the national Seafood Directions conference in Perth in October 2015, Senator Anne Ruston, the minister responsible for fisheries, said the market research was initiated 18 months ago.
Senator Ruston said her predecessor Senator Richard Colbeck had run a consultative process involving industry roundtables, market research interviews and face-to-face meetings with a cross-section of industry members. This process highlighted the need for a tangible marketing concept and communication strategy that could be used by all industry sectors.

The objective of the marketing concept and strategy is to increase the community’s confidence and pride in the Australian seafood industry.

It presents a recognisable image for the industry that:

  • recognises that Australian seafood is among the best in the world;
  • recognises that Australia’s seafood and fishing industries care about the health and sustainability of the oceans and their marine life;
  • focuses on the people within the industry and their stories; and
  • creates an appeal and desire for seafood.

The visual concept developed embraces people working within the industry and profiles industry members around Australia. It demonstrates how generations of families have proudly devoted their lives to creating a sustainable Australian fishing industry and are undoubtedly producing some of the highest-quality seafood in the world.

Visually, the campaign aims to be simple and fresh. It uses simple, clear photography and quotes from the featured fishers. The creative concept allows the people to speak for themselves. Each poster also includes a ‘taste appeal’ shot, further strengthening the message that high-quality Australian seafood is produced by those most passionate about it, for the enjoyment of all Australians.

A key to the strategy is showcasing real people who genuinely feel proud to deliver the seafood Australians see on their plates every day.

Does the message work?

The creative messages were devised from a solid understanding of what consumers want to know and what will influence them.

The initial research discovered that consumers want to know that the marine environment is in safe hands. They are also open to feeling pride about Australia’s oceans, marine life and associated seafood products.

Market testing of the campaign concepts with consumers provided strong evidence that it would be effective to in creating positive community perceptions about fishers.

What happens now?

The development phase has been now completed by DAWR. Following the release of the concept by Senator Ruston at Seafood Directions, a group of industry representatives are examining how they might take the campaign forward.

The government still has a role – to implement the government stream of the communication strategy, which focuses on communicating clear messages about science, management and compliance.
The foundations have been laid for the concept to turn into a very powerful campaign and be effective in building an identity for the seafood industry that Australians will love.

The marketing framework- Getting the whole picture

Characteristics of marketing campaigns operating at different levels

Company / brand / product
Characterised by:

  • Very targeted – eat “my” prawns
  • Direct cost to business
  • Higher attribution of results (more than 95 per cent)
  • Results easy to measure
  • Greater control and ownership
  • More individual risk

Sector / species level
Characterised by:

  • More generic – eat prawns, seafood from
    Eyre Peninsula
  • Less direct cost
  • Results spread across group
  • Results harder to measure
  • Governance and control shared
  • Less risk
  • Can achieve more than an individual

Generic / whole of category
Characterised by:

  • All industry – eat seafood, or know industry
  • Minimal individual cost
  • Results spread across “all” industry
  • Results very hard to measure
  • Governance and control is shared and more difficult
  • Broader targets
  • Higher level message
  • Greater coverage
  • Can do more than an individual or sector

More information

Peter Horvat, FRDC, 02 6285 0414,