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Guest column: 2020 brings Promotions, Partnerships and Protection

The Maine lobster marketing program positively influences perceptions of our product and fishery in the face of many threats to success and matters outside our control. It provides a unified voice on key issues and identifies and trains spokespeople to present industry perspectives in the media. It develops goodwill and loyalty among target customers by educating them on sustainability, fishing heritage and quality handling practices. In 2020, the MLMC will work to “premiumize” Maine lobster – ensuring that everyone knows that Maine lobster is the best-tasting, highest-quality and most sustainable seafood available. We talk about Maine lobster based on attributes that motivate customers: Maine origin, sweet flavor and seasonality. We will continue a “push and pull” strategy, targeting customers throughout the supply chain, from wholesalers, distributors and restaurants to grocery chains and consumers, with the aim of getting more people to ask for and buy Maine lobster. Our geographic target is the United States, a market with strong growth potential.

Marianne Lacroix

Marianne Lacroix is the executive director of the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative.

This year, we’ve organized our marketing program into three easy-to-remember categories – Promotions, Partnerships and Protection. Most of our activities fall under the umbrella of promotions. This year the MLMC is assembling an advisory council composed of experts in our target segments who will provide information on how to better market and sell Maine lobster. In March we will convene a panel of advisory council members at the Seafood Expo in Boston and produce a take-away piece that includes trend data for use by dealers and customers. As part of our promotional efforts, the MLMC is targeting wholesale customers to better educate them on our product through recipes, photos, videos and fact sheets. We are also expanding the webinar series started last year, using expert panels on different topics to inform wholesale and foodservice customers on topics including sustainability, best handling practices and new processing techniques. Our robust digital advertising program allows us to laser-target key groups with relevant messages that move them from awareness to purchase. Consumers and chefs remain an important target market because their enthusiasm for Maine lobster helps to propel it through the supply chain. Social media is a great tool for reaching this target group, in addition to public relations and proactive media outreach that helps to share our story with the public. Throughout the year our public relations team pitches positive stories about Maine lobster and plans activities designed to create media buzz at key points during the season. Partnerships are a new category for Maine lobster marketing in 2020. The goal is to drive “premiumization” and sales by partnering with a restaurant group, a grocery chain and a wholesaler to promote and sell Maine lobster. Each of the promotions will run sometime during peak harvest season and will promote key product attributes. Brand protection has always been part of the MLMC marketing program, but it was kicked into high gear in 2019 when new regulations were proposed to protect right whales. We have planned for another year of brand protection measures in 2020 to ensure the continued strong brand image of Maine lobster and Maine lobstermen. We will continue to share lobstermen’s perspectives on different issues, focusing on audiences who buy and sell our product and believe in the brand. We work closely with industry representatives to design plans that offset any potential negative coverage or conversation about Maine lobster through key messaging, spokespeople training, videos, and fact sheets. We are also diligent in monitoring the media and social conversations on issues that threaten the Maine lobster brand to ensure our response is proportionate.

This year the MLMC will continue its efforts to promote Maine lobster , build awareness of Maine lobster’s special qualities, and emphasize the fishery’s sustainability practices. MLMC photo.

The MLMC is continually looking at new ways to measure the impact of the marketing program. Historically, we have looked at traditional marketing metrics such as media impressions and website visits which are important to ensure that we are spreading broad awareness of our product. Over the past two years we’ve enhanced our measurement program to zero in on additional metrics that are more meaningful for lobstermen and dealers. In 2019, we began measuring our target audience’s understanding and purchase intent as well as awareness of Maine lobster. At the awareness level, there are media and advertising impressions. At the consideration level, we look at visits to specific sections of our website such as the content hub and buyer’s guide. At the action level, we look at those activities that indicate intent to purchase, including surveys, content downloads, and clicks to our dealer pages. The MLMC is committed to refining our measurement approach to make it as meaningful as possible to the industry. Our three core marketing initiatives — Promotion, Partnerships and Protection — provide a platform of marketing support for the industry in the coming year. With this plan, we will be able to maximize positive coverage and minimize the impact of narratives that can harm the reputation of our industry.

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