Bristol Bay is home to the America’s largest sockeye run, but that doesn’t mean consumers know to ask for it by name. A project organized by the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association wants to change that, and make Bristol Bay sockeye as requested as Copper River reds.
The BBRSDA test project is looking at how to build a brand, starting in Boulder, Colorado, said Kate Consenstein, the marketing professional working on the brand.
“This project is a demonstration project, which means it has a very limited focus,” Consenstein said. “The project architects selected Boulder, Colorado as their target region. And Boulder is very interesting. It has a high number of affluent consumers, people that are very interested in their food, a lot of Boulder-ites consider themselves foodies, very health conscious, very active.”
Consenstein’s Juneau- and Anchorage- based firm Rising Tide Communications was chosen to help create the brand after BBRSDA solicited proposals from several firms both in Alaska and Outside. Consenstein said this first round effort will focus on figuring out what might work for a brand – or what might not.
“We have a really healthy evaluation component built in throughout. And the idea is, to be able to show, every link of our supply chain – retailer, processor, distributor – that when we put some effort into branding Bristol Bay sockeye, it impacts sales,” Consenstein said. “And that’s really hard to do when you’re working with a commodities brand, like Bristol Bay sockeye or Alaska seafood. When these brands are doing their work and they don’t actually have a product to measure the sales of, sometimes it can be hard to know how much you move the needle. In this case, we will be getting sales data. We will be able to point to our efforts and show which stores have the best results and which components they used. So the idea is that we’re doing a measuring project here in Boulder this summer that we’ll be able to replicate and expand around the country in the years to come.”
Building the brand is both an art and a science. Consenstein has done work for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, and she grew up in a fishing family, so she has a feel for the product. But, she said she started building the brand by going to the research and looking at what resonates with Americans about Alaskan salmon. Then, they developed a message and an audience to target.
“The message that we’re trying to send for this campaign is one that layers in both our taste and flavor messaging with the encapsulation of what an incredible place Bristol Bay is, what an amazing and enduring and sustainable fishery it is, and how we’d like to capture Americans imaginations about the lifestyle and the fishermen that are working so hard to capture the fish,” Consenstein said. “So we’re calling it wild taste, amazing place.”
Consenstein said the project will focus on consumers who are interested in knowing where their food is coming from – and the stories of the harvesters, communities, heritage and legacy behind the meal.
“Our primary demographic is millennial-aged consumers,” Consenstein said.
And while millennial might bring to mind college kids eating ramen, Consenstein said it’s actually a group that includes today’s 35 year olds and are increasingly becoming parents.
“They’re interested in buying high quality products that have a good reputation, that are healthy, that are considered to be ecologically friendly,” Consenstein said. “So those are our primary demographics, and they have eclipsed the baby boomers earning power in 2015 and are now just a huge group of consumers that are more likely to be interested in knowing where their food comes from.”
The campaign is also meant to attract other consumer age groups along the way, she says.
In part because of the quirks of Boulder’s media landscape – it’s tied to Denver – the ad campaign will focus on digital media, which can be targeted to certain zip codes. That will launch in September, with a focus on moving refreshed fillets in grocery store seafood cases.
“So we’re driving people to the store with digital ads, we’re also doing a partnership with chef’s collaborative in Boulder,” Consenstein said. “With chefs collaborative we’ll be doing a seminar, teaching chefs about how and when to use Bristol Bay sockeye salmon. And then we’ll also have a public dinner, and the restaurants will be doing a Bristol Bay sockeye week later in the fall.”
Consenstein said the effort will also focus heavily on marketing right inside the grocery stores.
“We’re also planning an extensive retail training program, so that we’ll be using the staff behind the seafood counter as our best evangelists,” Consenstein said. “They’ll know more about Bristol Bay sockeye than anything else in the case. They’ll be wearing grundens aprons with our branding on them, and they’ll be seeing that marketing all over the store.”
That logo itself is still being finalized.
“It’s a little different than a traditional Alaska seafood logo, more modern looking,” Consenstein said. “But it definitely shows that fish.”