Guest Column: Marketing strategy, 2020 activities evolving

As the lobster industry’s marketing arm, the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative (MLMC) enjoys the power of representing a strong and beloved brand. But we also have to address the same challenges that face all sectors of the industry. This year, in addition to running promotional programs for Maine lobster, we have become immersed in communications related to North Atlantic right whale regulations, tariffs and climate change. Over the summer, the MLMC took the opportunity to evaluate its strategic direction while conducting a comprehensive organizational review. This fall we will plan for 2020, taking into account industry input as well as factors such as customer needs, changes in lobster landings and potential new regulations concerning right whales.

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

Protecting the Maine lobster brand
Maine lobstermen know that the ocean supports their livelihood, their families and their communities. As stewards of the marine environment, Maine lobstermen work hard to protect marine mammals and their ocean habitat. MLMC’s role is to protect Maine lobster’s brand image by sharing that message of conservation and responsible stewardship. It’s important for us to make sure that people who buy and eat Maine lobster understand that our lobster harvesters are defenders of the environment, not the enemy. The MLMC has published videos, fact sheets, and answers to frequently asked questions, as well as highlighted select media coverage and noted important dates at our content hub, located at www.rightwhalesandmainelobster.com. If someone wants to learn the facts about the Maine lobster industry’s role in right whale protections, this is the place to look. We will continue to share information to help educate people on all of the great work that has been done and continues to be done by Maine lobstermen.
Expanding the target audience
For the past five years, the MLMC has focused marketing efforts on a target audience of media, chefs and consumers. This year, we continued to reach those audience groups while evolving the marketing program to include a new target audience. Recognizing the importance of the supply chain in bringing Maine lobster to customers, we developed communications tools specifically targeting this group, including product photography, fact sheets and editorial content. We have been sharing the materials with the target group through webinars, podcasts and a robust digital advertising program, as well as making them available to dealers. People in this target group can see web advertisements and search results designed to support the messaging behind Maine lobster.
Evolving the marketing strategy
While I have over twenty years of experience in food marketing, I have never had a leadership opportunity to work with a product as integral to its community as Maine lobster. When the Board selected me as executive director several months ago, I wanted to make certain that MLMC was pursuing the best possible strategy to create strong and sustained demand to help us weather challenges such as assaults on our brand or the unexpected closure of key markets. Following an extensive review of twenty marketing agencies with specialized food expertise, we decided to adjust Maine lobster’s strategic campaign direction.
As part of the agency review process, we took the opportunity to assess acceptance and recognition of “Maine New Shell” branding. MLMC is moving forward with an evolved strategy that focuses on the key product benefits of sweet flavor, sustainable sourcing and Maine origin. We are confident that this shift will help us address industry priorities in a refreshed way. The MLMC will continue to work with global communications firm Weber Shandwick, adopting their recommended strategy evolution and elevating the benefits of Maine lobster through an integrated marketing campaign of public relations, digital marketing, social media, trade partnerships and issues management.
Planning for the year ahead
This fall, the MLMC is developing its marketing plan for 2020, taking into consideration the needs of our audience groups and the challenges and opportunities within our industry. We will be seeking input from industry members and look forward to developing a program that increases demand for Maine lobster to the benefit of all industry members.