Guest Column: MLMC aims to inspire more home lobster cooks

We are well into peak lobster season in Maine, so it’s timely to share an update on the MLMC’s marketing activities and the pivots we’ve made due to the impacts of the pandemic. Our primary focus since March has been to make Maine Lobster more approachable for home cooks who represent the best opportunity for increasing demand. The campaign includes new recipes, how-to content, digital advertising to reach consumers and media stories focused on in-home prep and industry support.
Forbes reported that with the pandemic there has been a significant jump in social media use, particularly in certain categories. Cooking conversation, for example, saw an increase of 110% as people were suddenly faced with the prospect of preparing every meal at home.

When promoting a food product, it helps to work with people and organizations that set food trends and influence food purchases. Over the past few years as we targeted foodservice operators, we focused on prominent and rising chefs who other chefs looked to for inspiration. When the pandemic hit, we knew that we needed to work with those who influence consumers.
First, we developed a library of content that would inspire people who usually enjoy seafood in a restaurant to prepare it at home. We turned to food social media influencers — who serve as trusted third party advocates — to reach consumers looking for recipes and inspiration around what to prepare at home.

We tapped five food influencers to develop recipes that would appeal to novice home cooks with ingredients that would be readily available in a pandemic pantry. They created 19 recipes complete with photos and videos designed for social media sharing. We also used the content to populate a Resources for the Home Cook section of our website with everything people need to prepare lobster at home. We then used paid advertising to specifically target interested consumers to visit our site for relevant information and to find a supplier to purchase product from.
In addition to influencer channels, we focused on Pinterest as a key component of the program — the top channel for consumers seeking our new products and recipe inspiration. Our recipe pins for Summer Cookout, Pasta Dishes and Comfort Foods were particularly popular, driving a 60% higher than average click through rate compared to industry benchmarks.
Digital advertising has also played a big role in the marketing program this year because it allows us to strategically target consumers that are likely to buy seafood. The Maine Lobster digital campaign included display advertising on relevant media sites such as Cooking Light, Real Simple and Delish where consumers are already seeking culinary inspiration. The display campaign reached over 4.2 million people with an interest in lobster or seafood. Between Pinterest and display advertising, the Home Cooks campaign resulted in over 10 million media impressions.
In addition to advertising, the MLMC works to have a continual stream of positive press (“earned media”) about Maine Lobster generated by pitching stories to target media outlets. In the spring, we adjusted our focus to outlets we knew our target consumers were reading. During the summer we highlighted the importance of supporting the industry through the purchase and consumption of Maine lobster and emphasized the options for preparing Maine lobster at home. In May through July this year, we secured 32 articles in media outlets such as Food & Wine, Real Simple, Forbes and Thrillist resulting in over 436 million total impressions. 
We also took advantage of opportunities as they arise. We recently learned through a partnership with a hotel group in Kennebunkport that Queer Eye’s Antoni Porowski was planning a visit to Maine. We arranged for him to go out on a lobster boat and enjoy a lobster roll at a local restaurant, all of which he captured and shared on his social channels. We photographed his activities and posted them on our social media channels, in addition to sharing them with relevant media outlets including E! News! and Boston.com.

This resulted in over 15 million media impressions, many of which included messaging about eating Maine lobster.

Marianne Lacroix
Marianne Lacroix is the executive director of the MLMC.

As the industry faces unprecedented challenges this year, it’s important to remember that marketing can be nimble and adjust to the realities of the environment. In less than a month we were able to refine our plan to ensure we were reaching millions of consumers with our messaging, and encouraging continued purchase of Maine lobster. Our efforts provide a foundation of goodwill and loyalty that maintains the brand integrity of Maine lobster, helping the industry to weather these challenging times.

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