As we approach the end of 2020, a year most of us are glad to see go, it’s a good time to review the results of the Maine lobster marketing program.
As background, the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative (MLMC) has a mandate to promote and actively market Maine lobster, identifying marketing areas that will provide the greatest return on investment. A board of directors, nominated by industry and appointed by the Department of Marine Resources Commissioner, oversees the MLMC. The program is funded by license assessments totaling just under $2 million per year.
Over the seven years since the Collaborative was formed, the marketing program has targeted all levels of the supply chain, from wholesale buyers to chefs to consumers. We have focused on the key messages of our lobster’s sweet flavor, Maine origin and new-shell seasonality.
From our measurement metrics, we know that we have generated considerable awareness of Maine lobster, increased understanding of our key messages and driven potential customers to take actions toward purchasing Maine lobster. As importantly, we also provide one big voice for Maine lobster in an industry made up of thousands of individuals and small businesses. This can be important both in promoting and protecting the reputation of Maine lobster.
At the broadest end of the measurement spectrum, we look at basic marketing metrics that show if we’re creating more awareness of Maine lobster. Our marketing program generated over 9 billion media impressions, reaching the same number of people as if we had run 81 Super Bowl ads. Our program actually was more efficient at reaching our target audience, since Super Bowl ads would have cost about $41 million to run.
Measurement tools also evaluate how well our target audience understands Maine lobster and our key marketing messages. To measure this, we look at the 3 million people who visited our website to view recipes, ‘how to’ videos, fact sheets or other industry data. Another good indicator is that 348,000 people visited the “buyer lobster” section of our website to get information on suppliers.
Most importantly, we see whether people took any action towards buying Maine lobster. Since the Collaborative represents over 5,000 individual fishermen, dealers and processors, we aren’t able to link marketing directly to sales, as you would with a private company. However, we do know that wholesale buyers are 43% more likely to buy Maine lobster after seeing our ads. This number is significant since we have reached 83% of the U.S. wholesale seafood industry with our ad campaign.
Measuring consumer demand, we have found 580,000 consumers are more likely to buy Maine lobster after seeing our ad campaign in 2020 alone. We also know that we drove over 100,000 potential customers directly to websites for Maine lobster dealers.
Reputation management for the Maine lobster brand is a key part of our program but one that is difficult to measure. Success can be preventing a damaging story from being published or turning a potentially negative storyline into one that is more beneficial to the brand. In 2020, the issue on everyone’s mind is right whales. The Collaborative has produced videos, social media content and fact sheets that educate people on the good work done by the lobster fishery to protect right whales over the years. We also surveyed consumers to see if there are any concerns about purchasing Maine lobster because of the issue. Fortunately, Maine lobster purchases have not been affected even among those who are aware of the issue. We will continue to monitor consumer sentiments and scale our outreach accordingly, providing key messages to the right audience at the right time.
As we plan for 2021, we know we’re facing another year filled with changes and uncertainty. Our Board of Directors is working with advisory councils and industry groups to make sure that the Maine lobster marketing program will support and enhance industry priorities. We will share a full marketing plan for 2021 in the new year, and we are excited about some new opportunities.
In our efforts to drive awareness, understanding and action around Maine lobster, we are looking at creating new products with Maine lobster that can be marketed to food manufacturers, driving demand through grocery store promotions, gaining a better understanding of consumer opportunities through research and playing a larger role in maintaining sustainability certifications that are critical to retail sales worldwide.