Quality and its role

Quality is an area every producer should be clearly focused on. It is about ensuring your product/brand has a baseline that every customer knows they will receive each and every time they purchase it. It is a combination of research (how to get the quality) and marketing (telling customers what they should expect every time).

Imagine if every time you bought a carton of milk, one in five was not good. That would not be acceptable from a consumer's point of view. Producers of seafood should strive to ensure that every seafood meal is the best it can be.

From a marketing perspective this is very important. It allows you to use these credentials as a way of justifying prices or to reinforce a brand image – think about the image of Rolls Royce, it is all about quality. There are some excellent examples of where industry has established quality standards and that has great potential to create positive news for the industry. The seafood industry can tell the story of how it looks after its product through referring to its standards (ISO, HACCP, Quality Index) and management systems and practices.

When we refer to the quality of the industry, we are not just talking about the quality of the product, the term also refers to the process used through the supply chain – the quality of the equipment used from the nets to the point of sale in the store - quality forms a core part of the industry's appeal.

Considerations discussed

Given the quality of the industry's processes is as important as the product, how then could a marketing function provide any additional benefit to the industry in this area?

The FRDC gathered the industry's thoughts on how 'quality' could be conveyed to stakeholders and whether a marketing function would be of any value to this process.

Some of the questions asked were:

  • Could a marketing initiative focusing on quality provide any benefit to the industry as a whole?
  • Could it be targeted at specific sectors? If so, why?
  • Could it also align with other aspects of the industry such as improving perceptions, strengthening international trade.

Comments

These were some of the comments that emerged during the consultation.

John Susman
Submitted by John Susman on Fri, 2014-11-14 16:38
Definable standards should be applied to ensure compliance achievement of the quality standard
John Susman
Submitted by John Susman on Fri, 2014-11-14 16:38
A quality marque could be funded by a levy for use of the marque.

Peter Horvat
Submitted by Peter Horvat on Tue, 2014-11-18 15:27 

How do we measure quality? Who will measure quality?

Anthony Mercer
Submitted by Anthony Mercer on Tue, 2014-11-18 16:39
We can only grade quality, consumers will be the final measure. Will they pay more for local seafood?
Ben Hale
Submitted by Ben Hale on Thu, 2014-12-04 16:25

I consider quality the "Price of Entry" - that it's essential, should be an undending and core process all the way through the supply chain and is key to a positive experience for the consumer.

But quality should not be "marketed" - it needs to be experienced.

By that I mean that marketing can only get people to try a product once. It is the consumer's experience after that, that will shape their opinion of the product or brand and the marketing is over. Quality provides that experience, that's why it's crucial, but it should not be the focus of marketing. Actual experience with good quality reinforces and helps the brand, every negative experience (and it only has to be once) is someone you've probably lost forever, and no amount of marketing, badges, seals or logos will overcome that personal experience.

So to "market" quality can set you up for failure if the experience doesn't match. If you are marketing quality, you need to be in control of the experience too. That's OK for individual products or companies committed to excellence, not so easy sector or industry-wide.

"Quallity" on it's own is also very abstract. It's usually something else that gives the impression of quality anyway - provenance, for example - clean waters, unexplored frontiers, pure environment. A feeling of quality should be the result of communications, but not the overt focus.

Rolls Royce don't have a "Rolls Royce Quality Stamp", their product is the quality. What sells them is a wide range of emotional appeals about achievement, association with the priveleged, belonging to an exclusive club etc. Then you see Hyundai plaster a bunch of Canstar Blue logos all over their advertising and have you ever come away thinking "wow, Hyundai really is quality".

The problem with a quality standard stamp or logo is twofold. First - you have to spend as much to market what the seal or standard means as you do marketing the product. And you need to uphold and keep the sanctity and credibility of that mark. That's fine if you have the millions to do it, but why not focus on delivering actual quality and then promote through a vast choice of emotional or rational appeals that communicate quality anyway - provenance, sustainability, heritage, health,.. whatever you chose, because all those things contribute to the subjective perception of "quality" anyway. That way, you're delivering a consistent experience because you are operationally focussed on quality, you're marketing your product well because you don't have to build two brands AND, you're not setting up expectations that are fine when met, but disastrous when not.

The other problem with a quality standard logo or brandmark is that you cannot award it to yourself. There's an entire infrastructure that's needed to ensure something like that is credible. Fine if it's an initiative that comes from elswhere and is already funded, but if you're in charge of a marketing budget, it's better spent on marketing. Tying your fortunes to a third party or hanging your main marketing thrust on it increases risk - that you frankly don't need to take. (Sustainability is a different argument in my opinion - as it's a lot less abstract than "quality")

So rather than tell people to expect quality, deliver quality - and let people experience that post purchase. Pre purchase, enchant them with the romance, purity, sustainability, aspirations, provenance, or any number of very powerful emotional appeals - and you won't risk breaking a promise to them.

Where a quality mark does come in handy is shorthand for people who aren't confident or knowledgable about the product - it does give them some surety. Perhaps it's something to consider further down the track, but there are so many amazing and powerful emotional appeals about Australian Seafood to consider first. I'd rather see a commitment to actual quality done quietly than a commitment to a symbol of quality shouted loudly.

So quality is something that is experienced, not sold. If you focus all your efforts on providing that experience, you're winning. If your marketing then uses powerful, emotive aspirational reasons to connect with and trust the product then you're going to have to find large hessian sacks to take home all the money you will make as a result.