Listening: an essential first step

Talking to industry members about what they want from a seafood marketing program is a vital part of ensuring it delivers

By Peter Horvat

The FRDC is bringing together the expertise of some senior and respected seafood industry members in a Marketing Function Advisory Committee and engaging communications specialists to develop a marketing program for the seafood industry to consider.

The first meeting of the FRDC’s Marketing Function Advisory Committee was held in Sydney on 17 September 2014. Committee chair Brett McCallum opened the day noting that the aim of the meeting was to allow the FRDC to hear views and obtain feedback from committee members on its proposed marketing engagement.

This would help the FRDC to confirm whether it was heading in the right direction and to make changes to its approach if needed, before asking the wider industry for feedback.

“Industry asked government for the FRDC to include marketing activities,” says Brett McCallum. This resulted in the FRDC’s exploration of marketing.

The FRDC communications, trade and marketing manager, Peter Horvat, provided context for the discussion, touching on some of the most significant seafood marketing events of the past 20 years.

The background to collective approaches to seafood marketing in Australia has not always been a smooth path and the committee noted the seafood industry has a long memory.

The basic approach the FRDC is taking is to listen to industry and to find out what industry wants to achieve at both an individual business level and for the seafood industry as a whole.

The committee looked at what industry does in marketing now and what activities need to be undertaken in the future to achieve results across a arrange of “key marketing themes” – seafood trade, education, seafood markets, promotion, quality and seafood safety.

The goal was to find out if these categories were easily understood, if they accurately represented what industry was doing, whether other key areas were missing, and if these would be priorities for the future.

The results indicated the initial approach needed some refinement as some themes meant different things to different people. As a result the themes were refined as follows.

  • Market and consumer research
    … is about having the knowledge and understanding of what your customers like or do not like. It is about knowing how they want your product to be available. This category should be one of the most important of all marketing areas because it will mean you can better target what you do and ensure you get the result you are after.
  • Image of seafood industry (not product)
    … is about you the fisher, you the industry and not what you sell. It is about how the community sees your activities and values you
    as a fisher or fish farmer.
  • International trade
    … is about undertaking activities in overseas markets – China and Japan for example.

Note this area will not be a category for all industry sectors.

  • Retail (point of sale)
    … is about how your brand or product is seen at the point of sale. This includes information supplied to the retailer, in-store packaging and demonstrations, window dressings and in-store promotional activities. This category should apply to anyone who has seafood that ends up
    in a retail shop.
  • Advertising
    … is about the sales pitch. It is how you communicate with the consumer. It includes television, radio and print advertising, magazine articles about your product or company, public relations activities, celebrity endorsements, product and company placement on menus. This category is broad and will apply to most companies selling seafood.
  • Education (learning about seafood)
    … is about helping customers and chefs understand your product: what it is, where it comes from, and how to prepare and cook it.
  • Quality standards
    … is about ensuring your product or brand has a baseline that every customer knows they will receive each and every time they purchase it. It is a combination of research (getting the quality), guidelines and marketing, which informs customers what they should
    expect every time.  
  • Seafood safety
    … is like quality: it underpins both your product and brand. It is something that every customer expects and demands that you are able to show. It is a combination of research (ensuring good monitoring, processes and practices) and marketing telling customers what to expect as well as when and why a product is not available.

Key take-home messages from the first meeting of the committee included the following.

  • Language – simple language was very important. Poorly chosen words could bring the process undone. For example, the committee understood what the term ‘engagement’ means, but were not sure it would be clear to everyone. They suggested using simpler terms like ‘listening’.
  • A lot of fishers across the country are doing it tough.
  • There is a need for a clear definition so everyone is clear about what a marketing activity is and what it is not.
  • There is a lot of entrenched industry scepticism. The FRDC needs to allow time to work through the issues with industry. Target audience – recent research by the FRDC indicates there are nationally about 14,000 to 15,000 commercial fishing licences, which are owned by about 6500 entities (people and companies).

The FRDC needs to prioritise who it speaks with, but also allow everyone the opportunity to have a say.

At the first meeting of the committee members were keen to assist the FRDC initiate the listening process with industry about a marketing function and hopefully see a program that brings industry together.

However, they also made it clear that the FRDC process needed to be well considered and transparent. 

Next steps: feedback

The FRDC wants to know what is good and what is bad. We want to hear your thoughts. Email us, phone us or visit the new FRDC marketing function website.

It is a place where everyone can come together to share ideas and thoughts.

More information

Peter Horvat, 02 6285 0400