Brand Recovery Series

Consider the Humble Sardine – a Tale of Brand Recovery

I am sure the last few weeks have tested all of our business and leadership skills beyond what we thought possible. However, even while we are dealing with the challenges of today it is imperative that we turn our attention and energy on exploring and developing Brand Recovery strategies that are in the can. In many cases this will take a great deal of “thinking out of the box” or in the tin as I recently discovered on my trip to Portugal. (before Covid-19).

A whopper of a fish tale

When I travelled to Portugal, I had expected to be enchanted by the beautiful tilework, architecture and abundant seafood but I certainly did not expect to be dazzled by sardines.

I am not a fan of sardines but I ended up returning to Canada with a suitcase filled with cans of the fishy as well as chocolate variety of sardines. How did this happen?

A truly outstanding & innovative marketing hook

On my first day in Lisbon I discovered outrageous and entertaining shops totally dedicated to the sale of the humble sardine. As if channeling a combination of Willy Wonka from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Fred and George’s shop of tricks from Harry Potter, these tourist memorabilia stores were a dazzling array of canned sardines, complete with over-the-top displays, and, in some cases, a live pipe organ (Porto, Lisbon). The ingenuity and creativity displayed by this tourist gift-genius was literally jaw-dropping.

No longer was the sardine simply a fish to slap on your toast with your morning cuppa. These sardines had become memorable and exciting! I could, for example, purchase a personalized tin with my (or nearly anyone else’s name) on it! THESE sardines were now something different and innovative. And, at 7 Euro per tin, something that I was willing and excited to purchase for friends and family back home!

“a clever marketing ploy – that caught me hook, line and sinker.”

Ironically, they were the exact same sardines I could buy off the grocery shelf for significantly less. The branding and buying experience made all the difference! The memorabilia branding was a simple paper label slipped under the ring tag at the top of each tin. Nothing more. So why was I, experienced savvy marketer, so excited by them? Because rarely these days do you see such innovative ideas in marketing executed so passionately, so perfectly, and so pervasively.

And that is the marketer’s challenge

How do you take a product or service that seems common or even ho-hum, and elevate it? How do you engage your target audience so that they are excited by what you have to offer? How do you create that unique selling proposition (USP) that sets you apart from everyone else?

There isn’t a simple answer. And the truth is that there isn’t a simple process but this is exactly what is required as we look forward to planning our Brand Recovery strategies.

But the real lesson to learn from the lowly sardine is this: if you don’t look for creative and innovative ideas outside of the ordinary, then nothing extraordinary will happen.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the incredible elevation of the lowly sardine.