Canned-tuna campaign paying off

Published on
June 22, 2011

Just six months into a national marketing campaign, canned tuna unit sales in the United States are on the rise, along with an increase in consumer perception that tuna is a healthy food.

In January, the National Fisheries Institute’s (NFI) Tuna Council launched the multi-million dollar advertising and branding campaign called “Tuna the Wonderfish.” 

The multi-pronged campaign includes national TV ads, which will run throughout this year, about the versatility and the health benefits of tuna. The campaign also includes an interactive web site with tuna recipes, www.tunathewonderfish.com; marketing outreach to health clubs nationwide; and print ads in fitness, family and cooking magazines.

As a result of the campaign, canned tuna unit sales totaled 369.8 million units from 1 January to 15 May, up 4.23 percent from the same period in 2010, according to SymphonyIRI Group, a Chicago-based market research firm. The unit sales data applies to all canned tuna sold in U.S. supermarkets, drug stores and mass-market retailers, excluding Wal-Mart. Notably, canned tuna’s price per unit also grew 0.07 percent to USD 1.23 per unit through 15 May.

Because brand awareness campaigns like these take time, the Tuna Council is not evaluating the increase in units sold until September, according to Mary Anne Hansan, VP of NFI’s Tuna Council. However, the council commissioned a consumer attitudes survey in April to determine how the TV ads and other marketing materials are impacting consumers’ perception of tuna.

“We talked to several hundred people, and we saw shifts in perceptions of tuna’s healthfulness, including the beliefs that ‘it helps you live longer’ and ‘it is good for the heart.’ Health and lifestyle are key components of the campaign,” explained Hansan.

In addition, consumers who have seen the campaign are buying more tuna and are 30 percent more likely to try new ways to prepare tuna than those who have not experienced the Tuna the Wonderfish campaign.

Consumers who were aware of the ads purchased, on average, 1.5 more cans of tuna in a month (for an average of 6.9 cans each) than those who had not seen the ads, according to the survey conducted by Copernicus. In addition, consumers who were aware of the ads planned to purchase 2.2 more cans of tuna in the next 30 days than those who were unaware of the campaign.

Another important indicator of the marketing campaign’s success is consumer visits to the Tuna the Wonderfish web site. There are around 20,000 visitors every two weeks, according to Hansan. 

“The average number of pages people are looking at is four pages, and the vast majority are going to the recipe section of the web site,” she said.

The United States’ major canned-tuna brands — StarKist, Bumble Bee and Chicken of the Sea — are all members of the Tuna Council. This is the first time that these canned-tuna brands have united to deliver a marketing campaign of this magnitude, according to NFI.

Contributing Editor

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