StarKist is a food company focused on healthy, shelf-stable seafood products in the United States. StarKist was the first brand to introduce single-serve pouch products. As America’s favorite tuna, StarKist represents a tradition of quality, consumer trust and a pledge to sustainability. In the year 2000, StarKist developed a program to introduce its new tuna pouch product, which was the biggest wave of innovation in tuna history. The new pouch featured firmer tuna, eliminated draining, and did away with the can opener making it one of the year’s hottest new food products.
StarKist’s brand icon, Charlie the Tuna, had an 82 percent awareness to consumers, indicating that Charlie should be the primary focus of the Public Relations campaign. The main strategy of the campaign was to use Charlie as the central link for innovative program essentials. StarKist’s key objectives were to increase consumer awareness from zero to about 25 percent, and increase the share of the tuna category from zero to 2.5. Both of these goals were met early. StarKist also set publicity goals and conducted product trials in local markets offering samples and coupons.
StarKist’s campaign was presented in two different phases, each targeted a different audience with a budget of over 500 thousand. The first phase was targeted at business and media evaluation. The second phase was targeted at consumer media and women ages 25 to 54. This campaign was mostly targeted at women, but Starkist should have also targeted men. There are a lot of men between the ages of 25-54 who may either be single or an only parent that would benefit from this campaign. The company should have also targeted families with young children. Targeting a larger audience may allow more sales for the product and allow more people to use this product rather than just targeting women.
While both phases were very effective in introducing the new product, phase two seemed to have more effective strategies. In the first phase the launch of the new pouch was a key business initiative for Heinz North America. An analyst meeting was held to stage the pouch’s coming-out party. Key business media attended these meetings to learn the latest on company earnings. Bill Johnson, CEO of Heinz, conducted business broadcast interviews in which he discussed the new StarKist pouch. This phase had more tactics included in the program, such as a media tour, news releases, a press kit, and special events, which ran from the products introduction in June 2000 through December of the same year. StarKist also had a business and trade press kit commissioned, which featured Charlie the Tuna on the cover of a box and a light sensitive voice chip which greeted the editors when the box was opened. As follow-up efforts to promote the product began, reporters commented that they loved hearing Charlie’s voice talk to them and that the kit really caught their attention.
The second phase was targeted at consumer media and women ages 25 to 54. This phase had more tactics included in the program, such as a media tour, news releases, a press kit, and special events. The media tour consisted of new virtual reality technology to coordinate and direct an animated Charlie the Tuna live and in real time. Reporters in 33 markets were able to interview Charlie when he delivered key messages and promoted the Starkist website. A news release promoting the “Tuna in a Pouch” product launch was distributed to radio stations across the country and reached 5.5 million listeners. Press kits with the voice chip similar to the one used for the business media outreach were mailed to food editors at the top 150 newspapers across the country. Local markets in Orlando and Jacksonville held lunchtime events that featured samples, recipe demonstrations contests, and product giveaways. This tactic drew the attention of more than 8 million Florida residents.
StarKist’s objectives were met because of the various programs and tactics implemented. After the campaign, 28.3 percent of consumers nationwide heard, saw, or read something about the new pouch. StarKist gained media coverage and attention by numerous different media outlets including CNN, CNBC’s Power Lunch, MSNBC, Associated Press and many more. The product trials in local Florida supermarkets were very effective as well. Over one thousand product samples and five thousand coupons were given out to generate awareness. The lunch with Charlie was extremely successful. Over six thousand lunches were distributed in Orlando and in Jacksonville combined. The lunches exceeded expectations and only two weeks after the event shares in both Orlando and Jacksonville significantly increased. The lunches were so successful that StarKist was encouraged to base all future marketing events around this tactic. StarKist’s website traffic increased by over 50 percent after the product launch. The pouch was named third best new product of the year by Marketing Intelligence Service. The pouch was also awarded the Product Packaging of the Year Award.
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