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Recipe of the Month: John West Salmon campaign


Recipe of the Month: John West Salmon campaign


Client: Simplot – John West Salmon
Creative: Grey
Media buying: Mitchells Media
Research: The Lab Strategy


Salmon is the largest contributor to the John West business and is the brand’s flagship premium product range. So the development of a strong communication campaign focusing on John West Salmon was imperative to reverse a recent share decline, to defend leadership, validate ‘The Best’ positioning and present consumers with a compelling reason to justify the John West price premium.

From qualitative research, a number of key communication directives were identified to help guide both media and creative strategy. Research from The Lab highlighted four main perceptual drivers of salmon quality:

  • purity imagery – the extent to which the product is perceived as natural
  • origin – salmon sourced from Alaska is considered to be the best quality
  • price – the more expensive the better the quality, and
  • appetising imagery – motivates consumption.

These reactions resulted in the formulation of a number of key communication directives:

  • talk about John West – don’t talk about competitors
  • keep the John West air of confidence – substantiation is seen as a sign of weakness
  • maintain the mythology and romantic imagery of past John West communications – fishermen, bears, water and wilderness, and
  • the best is still the best – work with it, but say something new.


Based on these directives, Grey moved away from its initial focus on strong competitive claims and instead began to consider how it could evolve John West’s current communication style in a way that would resonate with the target market and achieve the following objectives:

  • increase brand relevance to the core target, primarily female grocery buyers aged 45-plus leveraging the knowledge that taste is a key driver of purchase
  • reinforce the positioning ‘The Best’
  • give consumers a compelling reason to purchase John West salmon over competitors
  • build a connection with consumers that translates into sales not just awareness, and
  • create a halo effect for the John West brand.


An integrated communications strategy incorporating a 30- and 45-second TVC, website, viral, point of sale and price promotion was implemented. The activity was timed to tie in with Lent, as this is the key selling period for the canned fish category. The TVC aired over a six-week period with a media buy targeted at singles and couples and focused on must-watch programs. It included both free to air metro and pay TV.

The TVC – ‘Flying Fishing Tackle’ adds further layers to the brand’s mythology, by reminding consumers that John West not only selects the best fish, but also that ‘John West is prepared to endure the worst to bring you the best’. It features the powerful imagery synonymous with previous John West communications – fishermen, Alaska, wilderness and bears – and, as a result, does as much for the John West brand as it does for the sales of canned salmon. The imagery also taps directly into the perceptual drivers identified in the research, particularly those of purity and origin. The advertisement’s reference to the richest tasting red salmon stems from an understanding that taste is the primary driver of purchase. An element of surprise and overstatement communicates John West’s premium positioning in a fun, entertaining way and maintains the John West air of confidence, while indicating that the brand doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Viral/online – To build interest and extend the reach and effectiveness of the TVC, the campaign included a viral and online component that began three days prior to the advertisement on-air date and coincided with an internal launch. This involved the development of a click-through to the TVC from the John West homepage and an email with a link to the TVC. The email was sent to all Simplot staff immediately following the internal launch, and staff were encouraged to forward it on to their friends and family. The website also incorporated a ‘Send to a friend’ functionality. Plus the ad was uploaded to YouTube.

POS and promotion – A variety of John West branded point of sale was developed to tie in with the TVC, create in-store theatre and generate exposure for the John West brand. The point of sale included wobblers with a number of red salmon recipes to encourage usage and further drive purchase.


Tracking – Millward Brown ad tracking results for the ‘Flying Fishing Tackle’ TVC have been outstanding, with the ad scoring well above Millward Brown’s norms on most tracking measures. Recognition of the ad was 76 percent, well above the 40 percent norm, and among those who recognised the ad there was 92 percent brand identification versus the 56 percent norm. This puts ‘Flying Fishing Tackle’ in the top one percent of all ads tracked online by Millward Brown in terms of branding. Product recall was also strong, with 67 percent identifying that the ad was for salmon. The ad successfully communicated the link between John West and the highest quality salmon, with nine in 10 (89 percent) taking out the message that JW is dedicated to getting the best salmon. The ad also succeeded in persuading consumers, with 75 percent claiming it made the brand seem more appealing versus the 55 percent norm, while 60 percent claimed it made them more likely to use the brand versus the 40 percent norm. The ad also scored well on uniqueness, with 48 percent of respondents agreeing that it made them think the brand is really different from others versus the norm of 34 percent.

Viral/online – Prior to the campaign, website visits were averaging 250 individual hits per day. The number of visits quadrupled immediately upon release of the email, and continued to increase for days after the send, with over 5000 unique hits recorded. Once the initial spike had settled down, website traffic continued to increase and settled at a much higher average of 400 unique hits per day. This trend has continued and is still growing. The viral activity resulted in almost double the average number of unique visits to the website in the months since release. Interestingly enough, traffic has been driven to the John West site from a number of different sources. Social networking site, MySpace, is among one of the highest referring sites for John West, with all traffic being driven to the TVC. The success of the ad on YouTube has also been impressive. Originally posted only twice, the ad now appears numerous times throughout YouTube, where it’s been viewed more than 150,000 times.

Value share growth – As a result of the campaign John West has regained significant value share in red salmon, particularly from private label, which has seen a marked decline in share over the past quarter. For the quarter to 29 April 2007 John West was up 21.7 percent in value share while private label was down 12.3 percent and Paramount was down 7.9 percent (AC Nielsen). Towards the end of the campaign period John West recorded its highest four-weekly share result in over two years.

Sales growth versus Lent 2006 – Sales of John West Red Salmon were the primary driver of growth of the red salmon segment over this period. The segment grew by six percent in value sales versus Lent 2006, while John West rose by 12.2 percent (ACNielsen).


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