Laura Whittle, director of Whitby Seafoods has the kind of effervescent charm that could sell scampi to mermaids. Part of the family business, as director, one of her main roles is to oversee the marketing and raise the profile of the company. Everyone from Whitby has a special relationship and fondness for scampi, but it’s not universally understood.
“Surprisingly ‘what is scampi?’ is the second most Googled question on their site,” said Laura. “So although we locals may know what it’s clearly all about, now seemed to be the right time to rebrand and raise awareness.”
And that is what Laura and the team at Whitby Seafoods set about doing.
“We thought about the best things, primarily what a fabulous local story Whitby scampi is, and how this really wasn’t reflected in the packaging. There was nothing that made our brand stand out from the competition, which are the big multi-national companies like Youngs. Plus all the other brands, along with our own had pictures of scampi on their packaging. We all know what it looks like.”
In marketing terms, Whitby Seafoods is known as a challenger brand. To make inroads into an already busy seafood market place, it has to challenge the larger brands, by being more niche and focus on what makes it more distinctive and different from the competition.
“I did a lot of consumer research and looked at where we thought our company should be, and asked a lot of questions. Where do we see ourselves as a consumer brand, and how do we stand out against the competition. The final decision wasn’t such a hard one”.
Rather than trying to imitate their biggest competitors, they fished around beyond the frozen aisle and drew inspiration from brands that injected life into their categories such as Dorset Cereals, Gu puddings and Tyrrells crisps. Specific to these brands was a more wholesome style, slightly retro and with cheerful branding.
“We decided to play on our heritage, and that was all about being from Whitby. People love this place and that is a unique selling point. It’s Whitby scampi and this is where our operation is based. It’s real and we played on the history to tell our story.”
Their brand values are, in no particular order, cheerfully ‘bloomin special, uncompromising, buccaneers, from Whitby and informal’. Working with this template, next came the radical decision to break from the mould and use illustrations.
Laura said: “The seagull directs the story, and I did wonder about this after all the stories in the Whitby Gazette, about nuisance seagulls. We liked the idea of lovely illustrated packaging, which moved away from the corporate and anonymous identity so common on the frozen aisles. So, beach huts, Whitby Abbey and St Mary’s Church have also been included in the branding. We knew we wanted to go more upmarket and broaden scampi’s appeal and put it back on people’s shopping list. It’s fished in the UK, it’s sustainable, and an important commercial catch for fishermen. Plus, langoustine is the jewel of the British Sea. So we put this on the front of the packaging too, as no-one else is doing that.”
Appropriately, the advertising agency that achieved all of this is called Big Fish.
“We get calls all the time from companies wanting to do our advertising. But we had to present to them before they considered taking our business. My dad Graham had to speak to them before they took us seriously, and it was important that we were suitable as they only work with niche brands. Their team came up to Whitby and we walked them round town and gave them a flavour of what we are all about. They felt it was important they connected Whitby into the look of the rebranding, as it highlights that we have character, provenance and market leading quality. All in a very beautiful place.”
The final result is quirky, appealing and definitely stands out. Looking to the future, Laura is looking for the next challenge which is get into the chilled section.
“Our products are available nationally and in all the main supermarkets, and we are so glad that we are stocked at The Co-op. We want to broaden its appeal and do a proper job for scampi.”
With this much passion its refreshing to see so much energy and commitment is being poured into one of Whitby’s best exports. Very soon the swing boards will be delivered to local restaurants. The supermarkets will be stocked and if all goes to plan scampi will have come out of its basket and into more supermarket trolleys. All of which will make Laura, Whitby Seafoods and BigFish very happy.