Sushi Surprise

For true marketing inspiration, head for your product's home turf.
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This story appears in the August 2001 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

In the age-old quest to get good products the attention they deserve, sometimes you have to turn to your market instead of racking your brain.

Denver-based Brand Management Inc., a food branding consultancy, recently got the nod to help a local supermarket chain improve consumer awareness of its prepared sushi offerings. The main objective of the project was to convince potential customers that the supermarket's take-home sushi is as good as restaurant sushi.

Brand management's president, Shultz Hartgrove, and team started the way they often do: conducting focus groups and branding strategy sessions in an attempt to come up with a new name and "presence" for the product. Result: a lot of heat but no light. What did they do? Break for lunch. Recalls Hartgrove, "My partner and I stopped at a local sushi bar, and every few minutes we'd hear a sushi chef shout out, 'Sushi ready!' to alert waitresses their order was ready." The partners had a mutual lightbulb moment: "That's it-Sushi-Redi!" Then they spied the sushi menu board. Why not hang one like it at the supermarkets for authenticity? Not a bad branding session for $15 plus tip.

Brand management had one last task-ad support. Their idea: Plop Sushi-Redi ads in the restaurant sections of local papers with the headline, "No reservations? No problem," further implanting the idea that the sushi is restaurant-quality. The result? The grocery chain's sushi business improved by one-third in the first six months. The lesson? Get out of the conference room and into the marketplace.

Jerry Fisher, a freelance advertising copywriter, is also the author of Creating Successful Small Business Advertising.

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Edition: May 2017

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