The reintroduction of a popular character proved a wise move for frozen food brand Birds Eye, as the return of Captain Birdseye helped drive improved brand metrics and reverse a precipitous decline in sales.

Back in 2015, following changes in ownership and positioning, “the business started tanking”, Birds Eye marketing director Steve Challouma told the recent Festival of Marketing. A rethink was clearly needed.

This involved moving away from the master brand strategy implemented by the previous owner and “dialling up” the attributes of the individual products.

And central to the latter exercise was the return, after a ten-year absence, of the much-loved Captain Birdseye. (For more read WARC’s report: Bringing back the Captain: how Birds Eye refreshed its brand with an old asset.)

“He has something like 85% brand recognition, and a lot of latent affection,” Challouma reported. “People remember the Captain, and their mum giving them fish fingers.” And many current parents have gone on to feed their own children fish fingers as well.

The character was rethought for a modern generation. “We worked with consumers very closely to see what we could keep, what we had to move on, and very carefully updated him,” Challouma said.

The Captain who emerged was more authentic and more laid back, generating a positive response, scoring 168 against Birds Eye’s standard benchmark score of 100.

That translated into a boost in sales too. “All by activating our most precious asset,” said Challouma. “Respecting the past, but bringing our brands up to date.”

As well as bringing the character up date, Birds Eye also turned to social media and developed a Snapchat filter which gave one person in a photo a Captain-style beard – and turned the second person into a fish finger.

“Not only was it a nice engagement with our brand, but it allowed us to extend our reach,” Challouma explained. According to a Nielsen study the Snapchat partnership achieved:
  • 4.1m unique reach
  • 15 seconds average dwell time
  • +28 points ad awareness.
“Make sure you mine your historic assets before you look at creating new ones,” Challouma advised.

Sourced from WARC