Chicken of the Sea International
The Jessica Simpson Spokesperson Decision
This case was written by Professor George E. Belch and Michael A. Belch. It is intended to be used as the basis for class discussion rather than to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation. Introduction
Chicken of the Sea International (COSI) is one of the oldest seafood companies in the United States. The company processes and markets a variety of seafood items under the Chicken of the Sea brand name including canned tuna, salmon, sardines, mackerel, crab, and clam products. The original company was founded in 1914 by Frank Van Camp and his son who bought the California Tuna Canning Company to can albacore tuna and changed the name to the Van Camp Seafood Company. However, the company began using the Chicken of the Sea trademark and brand name as a way to describe the taste of its tuna to consumers. Van Camp was the first company to can "light" tuna. So consumers would know to expect a mild-flavored white fish – that tasted similar to chicken – the company marketed it under the brand name Chicken of the Sea. It was such a success that the company eventually adopted the product name. The company operated under the Van Camp Seafood Company name until 1963 when it was purchased by Ralston Purina, a producer of processed foods, pet food, and livestock and poultry feeds. In 1988 Ralston sold its Van Camp division to P.T. Mantrust, an Indonesian corporation that wanted to execute a fully integrated approach to supplying canned tuna to the U.S. However, due to high interest rates in Indonesia and its overly leveraged structure, P.T. Mantrust experienced cash flow difficulties and the primary creditor, The Prudential Life Insurance Company of America, became the majority owner. In 1997 the company was purchased by an investment group known as Tri-Union Seafoods and the name of the company was changed to Chicken of the Sea International. In 2000 the investment group sold the company to Thai Union International, Inc. making it the sole owner of the company. In 2003 COSI acquired Empress International Ltd. which imports frozen shrimp and other shellfish into the U.S. With the acquisition of Empress, COSI total annual sales would exceed $600 million. The Chicken of the Sea name is well known and has a high level of brand equity among consumers. The brand’s identity is strongly related to the Chicken of the Sea mermaid who is one of the best known brand icons in the world. She first appeared on the Chicken of the Sea label in the early 1950s and has symbolized quality for the brand for more than 50 years. The mermaid was the focal point for the brand’s advertising for many years and the recognition of her is still very strong today. The catchy jingle that was developed in the early 1960s continues to be used in the company’s advertising: “Ask any mermaid you happen to see…what’s the best tuna? Chicken of the Sea!” Chicken of the Sea changed the look of its famous mermaid icon in 2003 to make her appear more contemporary. Consumer research had indicated that the mermaid icon was “getting a little tired” and needed to be updated. Qualitative and quantitative research was used to guide this process and ensure that the traits and characteristics consumers associated with the mermaid were captured in the new image. These included attributes such as being trustworthy, magical, attractive, friendly, approachable, contemporary and fitting with the Chicken of the Sea brand.
COSI launched a new web site (www.Chickenofthesea.com) that provides value-added information to its customers. The web site includes an easy-to-use recipe generator, product information, resources on health and nutrition, as well as games...