August 22, 2009

That's (Not) Just Plain Shellfish

Those of us in the business of persuasion can be sensitive to accusations of being controlling and manipulative. Of course, much of what passes for branding in the commercial world does involve coercing customers into buying something that they don't really want or need. And there is a touch of the slick pedlar in a great deal of the marketing talk that fills the walls, screens and pages of our lives.

So I was greatly tickled by an article in the Irish Times during the week that describes how a scientist has "turned 5,000 of South Australia's rock lobsters from speckled white to red", especially when I learned that he had done so by a simple sleight of hand, rather than by chemical or genetic interference.

Apparently, red-shelled lobsters are highly-prized by Chinese customers, for whom the colour is a sign of prosperity and good fortune, but the creatures are in short-supply in the coastal waters around Australia where they make their home. However, there's no shortage of the speckled-white variety in the deeper waters further from the coast, and Irish rock lobster scientist (now there's a title worth splashing on your business card) Adrian Linnane has shown that moving the deep water variety into shallower waters (where they continue to thrive) has the effect of changing the colour of their shells to invaluable red.

I think there's a lesson in there for all of us marketers that suggests a more thoughtful and charming approach to giving people what they want without compromising on the qualities of what's on offer. Linnane's red lobsters display the characteristics that his customers require, whilst his natural engineering guarantees a plentiful supply.

Now that's real marketing genius, and a very neat solution to the challenge of demand and supply.

Over To You: What elegant marketing solutions have you seen lately?


Al said...

It's accidental alchemy! From white and lead to red and gold and laughing all the way to the bank.

Very cool. Although red being lucky for the Chinese is somewhat unlucky for the lobster, will this 'plentiful supply' be decimated or much reduced in five or ten years like their Australian cousins?

Still, it's their own fault for being so damn tasty.

teresa said...

Adrian Linnane is an absolute genius