Reframing The Lionfish

Matthew Skinner

Graphic/Motion Designer

How correct marketing can reframe a poisonous pillager to a desired delicacy?

When Florida was struck by a hurricane, a coastal aquarium burst, releasing the invasive lionfish into a new, fresh ecosystem. Being close to the apex predator of its habitat, the lionfish imposed a serious threat to the native wildlife and natural food chain. A single lionfish is a threat to over 30,000 fish; and because a female lionfish can lay over 2 million eggs per year, their numbers can rapidly multiply. In no time, the lionfish was declared a threat to national security, with no quick solution accessible to rid the coasts of this spined scourge.

So, how do you reverse the tides on a predator pandemic?

Such a task required more than the usual pest control. Global branding agency Ogilvy was tasked with creating the solution. To begin with, they didn’t view the lionfish as a problem; they saw it as a product that needed selling. Ingeniously, they realised the most efficient way to exterminate the growing threat was to unleash the most deadly of all animals after it. They put lionfish on the menu for humans. Ogilvy worked with Colombia’s top chefs to create exquisite new lionfish dishes that were pushed into the highest-rated restaurants. They then worked with the Catholic Church to recommend Lionfish on Fridays for Lent. 80% of Columbia is Catholic, and half would usually eat fish during Lent and Easter week.

Along with this, Ogilvy created an educational marketing campaign, teaching people that whilst lionfish are extremely poisonous on the outside, they are equally scrumptious on the inside. The advertising for the Terribly Delicious campaign was underway.

Lionfish became the number 1 menu item throughout. Lionfish cookbooks and recipe brochures hit the stores, whilst lionfish cornmeal cakes, burgers and sausages hit the shelves in supermarkets. Everybody was eating lionfish, with even the president tweeting his support and encouraging eating lionfish to save the Caribbean. Due to this popularity there came a growing demand. More fishermen were changing their sights to lionfish as they were becoming the new gold mine.

And it worked.

While not being an immediate effect, the population of lionfish did start to decrease; saving the surrounding fishlife and feeding the neighbouring communities.

This is a great example of turning a problem into an opportunity. In behavioural science, this is called reframing – it’s about changing the way you look at something. A different perspective can completely change things.

And if a poisonous fish can be marketed as lunch, imagine what your business could be perceived as?


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