The Chilean Sea Bass name has a sophisticated ring to it and may lead you to believe it is an exotic, rare fish caught off the coast of Chile. Yet, that can’t be much farther from the truth. Few are caught near the area and they used to simply be a by-catch of other more prominent fish. It is not even a bass, it is a cod, and very few people even ate it before the 1990’s. Up until the late 70’s it was known as the Patagonian Toothfish”, not a very appetizing name to say the least.
So, how did it get its name and land a spot on fine restaurant menus? It was simply a brilliant branding strategy that cleverly renamed the fish and successfully marketed it to become a top choice among fish lovers over time.
It all began in 1977 when fisherman Lee Lantz encountered his first Toothfish. Deep-water longlines were just becoming popular and the Toothfish, which dwelled in deep water, began to be caught. Because the Toothfish was similar to bass, Lantz believed it could easily be sold in America. He knew the importance of the name and considered Pacific Sea Bass and South America Sea Bass, but ultimately chose Chilean Sea Bass because he believed the specificity reflected more exclusivity. While success was not instantaneous, through time, he was able to land contracts with distributors and wholesalers to make a market for this versatile fish.
This story illustrates the power of descriptive words on the success of a brand or product. The unknown, unappealing “toothfish” that no one would buy, became a highly successful menu item commanding top prices at fancy restaurants. While this is a good example, there are dozen of other creative marketing ideas that have taken something that sounds ugly or unappealing to something that appeals to the masses. Sometimes it is just a simple change such as a new name, new logo, new package, new feature.