When StarKist Seafood planned to introduce the biggest wave of innovation in tuna history, they reeled in Ketchum/Pittsburgh to plan a strategic outreach effort using a variety of “uncanny” media relations tools to generate consumer awareness about StarKist Tuna in a Pouch.  The new product features firmer tuna, eliminates draining and does away with the can opener.  Consumers and media took the bait, and the pouch became one of the year’s hottest new food products.


Primary Research:  1) Phone interviews with 900 heads of households proved that the brand’s icon, Charlie the Tuna, has an 82 percent awareness among consumers.  Brand association is 48 percent.  This proved to Ketchum that Charlie needed to be the primary focus of the PR campaign.  2) StarKist research found that consumers preferred the pouch five to one.  Thus, they would be receptive to trying the new pouch if product benefits were delivered in media messages.  3) Consumer focus groups showed that they prefer that the new pouch required no draining and no can opener (62%).  Key messages were prepared based on this insight.
Secondary Research:  1) Database searches analyzed how other brands have introduced category innovations.  Based on the findings, Ketchum implemented a two-phased media effort, targeting business media first and consumer media when the pouch was available nationwide.  2) Database searches also revealed Charlie’s distinction as an advertising icon, confirming his starring role in the campaign.  3) Ketchum soft-sounded food editors to determine if they preferred recipes featuring the pouch.  Positive feedback led Ketchum to utilize three StarKist recipes for the pouch.

Objective 1:  From June to December 2000 (the time the product was introduced until the national advertising launch), increase consumer awareness of the pouch from zero to 15-25 percent, the industry average for new product introductions with no ad support.

Objective 2:  Increase StarKist’s share of the tuna category from zero to 2.5.  

Objective 3:  Ketchum set publicity goals based on previous results from similar programs and client expectations.  Media placement goals:  5-7 national outlets, 15-20 trade/marketing publications, 10-15 television placements, 200-250 airings of the radio news release, 25-35 placements in the top 75 daily newspapers and 1 wire story.  At least 2 key messages mentioned per placement.

Objective 4:  Drive product trial in two test markets via local market lunchtime events in high-traffic areas that offer sampling and couponing; more specifically by distributing 2,000 lunches, 1,000 product samples and 5,000 coupons per market, generating awareness via coverage in 5 media outlets per market, and increasing StarKist Pouch share in Jacksonville and Orlando from 1 to 3.

Strategy:  Utilize Charlie the Tuna as the central link for all innovative program elements.

Audience:  Phase 1:  Business media/analysts

Phase 2:  Consumer media and Women 25-54


Phase One:  Business/Trade Media Outreach, June

New York Analyst Meeting Announcement:  As the launch of StarKist Tuna in a Pouch was a key business initiative for Heinz North America/StarKist Seafood, Ketchum recommended that the Analyst Meeting be the stage for the pouch’s coming-out party, since key business media attend these meetings to learn the latest on company earnings.  The centerpiece of the announcement was an animated video that Ketchum directed featuring Charlie the Tuna, followed by remarks by Bill Johnson, CEO of Heinz.  After the meeting, Mr. Johnson conducted national business broadcast interviews where he discussed the new StarKist pouch.  In addition, a wire photo was staged with Bill Johnson and Charlie on a pier with their latest catch – the new StarKist Tuna in a Pouch.  

Business/Trade Press Kit:  Commissioned by Ketchum, a custom die-cut box was produced, featuring Charlie on the cover and a light sensitive voice-chip to greet editors.  When the box was opened Charlie’s voice said, “Hey, this is Charlie the Tuna.  Get ready for the biggest wave of innovation in tuna history, from StarKist.”  The box held a folder containing press releases, fact sheets and a die-cut with one of the three varieties of StarKist Tuna in a Pouch.  The box also featured a Charlie beanie baby and the other two varieties of StarKist Tuna in a Pouch.  When follow-up efforts began, reporter comments included:  “I love hearing Charlie talk to me” and “Your kit and Charlie’s voice caught my attention.”

Phase Two:  Consumer Media, October.  Consumer media was targeted when the pouch was available at retailers nationally.

Animated Satellite Media Tour:  Ketchum took advantage of new virtual reality computer technology to coordinate and direct an animated SMT featuring Charlie the Tuna.  Reporters in 33 markets interviewed Charlie live and in real time.  Charlie discussed everything from who would win the World Series (the Marlins), who he would vote for in the presidential election (“Al-Ba-Core,” the premium variety of StarKist tuna) and he promoted his Web site.  Many reporters showed the pouch on air and discussed the recipes on the back of the packaging.  One station interviewed Charlie and then requested an additional interview with the behind-the-scenes animation team.  Charlie delivered key messages in 100 percent of the interviews, generating more than 7 million media impressions.

Radio News/Wire Release:  A radio news release promoting the tuna in a pouch product launch, including a Charlie quote, was distributed to radio stations across the country and reached 5.5 million listeners.  A consumer wire press release about the pouch including recipes was distributed nationally to food editors at newspapers, television, radio stations and wire services.  

Press Kit:  Press kits with the voice chip, similar to the ones used for the business media outreach (consumer kits contained a consumer-oriented press release, one pouch, recipes and recipe photography, and the StarKist Web address) were mailed to food editors at the top 150 newspapers across the country and national media outlets.  “The pouch disappeared off my desk before I could open it,” and “Your kit was so clever,” were comments made by reporters during follow-up efforts.  In fact, Rosie O’Donnell liked the kit and the product so much that she talked about the pouch on two different broadcasts of her show.

Food Page:  A color, full-page design of StarKist Tuna in a Pouch, recipes with photos, tuna tips and facts was distributed to newspapers across the country, reaching more than 9 million consumers, giving them practical applications for the new pouch.   

Matte Release:  A news story about the StarKist pouch was distributed for the 5,000 local/weekly newspapers nationwide.

Lunch with Charlie:  Local market lunchtime events were held in high-traffic locations in two test markets (Orlando and Jacksonville) and featured recipe demonstrations, sampling and product giveaways.  By integrating celebrity Dawn Wells (Mary Ann from Gilligan’s Island), Charlie the Tuna, paid radio promotions, couponing and a contest to win a speedboat, more than 8 million Florida residents experienced “Lunch with Charlie.”  


Objective 1:  From June to December 2000, increase consumer awareness of the pouch from zero to 15-25 percent.  Surpassed goal!  Post campaign telephone interviews to 1,000 consumers found that 28.3 percent of consumers nationwide heard, saw or read something about the new pouch.  Public relations activities and one FSI were the only promotional activities taking place during that time period.

Objective 2:  Increase StarKist’s share of the tuna category from zero to 2.5 from June to December 2000.  Met goal early!

By mid-November, StarKist’s share had increased to a 2.5 share, meeting the goal before the December deadline.  This means that people who formerly purchased a competitor’s brand of tuna or canned tuna were buying the new StarKist pouch.

Objective 3:  Generate media coverage of the pouch with at least 2 key messages mentioned per placement.  Surpassed goal!




5 to 7 national media placements

46 placements

Beat goal seven times!  At least 2 key messages delivered.

15 to 20 trade/marketing publications

39 placements

Doubled goal!  65 percent delivered ALL key messages!

10 to 15 television placements

61 placements

Quadrupled goal!  100% delivered ALL key messages!

200 to 250 radio placements

793 placements

Tripled goal!  At least 3 key messages were delivered.

25 to 35 top 75 newspapers

51 placements

Doubled goal!  70 percent delivered ALL key messages!

1 wire story

12 wire stories

Beat goal twelve times!  100 percent delivered ALL key messages!

Coverage included:  CNN, CNBC’s Power Lunch and Squawk Box, MSNBC, Bloomberg TV, Associated Press, Dow Jones News Service, Rosie O’Donnell Show (two separate segments), Fox & Friends, Fox Newsfeed, Money, Business Week, Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, Parade, Prevention, Self and Time.

Objective 4:  Drive product trial via local market events in high-traffic areas by distributing 2,000 lunches, 1,000 product samples and 5,000 coupons per market, generating awareness via coverage in 5 media outlets per market, and increasing StarKist Pouch share in Jacksonville and Orlando from 1 to 3.  Met all goals and surpassed most!  Lunch with Charlie exceeded projections by distributing 2,770 lunches in Orlando and 4,250 lunches in Jacksonville.  In each market 1,000 goodie bags with product sample and 5,000 coupons were successfully disseminated.  Additionally, Ketchum delivered 7 media outlets per market, which accrued 8,754,072 impressions.  In the two weeks following the event Pouch share in Orlando increased 282 percent, from 1.1 to 3.1.  Even more spectacular was in the two weeks following the event Pouch share in Jacksonville jumped 278 percent, from 1.8 to 5.0!  The success of these events encouraged StarKist to base future marketing programs around this grassroots tactic.

Other results:  Web site traffic increased by 55 percent in June, after the business launch.  Visitation spiked again in October (by

14 percent) during the consumer launch.  The only promotion for the site was listing the Web address in key messages.
The pouch was awarded the Product Packaging of the Year Award and was named the third best new product of the year by Marketing Intelligence Service.