The Secret Marketer on Rick Stein’s brand

There’s no rest for the wicked in this job. I am breaking off from my summer staycation in the West Country to write this column, as the editor informs me that this role does not have any holiday allowance. It appears that the output required in Fleet Street is somewhat more relentless than that demanded in Charlotte Street.

We are on a family holiday near Padstow, no doubt to some extent seduced by the tourist pull of Rick Stein. Having not been here before, it is pretty amazing to see what Stein has achieved. He is to Padstow what Starbucks is to central London. Whether it be his deli, his restaurants, his fish and chip shop or even his holiday rents, Stein is now behaving like a multinational group in a small coastal town where crustaceans have been more welcome than corporates.

Hats off to the guy for commercialising his brand in his own back garden, though I suspect he finds it difficult to harbour accusations of selling out.

I say all of this having spent yesterday evening in a long queue to try his fish and chips. We opted for take-away having lacked the patience to join the even bigger queue for the sit down option.

A blackboard with daily specials was the kind of next-level chip shop execution I’d expect from brand Stein. But the lack of information about the fish itself, such as when and where it was caught, was surprisingly absent.

“A blackboard with daily specials was the kind of nextlevel chip shop execution I’d expect from brand Stein”

I was tempted to go for the pollock rather than the sure-fire cod. The only problem was I wasn’t entirely sure what pollock tasted like, so I asked the young lady on the till (Rick must have been out fishing) what pollock was. She paused for a moment and then told me that it was a fish. As much as this was a relief, it didn’t entirely help my purchase decision.

I then came back with: “What does it taste like?” She turned to her colleague on the fryer in search of further product details and, after a short strategic debate on the brand definition of a Pollock, returned to advise that it was “a bit like cod”. Inspired by the sales pitch, I decided to be bold and go with the pollock (while making sure my wife and kids played safe with cod so that I could have some of theirs if I didn’t like mine).

As it worked out, the fish and chips were just fine, but take away the captive tourist trade and I suspect Rick would need to work much harder.

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