Birds Eye looks to maintain brand relevance as it celebrates Captain’s 50th anniversary

The frozen food brand insists Captain Birds Eye still remains important to its advertising despite the character being on and off the air over recent years.

Birds Eye is on a mission to ensure it maintains relevance with younger audiences, as it celebrates Captain Birds Eye’s 50th anniversary with a promise that the brand ambassador is “here to stay”.

The frozen food brand is kicking off a month of celebrations for the golden jubilee of its brand icon today (31 August). As part of the activity, it will be unveiling a Golden Captain Birds Eye statue near Greenwich in London.

It is also offering consumers the chance to win a Captain Birds Eye soft toy, and will be promoting the competition through an on-pack promotion and TV adverts with a jubilee emblem. The campaign will also run across video-on-demand and social media.

Even though Captain Birds Eye has been around for 50 years, the brand claims he still resonates with younger consumers. Steve Challouma, Birds Eye’s marketing director, tells Marketing Week the brand icon has spontaneous awareness of 83% – despite not having been on TV for over a decade until his return last year – putting it ahead of other brand ambassadors such as the Jolly Green Giant or the Milkybar Kid.

“He’s been around since the 1960s but still evokes feelings of nostalgia, and also communicates brand trustworthiness. Recent brand research shows that he’s the most recognised food icon of the last 50 years, above other icons such as the Jolly Green Giant or the Milkybar Kid – that’s very precious to us as a business and valuable to us as a brand,” says Challouma.

That would suggest that the Captain will remain a key part of the brand going forward. Birds Eye has revamped and even removed the character from its marketing a number of times in recent years, but Challouma, who took over the marketing director role in March, says he is now “here to stay”. The challenge is to ensure he remains relevant, particularly among the younger generation.

To do this, Birds Eye is partnering with Snapchat for the first time. The brand is introducing a special lense that will enable users to transform themselves into the Captain. When two people are in the frame, the second person will be transformed into a fish finger.

Unsurprisingly, it is Snapchat’s youthful audience that attracted it to the brand. Many of Birds Eye’s consumers are in a “pre-family and post-childhood” stage, with Challouma admitting fish fingers tend to be popular among young children up to the age of six, and then come back in when consumers become students or parents.

Recent brand research shows that Captain Birds Eye is the most recognised food icon of the last 50 years; that’s very precious to us as a business and valuable to us as a brand.

Steve Challouma, Birds Eye

Birds Eye says it wants to “reactivate affection” that people had when they were young, while targeting consumers who are also future parents. Its partnership with Snapchat, Challouma hopes, will keep the Captain top of mind.

“This partnership is also a learning process for us as brand. We are using social media a lot more – we see this as the next phase of learning what it does for our marketing, and what it can deliver in terms of reach and engagement,” he says.

Challouma says the frozen food sector has had “a challenging time over the last few years”, which is why the brand overhauled its marketing strategy last September, moving away from a ‘master brand’ approach in favour of individual product-focused campaigns. So while Captain Birds Eye will promote fish products, peas will focus on a message of “freshness and goodness”. This, he claims, should resonate more with consumers.

“Consumers have told us that our brand heritage and our core products, like peas and fish fingers, are still important and resonate hugely. That’s why we moved away from a master brand approach, as it didn’t allow us to tell category and product-specific stories in a focused way,” he concludes.