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Can a Rebrand Save Fishing?

Minneapolis ad agency rolls out a new campaign to hook millennials, Gen Zers.

Can a Rebrand Save Fishing?
Image courtesy of Modern Climate

Millennials and Gen Zers just don’t seem to fish quite as much as their predecessors.

Of the nearly 36 million Americans who fished in 2016, people ages 25 to 34 made up 14 percent, according to data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Among the 18-to-24 crowd, that figure was just 6 percent.

Minneapolis ad agency Modern Climate has partnered with 70-year-old fishing equipment company Zebco to boost those figures. This spring, the agency launched a new campaign aimed at encouraging younger folks to consider casting a line.

Doug deGrood, creative chairman of Modern Climate, says the new campaign is “radically different” from anything Zebco’s done in the past.

“It’s part of a total brand refresh – new logo, new packaging, new website, new everything. And it’s all driven by research,” deGrood says.

That’s included a series of focus groups with key market segments, he notes. Contrary to popular belief, younger folks aren’t always glued to their phones or computer screens; they’re still participating in a host of outdoor activities, including hiking, kayaking, and hammocking.

That fact has become a key focus area for the campaign, deGrood says.

“We just want to show people that you can participate in fishing in the context of other outdoor activities,” he says. “So, in other words, if you’re into kayaking, why not consider taking a rod and reel along?”

The campaign also seeks to reposition fishing as a social activity.

“A lot of young people think fishing is boring. They associate it with staring at a bobber. They think there’s not a lot of action, and that it’s not very social,” deGrood says. “But it’s very social. It’s more fun when you do it as a group, and you don’t have to just make it about fishing.”

The campaign’s signature video ad is running on various on-demand streaming services. It’s also been used as a preroll ad for video services like YouTube. In the ad, local indie rock group Bad Bad Hats covers the theme song from the Andy Griffith Show.

deGrood says his team was initially hesitant about running a ‘60s-era jingle alongside the campaign. But the research showed that younger folks are still “hugely familiar” with the song, he says.

And like the ad campaign itself, the cover is a modern take on an American classic.

Modern Climate also refreshed Zebco’s website to better suit younger generations’ preferences. For instance, the new site features a “much more robust e-commerce function,” deGrood says.

It’s also aimed at providing a more “participatory” experience for users. The site offers how-to videos and checklists to help novice fishers. deGrood acknowledges that there’s a little bit of a learning curve to fishing.

The overarching campaign has been years in the making, though the spring media buy tied in with the start of this year’s fishing season.

Zebco has been a client with Gabriel deGrood Bendt since 2002. In 2018, that agency merged merged with Modern Climate.

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