How to market a unique product

When your product is unique or new to market, you're in an exciting position - you're totally unique, the first on the scene, with few competitors. Sweet. However, you also have the added challenge of educating people about your product, and getting them on board.

One such business is Seaweed & Co., a business dedicated to harvesting and supplying seaweed, as well as educating people about its impressive nutritional properties. Increasingly hailed as a superfood, seaweed is gaining a lot of attention in the press, but there's still a way to go before it becomes a household staple. We talk to founder Craig Rose about marketing his unique business.

What's at the heart of your marketing approach?

There are three words which encapsulate much of what we are trying to do with seaweed: intrigue, educate, and engage. We aim to make it easy to get seaweed, easy to understand how to use it, and to help people feel confident with it as a ’normal’ food.  The hope is therefore that we intrigue people, educate them, and then continue to engage with them on all things seaweed.

Intrigue: Everyone knows what seaweed is as they have seen it on the beach, but they don’t always know how incredibly good for you it is, along with many many other benefits.  Therefore, we want to use this general awareness of what seaweed is to intrigue people to get involved, and learn some more.  Even if their first reaction is “Ew, seaweed!” it's still an intriguing reaction, and far better than no reaction at all!

Educate: Once the intrigue is there, it is our job to make sure people know what seaweed is, where to get it, why its so incredibly good for you and the planet, and how to use it and benefit from it.  Education really is the key to seeing the seaweed industry grow.  This includes all manner of different things - from providing super tasty and healthy recipes, to researching and lecturing in universities.  In addition to any direct marketing of the company and our products, we always seek to educate and promote seaweed generally, with no commercial gain other than to see more people understand what seaweed is and why it's so good.

Engage: We love to talk seaweed, and nothing is better than when we get contacted by people and companies who have seen what we’re doing and want to learn even more.  This may be through social media, via emails, calls, or face-to-face meetings.  Our MD, Dr Craig Rose (also known as Doctor Seaweed) regularly writes articles and blogs, and talks at events to highlight seaweed, and engage with a diverse range of audiences.

What’s been the reaction to your product so far?

The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive.  The format, in a powder or granule, makes it so easy to incorporate into foods, supplements and beverages, that people love to use it. They realise the many benefits of reducing salt, adding nutrition, and even with research on tackling aspects of obesity and diabetes.

The fact it is Scottish, natural, organic and sustainable ticks many boxes for people. Our seaweed is a food that has positive impacts on health and nutrition, as well as on how we use our natural resources.

What’s the biggest challenge of marketing a relatively unique/unknown product?

Seaweed is often still perceived as ‘weird’.  This can be a negative, but often is the positive that intrigues media interest.  Once negative perceptions are overcome, we generally have had great coverage.

We are a new company, with limited budgets for marketing, and so don’t have the level of PR we may like to keep pushing our story out there.  However, even without this, we have had coverage on the BBC, The Independent, and many global trade media outlets that are extremely valuable to us.

Have you approached the press for coverage opportunities or has it happened organically?

Both.  We have found that when we have approached the media with a good story, it has snowballed with interest from other media outlets.  Some journalists have found us from our activities online and got in touch for information and quotes about related stories.

I hope we are very proactive with our marketing, and I believe its always worth doing, as you never know who may be reading it…

What’s your most important ‘hook’ when it comes to talking to the press?

That’s quite a hard question, as different audiences have different hooks.  The overarching novelty of seaweed to be used as a mainstream/future food gets people interested, and then more refined messages of use for salt replacement, nutritional enhancement, obesity, as well as being sustainable and with strong provenance to Scotland. Our seaweed just has so many hooks I guess!

Get the Virgin StartUp Business plan