The Fishy Idea that turned into a Brand : Bubba Gump

It is a downer returning home from your holidays.  You know all good things must come to an end;  you expect a tedious wait at the airport and expect a journey that can be tiring in the extreme.

So it was with squeals of delight that we discovered the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company at our departure airport.  “That’s the company founded by Forrest Gump” shouted the little one.

The neon sign was first to catch the eye.  It shouts all American and come and look at me.

Bubba Gump Shrimp Company Neon Signage
Bubba Gump Shrimp Company Neon Signage

Then the merchandise. So what could a company that originated in shrimp fishing possibly have to offer? Lots more than we imagined. The little one tried on a snug fitting t-shirt emblazoned with the company logo – in a trice she was transformed into a cool able seaman on Bubba’s boat.  Then we found some shrimp plush toys. And lots of sporting goods including football jerseys, water bottles, table tennis bats – all stuff connected to the Forrest Gump film based on the novel of the same name by Winston Groom. The miscellany and colourful displays invited browsing.

Bubba Gump Shrimps in the Market
Bubba Gump Shrimps in the Market
Bubba Gump Table Tennis Bats (Paddles) in the Market
Bubba Gump Table Tennis Bats (Paddles) in the Market
Bubba Gump Market
Bubba Gump Market – Some of the sayings

We had to discover more. The diner itself was like a shack. Wooden beams holding up a corrugated iron roof. Three different ‘rooms’ decorated with US car number plates and signs outlining simple morals or beliefs:

“When all else fails, try doing what the captain suggested”

“A promise is a promise”

“If the customer wants vanilla, give him vanilla”

To get the waiters’ attention, we were invited to display the sign “Stop Forrest Stop” and when we were happy to display the sign “Run Forrest Run”. We ordered “Bubba Gump’s Shrimp Heaven”. The choice was essentially shrimp or shrimp. Either boiled, broiled, fried, baked, sauteed, steamed or barbecued. But hey that’s what makes the difference. The coconut shrimp were devine as were the shrimp balls.

With the family engaged we enjoyed a happy hour reliving and conversing about the film. As the little one remarked; “this would be a great place to go with a first date.”

Staff and customers at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.

 Marketing Inspiration

Turn ideas in winning business concepts by developing the story

At the heart of every great business or brand lies a great idea. The idea behind the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company is born of a the character and content of the film and novel. It has been built into a compelling  and above all distinctive business proposition by creating a story based on the Forrest Gump film.

Attract and engage consumers through attention getting packaging and display

From signage through to the physical environment, products and people, experiencing the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company is like peeling back the layers of an onion to reveal the magic of the brand within. While we don’t know whether the brand was conceptualised using the proverbial ‘brand onion’ and ‘customer journey’, it is possible to glimpse their application to interpret, and potential to engineer great brand experiences.

Accelerate awareness and demand by including magical moments and encourage word of mouth

The combination of lots of little things adds up to a memorable experience – one that you want to tell your friends about. The staff were part of the fun – they had to be included in our photographs!

Ensure commercial success by proving the business model and driving international roll out

The business formed as long ago as 1996 and proved itself in the US before expanding to Mexico and Asia. There are now 33 sites with sales in the region of $5.5m per location per annum. That’s pretty high with the merchandise adding value beyond what might be expected from a pure play restaurant. As the company’s website says, the idea was inspired by Paramount Pictures, and turned into a concept by Rusty Pelican Restaurants. This then led to a ‘licensing agreement’ based on the motion picture property.

Do you want to create and deliver a compelling and distinctive brand experience? If so check out The Marketing Directors’ brand marketing consultancy services.  We help devise brand strategies, and run masterclasses and programmes to empower teams and deliver great experiences.

And as Forrest would say, “that’s all I have to say about that.”

All photographs © Guy Tomlinson 2010

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