Believe it or not, brand popularity in North America isn’t a guaranteed passport to global success. How your brand is viewed in Europe could be very different in the States. So how do you unlock the door to multi-continental prosperity? Well, like most things in life, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. The subtle and not-so-subtle differences between fishing markets on either side of the pond mean the playbook for “breaking Europe” can include any number of tactics, with varying success. By examining case studies from the European battlefield, clues can be found.
The historic one
Case study: Berkley
If your brand has history, chances are European anglers know about it and probably even like it. Case in point: Berkley. With over 80 years of trading to its name, this is a brand known, liked and trusted in Europe. It also has its own distribution setup over here thanks to Pure Fishing’s European base in Alnwick, England (home of Hardy, don’t ya know). Naturally, it’s a much easier sell to prospective buyers (both trade and consumer) with this kind of historical backing – but it also means you’ve been doing something right all those years. Another nice side effect of a long history is that it gives you a large product offering that has expanded to include products better suited to anglers in Europe.
The cool one
Case study: Costa
We might not always show it, but us European anglers like to look cool while we fish, and we respond well to brands that have carved out a stylish niche in fishing. One great example is Costa sunglasses, a brand that has taken a very organic approach to growth in Europe, based largely around the demand from Europeans. It’s about more than “man sees angler with big fish and cool sunglasses and wants both in his life,” though. Costa’s cool factor is also built on its lifestyle marketing and its fine work and support for environmental causes – something that has pretty big cool clout in Europe. We dig being green. And we dig looking cool while being green.
The well-connected one
Case study: Zebco
Availability of a brand can help it seep into a market almost unnoticed. If you have distribution that gets your brand exposed in the right places far and wide across a market, anglers will take notice and start getting curious. When that brand is one like Zebco and its affiliates like Quantum and Fin-Nor, then that process accelerates. Zebco has its own subsidiary company based in Germany and because of this has a sales network that would be very enviable to most. This didn’t happen overnight, it’s taken many years. It’s also seen the company buying up European-based companies like UK firm Preston Innovations to further integrate itself as a whole into Europe. The right connections can bring you success, but more importantly, bring you knowledge about the idiosyncrasies of European fishing styles.
The in-tune one
Case study: Fly brands
Fishing is pretty different in Europe than North America. For starters, bass isn’t the main market. In fact, most countries don’t have freshwater bass at all. Lure fishing is more geared around pike, perch and saltwater species, while carp and bait fishing reign supreme in many places. Because of this, it can be challenging for American brands to transfer their range straight over to Europe and sell. We’re not interested in surface frogs particularly and having the name of the latest Bassmaster Classic winner attached to a product means about as much as having an NFL player endorse a general sports product – we just don’t get it. However, one area where Europe and North America see more eye-to-eye in terms of brand recognition is fly fishing – chucked fluff sticks. If you think about it, fly fishing is probably the only truly global style of fishing – generally wherever you are, you use the same gear and catch similar species of fish. Because of that, many American fly fishing brands are firm household names throughout Europe – the likes of Sage, RIO, Simms, Scientific Anglers and Orvis are as familiar to Europeans as croissants and driving a manual transmission.
Premier brands like Simms and Sage are popular in Europe because they are among the best in their fields and they have been working the market for a number of years. These brands have offered consistency and performance that is hard to ignore.
North American fly brands have also got it nailed when it comes to distribution strategy. Many utilize partnerships with well-established distributors they can trust. The Far Bank brands – RIO, Redington and Sage – work with Danish company Fairpoint Outdoors, which is the creator of lure brand Westin. Meanwhile, Simms and Scott Rods work with Norway-based Flyfish Europe, a business set up specifically to distribute overseas brands in Europe.
Clearly, there are more than four ways to break into Europe as an American brand, but one lesson is common among all the methods out there: you can’t take anything for granted.
European anglers have been brought up differently. We haven’t watched our anglers be treated like footballers; we’ve watched them fish with maggots and stinky man-made carp boilies and be revered as cult heroes instead. There isn’t one species that unites us all; there are eccentric enthusiasts for a menagerie of fish types. Whatever your market research tells you about how anglers see your brand and who your customer is, you need to revisit those examinations to make it work in Europe. We’re different, but we’re no less passionate.