“Our purpose was to expose young people to lure fishing through online gaming. I spoke to a YouTuber who is involved in fishing and he introduced his followers to the virtual world we created. And that’s where they create their avatars, interact with our brand and win tackle.”
Confused? Welcome to angling marketing in 2024. More specifically, welcome to South Korea and the Cats Claw brand, which has decided that, if you want to reach the next generation of anglers, you quite literally need to enter the world those youngsters like to inhabit and talk to them on their terms.
In the case of Cats Claw it has discovered that what youngsters really like to do is sign up to a chat app called ZEPETO, where users create and interact as 3D avatars in different worlds. Cats Claw has learned from the ZEPETO design tools to create its own custom world and, since April 2023, has been attracting youngsters to its games and handing out branded prizes.
Think it’s a gimmick? You have no idea. ZEPETO is huge. As in 200 million subscribers worldwide, huge. And it is being used by some of the world’s biggest brands to do exactly what Cats Claw is attempting.
“Nike has a soccer game in its world, and Gucci showcases its store with a game. Hyundai allows its players to race in its own car models. It felt like the ideal platform for a fishing brand looking to the future.”
So says Erica An, Cats Claw’s Sales Manager and the source of that quote at the start of the article. An is the driving force behind the project and is pleased with the results so far, mostly because of the change in brand perception amongst potential new customers – something she feels is essential if Cats Claw is going to remain relevant in the future.
“Tackle brands reach the same customers in the same obvious way, but how will that grow future sales? That is the big question. We have been in existence for 28 years, and while we have a sustainable model right now selling to our core customers in the 30-50 age group, we need to identify our potential customers of the future.”
Cats Claw is known domestically for its hooks and jigheads. Its most recent best seller is the Moing Rolling Egi bait, which was designed in-house and produces what An says is the ‘world’s first self-shaking action’. It sold 150,000 units in just two months.
Cats Claw also prides itself on the fact that 80 per cent of its catalogue is made up of products that are between ten and 20 years old. They keep selling year after year. But it is a double-edged sword, says An.
“We are in danger of being seen as an old Korean fishing company,” she says, which is why there was a need for a new marketing approach. “We need to reach the younger generation and inform them about our brand in ways they understand.”
ZEPETO does that right now. Searches for Cats Claw on NAVER, Korea’s version of Google, have grown in the last year. Meanwhile, angling YouTubers in Korea are reporting more enquiries for the brand amongst their followers.
The risk has paid off, and An says there is more to come. Should other brands follow the lead? It seems so. “ZEPETO has plans to sell real products. Traditional stores are losing their strengths. The world is changing very quickly,” she says.
“We are entering Web 3.0 where direct participation and experiences strengthen our connections with each other, and with brands. At Cats Claw we think it is only right to try new things. It’s important we understand the customers of the future.”