Skip to content

A Grand Scam that's a Grand Slam!

2009 November 22

Ivar Haglund opened a Seattle aquarium and restaurant over 70 years ago.  He was the consummate marketer with an amazing knack for discovering amazing opportunities to exploit his brand and grow his business.

So when the press announced the discovery of  HUGE billboards promoting Ivar’s chowder, anchored to the bottom of Puget Sound by concrete footings, people across the Northwest (especially those of us who grew up and remember Ivar’s antics) bit on that story hook, line and sinker!

Image from Seattle Times Article, September 18, 2009

It was a throwback to simpler times.   More brilliance from Seattle’s most brilliant marketer.  Another Ivar Haglund grand slam, 24 years after he died.

How did I feel when Erik Lacitis at the Seattle Times informed us that the whole story about those underwater billboards was a hoax?

At first I was disappointed.  Disappointed with myself for being gullible.  Angry that I hadn’t looked closely enough at the billboard and the 1954 offer of Ivar’s Clam Chowder at 75 cents per cup; way too high a price for 1954.

As a Social Marketer, who preaches total transparency and honesty throughout every inch of every organization and in every customer touch point, I was appalled.  How dare a marketer in the year 2009 use traditional and social media to promote a total fabrication (a very well crafted fabrication I must add).

And that’s when the brillilance of the Ivar’s chowder campaign really hit me.

I believed in this campaign because I wanted to believe it.  Ivar was such a brilliant self promoter  it never even entered my mind that this could be a hoax.

I know many of the amazingly creative people who work on Ivar’s marketing team.  I’ve even done work with them.  Surely, if this was a hoax they would be transparent with me.

This campaign was “Classic Ivar”.  Every “i” was dotted, every “t” crossed.  It was perfection!  And because this campaign was “Classic Ivar” it was a huge success.

In terms of sales, Ivar’s chowder sales increased from 19,000 cups sold in September 2008 to over 84,000 cups sold in September, 2009.   Restaurant traffic was up 5% to 10% over last September.

What’s  the takeaway?

I think it’s proof that for every rule (transparency, for instance) there is an exception; an extraordinary rule breaker that creates extraordinary results.  This campaign delivered on the tangible; a sales increases in a troubled economy, and the intangible; the extension of the Ivar’s touch for those of us who grew up here, and an introduction to Ivar’s self marketing tradition for those who didn’t live it first hand.

In a story pubished on November 12, 2009 in the Seattle Times Erik Lacitis hit it on the head when he wrote,

The story had legs because of well, how to put it?

How about like this: People you wouldn’t expect to lie, did.


A mockumentary posted on the Ivar’s website in early September, 2009


A Story on KING 5’s Evening Magazine lends credibility to the campaign


No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Note: You can use basic XHTML in your comments. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS