The Fancy Goldfish Principle

As a Territory Sales Manager with a gigantic territory, I drive a lot. Last week I was running a little early for a meeting with one of my very favorite agencies in Santa Rosa, CA, so I decided to stop at the nearest Office Depot to print some extra marketing materials. On the way out I noticed a Petsmart right next door. Remembering that this agency has two dogs they bring to the office every day, I decided to reward them for the great job they have been doing for me lately by bringing the dogs a couple of bones. I knew they’d love them!

I ran into the Petsmart, found the bones I wanted, and with time still left before my meeting, I found myself perusing the aisles mindlessly. I ended up in the aquatic section, surrounded by three walls full of large fish tanks with a variety of aquatic creatures. The first thing that caught my eye was that the goldfish were selling for 32 cents each. Thirty-two cents! I was shocked by how incredibly cheap they were. For a quarter, a nickel, and two pennies you could buy an entire living organism to entertain your kids, teach them about life and death, and teach them responsibility. Then I looked two fish tanks higher and found that Petsmart also has a larger, more hardy variety of goldfish that sells for $31.99, almost 100 times more than the cheap common Goldfish. (I’m sure there’s an article on the power of differentiation there, but that’s not what I want to talk about today…)

What I found really interesting though, is that the price tag on the fish tank didn’t say the actual species of the goldfish, it refered to them exactly as the customer would, simply as Fancy Goldfish. I’m sure marine biologists would be very annoyed by the simplification, but Petsmart knows who their customer is and refers to the product exactly as the customer would. This is marketing genius! The last thing they want to do is make the customer feel ignorant or overwhelmed when deciding whether to buy a Lionhead Goldfish, Ranchu Goldfish or a Redcap Oranda Goldfish.

I think there is a valuable lesson to be learned from this, for all industries, and especially for our insurance industry. The customer doesn’t shop for auto insurance they search for car insurance. They don’t look for commercial insurance they want business insurance.

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My own company, American Modern Insurance, recently went through a website redesign where we use the words the consumer uses, not our internal technical lingo that insurance agents would understand but might baffle the end consumer who we ultimately want to reach. Our website no longer offers classic vehicle insurance or manufactured home insurance, even if those are still the terms we use internally. It now offers collector car insurance and mobile home insurance.

Is your company or agency speaking to your customer in terms they understand and are comfortable with? More importantly are new potential customers able to find you online by searching using the words they use in their regular life when referring to your products? If not, it’s time to apply the Fancy Goldfish Principle!


About Antonio Canas

Tony started in insurance in 2009 and immediately became a designation addict and shortly thereafter a proud insurance nerd. He has worked in claims, underwriting, finance and sales management, at 4 carriers, 6 cities and 5 states. Tony is passionate about insurance, technology and especially helping the insurance industry figure out how to retain and engage the younger generation of insurance professionals. Tony is a co-founder of and a passionate speaker.

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