David Warschawski, CEO of Warschawski, a full-service marketing and communications agency in Baltimore, emphasized that Old Bay's strong local identity makes a solid springboard for any effort to expand geographically or extend the line of Old Bay products.
In this area, he said, Old Bay is "the Kleenex or the Xerox of the crab spices," in that the name is generically used when referring to any seafood seasoning. That's a great advantage locally, he said, although it's not a national brand, and in many parts of the country "it is not known at all."
Warschawski thought that sticking to seafood alone would be "exceedingly limiting," given Old Bay's potential. He imagined Old Bay seasoning blends with an Asian inflection, Old Bay sausages, hot dogs and even margarita mix.
He noted that Jack Daniel's whiskey brand has done something like this with sauces served at T.G.I. Friday's restaurants and in a line of Jack Daniel's barbecue sauces. Hershey's and Betty Crocker have teamed up on cupcake and brownie mixes, and Starbucks puts its imprimatur on syrups, sauces, coffees and coffee brewing equipment.
"These are the kind of extensions when you have a powerful brand," Warschawski said.
Chris Piergalline, a Pigtown resident who grew up in Laurel, said he has taken Old Bay on trips to Las Vegas because not all seafood buffets there offer it. He could see the brand's popularity rising nationally — though not quite to the heights of Maryland's obsession — through licensed versions of products he grew up on, such as Old Bay popcorn.
He just hopes he can leave his yellow can home in the future.
"I have friends spread throughout the country, and really throughout the world, and I would love for them to be able to eat the same types of seafood, done the way I do it," Piergalline said. "There's plenty of Old Bay knockoffs — you know, seafood seasonings — but it's just not the same."