Magazine-sponsored in-store promotional events appear to be a no-brainer for supermarkets. However, that's not always the case, publishers say.
As magazine publishers look for ways to offer their advertisers more value for their media buy, emphasis is being put on seeking retail partners to stage various in-store promotions. Among titles sponsoring such programs are Good Housekeeping, Cooking Light, Southern Living, Family Circle and Prevention.
"Retail is where it's at," said Sean Sullivan, marketing-services director for Prevention magazine, published by Rodale Press, Emmaus, Pa. "Support in the stores is what our advertisers tell us they want."
The co-promotions comprise a variety of activities, including in-store sampling, regional ads in the magazine promoting the store, cooking and health-related events, and personal appearances by chefs or other known names. This activity drives traffic into stores and creates excitement, retailers said.
"It brings quite a few more people into the store. Not only does it increase sales, but it also adds some excitement for the shopper," said Mike Hoerner, store manager for a Tops International unit in Rochester, N.Y., that is on the Ask Cooking Light tour, sponsored by New York-based Time Warner's Cooking Light magazine.
So why would a grocer be reluctant to endorse such promotions? The value of space is always an issue. "We've found that, as we try to spread this concept, it's hard to get some supermarkets to think about this as a marketing partnership," said Barbara Applebaum, director of promotion and merchandising for New York-based Gruner & Jahr, which publishes Family Circle and McCall's.
"For instance, it's tough to get them to commit to giving us any space in their circulars at all. They may be interested in me coming in and paying for it, but often they're not willing to give me anything in exchange. I don't call that a partnership," she said.
Nevertheless, most retailers like these events -- which also, of course, tend to be big victories for the magazines and the advertisers. "They're not cheap events, but they're worth it because they really offer our advertisers a true added-value benefit. This is not smoke and mirrors or bells and whistles. This is something that's real," Applebaum added.
According to Chuck Tripp, director of retail sales for Prevention magazine, published by Rodale Press, Emmaus, Pa. it's a trend that will only grow. "It is servicing -- satisfying the needs and desires of both retailers and advertisers right now. And we're happy to be able to help," he said.
The following are some examples of the three-pronged promotional strategies being pursued by magazines, advertisers and supermarkets.
Kroger Co., Cincinnati, is the retailing partner for two of the newest initiatives from Good Housekeeping. In Detroit and Lansing, Mich., markets, Kroger radio ads are paired with two-minute "interview" spots in which the magazine's editor-in-chief, Ellen Levine, dispenses advice on how to solve household concerns. "We're talking about leveraging that relationship into an in-store presence, as well," said Sullivan.
And in the third quarter of 1998, in Kroger's Cincinnati-area stores, Good Housekeeping will launch a new in-store promotion including sampling and point-of-purchase shelf cards promoting the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval and participating brands. The regional edition of the magazine will run full-page ads promoting the brands at the same time.
Good Housekeeping is in the third year of a sampling promotion with Food Emporium, which has 35 outlets in the metropolitan New York area. Food Emporium makes an ideal partner, Sullivan explained, because it has expanded kitchen facilities with working ranges and a professional food-preparation staff.
Brand-name co-sponsors, such as Mrs. Smith's pies and Reddi-Wip topping, provide the raw materials to the 10 Food Emporium locations that have fully equipped test kitchens. Supermarket staff arrange menus around the brands and prepare "quick-and-easy family dinners, with an entree, salad dressing and an easy dessert," said Sullivan. They hand out coupons, product literature and any other materials the brand wants to distribute.
"Any kind of special activity is great for Food Emporium because it brings more people into the stores," said Dolores Wolfe, director of consumer services for Food Emporium, the upscale division of Montvale, N.J.-based A&P. "And a lot of our customers don't realize just how versatile products can be."
Food Emporium also just sponsored a special appearance by a chef affiliated with Gourmet magazine at its Fort Lee, N.J., store.
One of the most highly evolved of such programs is Ask Cooking Light, an "interactive mobile magazine" visiting supermarkets in more than 50 cities in 14 states during a seven-month tour this year. Co-sponsored by a list of blue-chip brands, ranging from Hershey's syrup to Kraft's, and Jell-O to Del Monte Foods, the brightly decorated tractor trailer is carrying 2 tons of recipe cards, coupons, nutritional information and product samples.
When Ask Cooking Light hits a supermarket parking lot, about 1,500 to 2,000 consumers a day come to see what all the buzz is about. Promotion staff hands out the samples and information. Local hospitals offer body-fat testing and blood-pressure screening on site. Ask Cooking Light holds contests, cooks up some recipes and even surveys attendees to see if they're having fun -- last year, 96% of consumers said they were.
"It works out great for us," said Hoerner of Tops. "There's very little work involved for us at the store level, other than coordinating products and coming in and making sure you've got it displayed right."
Some retailers try to get advertising mileage out of the tour. For example, Bashas' Markets, Chandler, Ariz., ran a display ad in local publications touting the magazine's tour with pictures of the inside and outside of the trailer and the logos of dozens of brand-name sponsors.
"People truly love the thing, and they come in and rave about it," said Chris Allen, vice president and publisher of Cooking Light. "It moves product to a significant degree; there's a definite spike in sales. And there's an excitement -- a bit of a festival atmosphere."
Now in its fifth year, Ask Cooking Light hasn't reached this level of execution and success by accident.
"We started out with some skepticism from retailers because we didn't have a prototype," Allen recalled. "We'd just go into retailers and say, 'Will you tie in with us?' We were just selling the concept on a wing and a prayer." By the second year, brand sponsors and supermarkets could see that Ask Cooking Light was becoming a great way to build store traffic and to get consumers to pay attention to higher-margin products.
This year's tour, Allen said, sold out faster than any of the previous versions, and it added Post Cereals -- which is using the program to promote its new Cranberry-Almond Crunch -- to the sponsorship rolls.
To facilitate relationships with local retailers, Cooking Light sends out press kits to local food journalists, puts up in-store posters and, the week before the rig pulls into town, erects endcap displays including the featured products. To make sponsors even happier, the magazine sends the promotion for a day to each brand's headquarters operation, where it basically replicates the festival atmosphere of the supermarket events.
Another Time Warner publication, Southern Living, has conducted its in-store Cooking Show promotion for several years. The "road show" visits key markets including Atlanta; Charleston, S.C.; and Huntsville, Ala., with a two-hour exhibition involving recipes from the magazine, giving attendees advice on how to throw parties and handing out samples of branded goods. The magazine supplements this promotion with in-store endcap displays -- usually around a seasonal theme like barbecuing -- that tout advertisers' brands.
Family Circle has been building its in-store "Sample This!" promotion for five years. So far, its main retail partner has been Elizabeth, N.J.-based ShopRite Supermarkets on the East Coast, but the publication is planning to branch out to the Midwest or West Coast soon.
Four times a year, "Sample This!" goes into 180 ShopRite stores and each time generates total traffic of about 45,000 shoppers, Applebaum said. Advertising sponsors provide their samples and pay for any other food that is served. The magazine handles cups and napkins, as well as mailing and distribution of supplies to the stores and signage. Products retailed come out of the stores' general stocks.
For the fourth consecutive year, Rodale is sponsoring an intermittent tour by Tom Ney, the food editor of its Prevention title, who visits supermarket grand openings and puts on Friday- and Saturday-night cooking exhibitions. For a total of three to four hours each day, Ney -- a national celebrity of sorts, who has appeared on the "Today" show and other network morning shows -- uses and promotes seafood brands that are sold in the stores and demonstrates healthy-cooking and healthy-eating tips, tying them in with products that are advertised in the magazine.