PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Ralston Purina Co. is co-marketing its brands of pet food on television with the Bi-Lo supermarket chain.
The program is part of a new strategic effort in brand marketing for the St. Louis-based company. It aims to partner with the trade to reach consumers with jointly sponsored messages via various media. "As we look at marketing together, this is a whole new frontier," said Randy Rose, vice president of customer development. "Our basic and unique strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for one another really are a very solid platform for joint business development." James von der Heydt, vice president of marketing for pet food products, said, "Co-marketing is an opportunity to move from transaction-based relationships to solution-based relationships. Not just between retailers and manufacturers, but between manufacturers and consumers." The executives explained Ralston's co-marketing strategy here last month at the fifth annual Global Electronic Marketing Conference co-sponsored by Retail Systems Consulting, Naples, Fla., and the Grocery Manufacturers of America, Washington. Ralston is co-marketing its Purina Dog Chow brand with Bi-Lo in 30-second television spots. The voiceover during one of the commercials, aired at GEMCON, said, "Give your dog a consistent diet. Purina Dog Chow every day. And get a consistent low price on Purina Dog Chow every day at Bi-Lo." Bi-Lo, based in Mauldin, S.C., is a subsidiary of Ahold USA. It operates about 260 supermarkets in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. Ralston executives did not mention where the spots are airing or when they started. However, in a followup interview with Patti Kellett, a Bi-Lo spokeswoman, Brand Marketing learned that 30 spots per week aired March 6 to 19 in the following markets: Charlotte and Asheville, N.C.; Greenville, Spartanburg and Columbia, S.C.; and Chattanooga, Tenn. "Co-marketing means marketing the store as well as the product solution," said von der Heydt. "This is a big mind-shift. For us, it means marketing a brand with a retailer. For retailers, it means building a store's identity with the products that somebody else manufactures and are often sold right across the street. "These are not easy changes to make, but the solution seems
very much worth it," he said. "It takes us to a new level. If we're going to do co-marketing, we need to start pretty high up in the food chain. We need to get together and plan communications strategies that link the brands and the goals of the brands to the retailer objectives." These joint efforts, he added, can lead to such things as direct mail, linked home pages, in-store sampling and kiosks distributing products to qualified consumers.