When Retail Marketing Taps Into Shopper Passion


Special coupons. Good Value. Fresh. Convenient. Wide selection.


While these are all important attributes, do they really differentiate a retailer and excite shoppers?

I'm talking about excitement, as in passion and emotion, the kinds of feelings that can help retailers and products stand out from the pack.

This week's SN feature story called “The Hot List” provides a window into what does excite customers.

It spotlights companies and trends with momentum, partly because they generate passion. These include operators with strong followings based on superior perishables offerings (The Fresh Market, Eataly). Also highlighted are trends fueled by emotion, such as small indulgences (passionate shoppers on a budget) and food trucks (energized foodies).

Not surprisingly, savvy companies are reaching passionate fans through social media sites. Some gourmet food truck operators, for example, are using Facebook and Twitter to give followers updates about their locations, according to this week's story.

A number of food retailers have figured out how to tap into shopper emotions and enhance the impact through related contests. Here are some recent examples:

Wegmans isn't afraid to use the “L” word — love — in marketing. Its “Products We Love” store brand survey generated some 1,400 entries recently from shoppers, each of whom had to submit a comment about which of the retailer's store brand products they love and why. “We were overwhelmed by the wide range of products you've fallen in love with,” the company posted on its website. A random drawing awarded prizes to shoppers who participated.

Target is tapping into shopper feelings with a nostalgia-oriented promotion in conjunction with General Mills. Shoppers were asked to identify childhood favorite cereal boxes in a General Mills survey. Target is reintroducing the winning choices, five limited-edition boxes from prior decades reaching back to the 1950s, each with retro designs. The cereal brands included Cheerios, Trix, Honey Nut Cheerios, Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Lucky Charms.

H.E. Butt Grocery's Central Market is exploring customer passion over taste. As part of its “Eat the Heat” promotion, the retailer has invited shoppers to identify via Twitter and Facebook how hot they like their foods. The choices are Fire Breather, Heat Seeker and Slow Burner. Of course, there's a product tie-in, as the retailer promotes certain food items for each level of hotness.

Hy-Vee is showcasing foods from “Blue Zones,” areas of the world in which inhabitants are said to live the longest, happiest lives. Locations identified as Blue Zones include Sardinia, Italy; Ikaria, Greece; Okinawa, Japan; Nicoya, Costa Rica; and Loma Linda, Calif. The program focuses on foods rich in antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids and fiber, and is based on the AARP/Blue Zones Vitality Project.

Perhaps someone should calculate what sales lift comes from inserting an emotional element into retail marketing. I'll bet practitioners will find a link, and conclude that passion is always in fashion.


Liz Webber

Liz Webber is Engagement Director / Fresh Market Editor at Supermarket News. She covers fresh foods for the magazine and creates multimedia, blog posts and other content for the website. She joined...

Elliot Zwiebach

Elliot Zwiebach has been with Supermarket News for more than 45 years — a span difficult for him to comprehend, having once been the youngest reporter on the staff. During that time he has...
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