Cause-marketing programs, high-value sweepstakes and other promotional efforts are encouraging brand engagement
High-quality ingredients, resourceful consumer research, innovative packaging and strong price points are only some of the attributes of a successful private-label program. What's just as necessary is a heavy-hitting promotional plan to back the assortment.
More and more retailers are realizing that and running high-value games and contests, connecting their brands to charity and incorporating private label in social media campaigns.
“Retailers are becoming much better marketers,” said Don Stuart of Cannondale Associates, a Wilton, Conn., sales and marketing firm. “They're doing all the things that the branded manufacturers are doing.”
For many years, private label was put on the shelves and rarely promoted, added Bill Bishop, chairman of Willard Bishop, Barrington, Ill. But as retailers increasingly lean on store brands as a competitive differentiator, they realize that more promotional activity is necessary.
“Progressive retailers are making more of a marketing investment,” he said.
The level of promotional activity has improved so much that SN is recognizing the Top 10 efforts to take place over the last 18 months.
SN chose the following promotions based on a variety of criteria, including originality; ability to generate consumer excitement about and engagement with the brand; Web-centric capabilities; and ties to a cause-marketing platform.
They appear in alphabetical order.
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Big Y encouraged trial of its private labels last year with a holiday recipe challenge. All entrants had to include Big-Y brands and demonstrate their recipe on video.
“Charge up your camera, get your good side and have some fun,” Big Y stated in promotional materials.
One grand-prize winner received $1,000, while four first-place winners received $250 each.
Videos showed each entrant preparing their favorite holiday recipe including brands like Big Y, Full Circle and World Classics Trading Co. All videos were uploaded to the Big Y website.
Throughout the entry period, registered users could visit bigy.com and vote for their favorite entries. All those who voted were entered for a chance to win a $50 Big Y gift card.
The five entries with the highest votes qualified for the grand prize. They were judged on originality of recipe, ease of recipe preparation, creativity of video performance, and use of Big Y brands.
TYLER, Texas — Brookshire's Food & Pharmacy stores promoted its new store-brand Brookshire's Best Angus Beef with a high-value sweepstakes in which one customer won a $10,000 backyard makeover plus a year's supply of beef.
The “Summer Backyard Barbecue Giveaway” was an online scratch-off game on the company website. Each time someone played the game, they could instantly win a $50 Brookshire's gift card, and were entered to win the grand prize: the $10,000 backyard makeover and a one-year supply of Brookshire's Best Angus Beef.
“To encourage customers to try the online game, the prize had to be a significant value,” Rick Ellis, Brookshire's chief marketing officer, told SN. “We also wanted it to fit well with the theme of promoting Brookshire's Best Angus Beef.”
Nearly 7,500 entered the contest. Many people played multiple times, according to Ellis.
“The game proved to be entertaining for our customers, encouraging them to return more than eight times on average during the promotion,” said Ellis.
The grand-prize winner was Alice Newby of Mesquite, Texas. Her prize was awarded in early September in the form of $7,400 in Home Depot gift cards and $2,600 in Brookshire's gift cards.
The sweepstakes helped make the brand top of mind with consumers, said Ellis.
“It created a great opportunity to raise awareness of one of our newer store brands,” said Ellis.
The year-old line of Brookshire's Best Angus Beef is being positioned as a premium brand.
“It is a carefully chosen program to bring the very best possible beef to Brookshire's customers, ensuring product integrity and consistency with every cut,” said Ellis.
BUEHLER FOOD MARKETS
WOOSTER, Ohio — Buehler Food Markets gave shoppers a good reason to try its Our Family label this year: They were free.
The retailer ran five weeklong promotions offering a free Our Family product with the purchase of one to two national-brand counterparts.
In May, the featured product was Heinz Ketchup, 24 ounces, for $2.28; June, Jif peanut butter, 18 ounces, $1.98; July, Domino sugar, 5 pounds, $2.44; and August, Kraft Philadelphia cream cheese, 8 ounces, $1.44. Meanwhile, in October, those who purchased two jars of Ragu spaghetti sauce, 16 to 26 ounces, at two for $4, received one jar of Our Family sauce for free.
The offers were promoted in circular ads showing pictures of the national brand next to the Our Family counterpart.
“Try it free,” one of the ads read. “We make it easy to compare Our Family to the national brand.”
The promotion was designed to encourage trial of its Our Family brand and the guarantee that backs it: If a customer is not completely satisfied, she will get a full refund plus a free replacement brand of their choice.
“The goal was to get them to try Our Family and make them aware of our private-label guarantee,” Bob Buehler, Buehler's vice president of marketing and merchandising, told SN.
Trial is a key part of educating shoppers about the quality and taste of the brand, Buehler said. Some shoppers may otherwise pass it over because, while Our Family is a national-brand equivalent, they may fear that it will not taste as good as their current brand.
“Some people may not buy a store brand even if it's cheaper because they're worried that they may not like it and have to throw away the entire box,” he said.
“The fact that they could buy their favorite brand plus get our brand for free took away all the risk.”
Customer response was strong, which Buehler attributed in large part to the poor economy and a rise in promotion-sensitive shoppers.
Supplementing the buy-one, get-one-free program was a September loyalty card promotion in which double points were provided for each dollar spent on an Our Family product.
Buehler's has ongoing loyalty card promotions offering 1 point for each dollar spent on all products carried in stores. Each time 500 points are collected, the shopper receives a $10 Buehler's gift card; 1,250 points, a $25 gift card.
Along with Buehler's, Publix Super Markets also has been active in buy-one, get-one-free private-label offers.
FRESH & EASY
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market lets shoppers decide which of its products are the best of the best.
“Customer Favorites” is an online initiative that lets registered participants vote on their favorite products in certain categories.
In a recent poll for frozen appetizers, Fresh & Easy cranberry purses received the most votes, followed by mini Mediterranean pizza and Buffalo chicken wings.
Fresh & Easy uses the results to help develop new products and extend existing ones into new areas.
For instance, based on reviews of its hummus, Fresh & Easy expanded the assortment into new flavors like lemon cilantro, red pepper and spicy jalapeno.
The polls, which launched in the spring 2009, are conducted biweekly through the retailer's “Friends of Fresh & Easy” emails.
About one dozen polls have already been conducted.
Winning products are identified with shelf tags and a “Customer Favorites” logo on the packaging.
“Friends of Fresh & Easy find value in shaping our product line by providing feedback on our products and voting for their favorites products,” Gary Turner, Fresh & Easy's digital marketing manager, told SN.
Fresh & Easy created a “Favorites” section on its website to post the results. An online archive is available so that customers can see past polls.
SCARBOROUGH, Maine — Hannaford Bros. helped charities and its own label at the same time with a holiday fund-raiser in which it donated a private-label item to a food bank each time one was purchased.
Participating items included Hannaford-brand soup, pasta and cereal. Each was identified with a “Buy 1, Give 1” shelf tag.
“The shelf tags made this a very visible promotion in the Center Store,” Hannaford spokesman Michael Norton told SN.
The donation was part of its three-tiered “Hannaford Helps Fight Hunger” campaign, which assists food banks and organizations throughout Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont.
Another way to donate was by purchasing a box filled with private-label staples. Hannaford donated each purchased box to a local food pantry.
In exchange for buying a box, shoppers received a coupon book filled with offers for more than $50 in free private-label products.
“We're rewarding people for making a donation,” Norton said.
The coupons provide a free private-label product with the purchase of a compatible national brand. Most items were suitable for holiday baking recipes. For instance, one coupon was for a free 2-pound bag of Hannaford-brand sugar with the purchase of an 8-ounce bag of Fisher pecans.
“What's nice about the coupon book is that it's focused on the essentials for baking,” he said.
A third way to donate was by giving a flat $5 donation at the checkout. In return, donors received the $50 coupon book.
“We're giving shoppers three easy ways to help charity,” Norton said.
MATTHEWS, N.C. — Harris Teeter hosted its first Harris Teeter Brands Holiday Recipe Online Video Challenge from September through November 2009.
To enter, participants filmed themselves using Harris Teeter products to prepare their favorite holiday recipe, while letting viewers know why they like cooking with Harris Teeter, H.T. Traders and/or Harris Teeter Naturals products.
If they did not have a favorite holiday recipe, they could choose from eight of Harris Teeter's “Chef Phil's” favorite holiday recipes including entrees, sides and desserts.
Once entrants uploaded their videos to the Harris Teeter website, online voters narrowed the field of entrants to 20. All those who voted were entered into a sweepstakes to win $500 in Harris Teeter gift cards.
On Dec. 1, a panel of Harris Teeter judges selected Tennessee resident Nikki Norman's recipe for Stuffed Croissant French Toast as the grand-prize winner. She received $2,500.
Three runners-up also received a $500 gift card for the following recipes: Fluffy Ricotta Pancakes with Maple Roasted Apples and Crispy Turkey Bacon, Mistletoe Cherries and Harris Teeter Turkey Taters.
All four winning recipe videos are featured on harristeeter.com.
GREENSBORO, N.C. — Digital coupons are all the rage among national-brand manufacturers. Now, they're gaining steam in the private-label business.
At Lowes Foods, shoppers can save an average of 20 to 60 cents by using digital coupons on the retailer's website.
A total of $88.88 worth of savings is currently available from offers in the Center Store, nonfood, meat, dairy and produce departments.
It's all part of eOffers, digital coupons that can be downloaded to Lowes' loyalty cards. More than 100 offers, most of which are for store brands, are currently on the “eOffers” section of Lowes' website.
While digital coupons are growing in use throughout the food retail business, most efforts emphasize national-brand savings. Lowes is one of the few retailers to focus this heavily on private label.
Nearly 50 offers are for Lowes Foods-brand products, plus nearly two dozen more for its Topco-supplied brands: Full Circle and World Classics Trading Company and Paws Premium.
Among the offers: 40 cents off Lowes Foods glass cleaner, 32 ounces; 50 cents off Lowes Foods aluminum foil; and 20 cents off Lowes Foods ricotta cheese, 15 ounces.
InstaSave powers the program.
BRANDS GET BLOG SUPPORT
PLEASANTON, Calif. — Safeway puts its year-old online blog to good promotional use by incorporating posts about its store brands.
“Kate,” who is described as a full-time Safeway employee who's a married mother to three girls, writes the blog. Among her recent posts: “Home for the Holidays Promotion” and “Getting through Flu Season.”
Peppered among posts about saving money and recipes are comments about Safeway's Eating Right, Mom to Mom and other store brands.
A recent post touted its Eating Right turkey bacon: “We were craving pancakes one day so I decided to complete the meal with some turkey bacon. It was good and the girls loved it! And only 40 calories and 1 gram of fat per slice,” Kate wrote. “This one just might become a ‘regular’ on my weekly shopping list!”
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Spartan Stores hosted a contest to find out where shoppers enjoy its store brands.
The contest invited the public to take a picture of their favorite Spartan-brand product during a vacation or outing. All photos were uploaded at turntospartan.com.
“The contest supports our initiatives to bring brand awareness to a wider audience of consumers with very positive results,” Ron Cox, Spartan's consumer marketing director, told SN. “It also provided an opportunity for consumers to become more engaged with the brand, resulting in many very creative entries.”
Entries included a photograph with a write-up of how, when, where and why the Spartan product was used, outing details and a caption.
A group of judges selected 20 prizewinners who collectively received $2,600 worth of Spartan gift certificates. The grand-prize winner received a $1,000 Spartan gift certificate.
The winner was Rachel Birchmeier for her photo of her dog Bella taken with Spartan-brand products. Two of Rachel's entries also finished in third place, earning her an additional $200 in gift cards.
Rachel is a regular shopper at Spartan's Family Fare banner in Eaton Rapids, Mich.
THE GREAT VALUE ROUNDTABLE
BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Sales data isn't the only way that Wal-Mart gauges consumer attitudes about its Great Value line. The retailer also gets first-hand consumer comments about the brand via an online survey.
Anyone can register for The Wal-Mart Roundtable (theroundtable.surveys.com) by providing information about themselves and their shopping habits.
Once registered, roundtable members receive surveys that ask them various questions about what they think about the brand. Each participant receives about two to three surveys a month.
“Now that you've taken a seat at The Round Table, you'll be an important part of keeping Great Value great,” Wal-Mart states in promotional materials.
The goal is to create an open dialogue about ways to improve the brand.
“Over the years, we've found Wal-Mart shoppers have good ideas and great insights. So why not learn from them?” Wal-Mart states.
Each time a person completes a survey on theroundtable.surveys.com, they are automatically entered for a chance to win a $500 Wal-Mart gift card. Winners are notified via email.
One drawing will be held each month the survey is conducted. Ten $500 gift cards are awarded each month.
The roundtable is conducted for Wal-Mart by GfK Custom Research North America, New York, a market research company.
Wal-Mart says it uses the information to determine the future of the Great Value brand.
“Wal-Mart only collects survey data that will assist us in our decision-making regarding our products,” Wal-Mart states in promotional materials. “We only collect information that we need to make meaningful decisions.”