What are the best-known brands in the supermarket today? Certainly the list includes Coca-Cola, Tide, Campbell, Kellogg and other such icons of Americana. Well, add another icon that's a relative newcomer to the food store: Disney. In just a few years the Disney brand has made a splash in the supermarket, largely with sales of prerecorded videocassettes. The most successful of these full-length animated films have been "Aladdin," "Beauty and the Beast," "Fantasia," "Pinocchio" and "101 Dalmatians." "There's no other brand that connotes the same things as Disney. It is one of the highest-rated brands in the world -- most recognized, most loved," says Ann Daly, president of
Buena Vista Home Video, the Disney sales, marketing and distribution subsidiary based in Burbank, Calif.
The more progressive supermarket chains around the country have invested in permanent video departments offering rental and sell-through. Others sell video through in-and-out, prepacked shippers. New releases are usually priced at about $24.99. On Oct. 28, Disney will again cast its magic spell with the videocassette release of "Snow White," the 1937 animated classic. Timed for the holiday season, it will be priced at $26.99. Consumers can get a $5 rebate from Pillsbury by buying the film and five cake and bread mixes. " 'Snow White' will definitely be one of the biggest titles of all time, if not the biggest," Daly predicts. "It is that significant a movie in our customers' minds. People who buy video truly feel that this is the greatest movie that you can own on videocassette. This is one of the reasons why you have a VCR. "It will have our biggest promotion, as it rightly deserves, being the Disney classic that started it all for the company. It launched the whole concept of Disney around the world." Supermarket sales figure to be an important part of the "Snow White" campaign. This channel is the fastest-growing one for video sales and rental and Daly has targeted supermarkets for vigorous growth. Family shoppers, coupled with Disney's family films, are a winning combination, she contends.
"The Disney image in the retail store is a very powerful asset. It is unique in the world in its appeal to a supermarket's customers -- families," she says. Another combination that the company has leveraged well is tie-in promotions with consumer product manufacturers. Ralston Purina, General Mills, Colgate-Palmolive and others have tied into several of the Disney classics. These offers vary from mail-in rebates to savings on other Disney videos with the purchase of certain consumer products. Daly explains that the marketing behind these titles is much more sophisticated today than it was in previous years. It's not always as glitzy, she adds, but it's much more effective. "It used to be that if we didn't have an advertising campaign behind a release, nothing would happen. So it led people to promote big advertising campaigns. "What has transpired for us is that there are lot of great pieces of product that really don't deserve a national TV advertising campaign," she explains, "but do deserve a tie-in promotion or do deserve some kind of consumer offer that retailers can work with very effectively, such as a continuity program. Those types of things are really making a difference."
It takes more than popular family films and tie-ins with suppliers to yield success in the supermarket, however. Daly says partnering with retailers in terms of category management and in-store marketing has been key. "We get with all the people who would be involved in creating an in-store event -- buying, marketing and whoever in that retailer that could make something happen -- and brainstorm together," Daly explains. "Figure out how to make it work, so the plan is well executed and business actually happens." It also means finding out "what the retailer's objectives are," she adds, "be it a strategic objective, imaging, profit, and then figuring out how that translates into in-store marketing."
According to Daly, the best in-store marketing comes out of such a close working relationship. Buena Vista currently partners with several supermarket retailers this way, and the results have been mutually beneficial, she says. Retailers "really have to make a statement of importance about the unique opportunity that the video category provides -- packaged goods married with entertainment. You have something that has the opportunity for a lot of excitement. It has to be treated that way in the store. "Once that presentation in-store happens, and once the consumer connects the point of sale with the network advertising we're doing on a particular offer, we're seeing sales explode. In the case of 'Aladdin,' I don't know a single other product in the history of packaged goods that could have delivered that much revenue in such short a time." For Daly, the clout of the Disney brand and its best-selling titles offer the retailer a powerful way to build consumer sales. "There is literally no one else in the market that has the volume and types of products that we have and puts promotion behind it," she says. "We are the only company in the sell-through business 365 days a year with integrated marketing programs. They are not fluffy. They are real, they work, they return on investment. "Particularly in supermarkets," she stresses. "If we are going to justify that permanent space, we better deliver. It's not going to be with image; it's going to be with cash results. So, in order to do that, we had to get very good about the video business and why the supermarket customer is different from the mass merchant customer. What types of promotions work. What our promotions are going to deliver vs. somebody else's promotion, which comes up at the same time. Whether they are going to be synergistic or cannibalistic." According to Daly, a large amount of consumer research is necessary for successful brand marketing. If two strong titles are released at the same time, for example, it's important to understand what the impact is going to be on a customer who buys video at a supermarket.
"We don't want to put too much product in and then take it back. We don't want to put too little product in and be out of stock. So we come armed to the teeth with a lot of information that's current and ready to use for the retailer. That's what partnership and category management is all about," she explains. One of the newest developments in the marketing of videocassettes is creating a value-added product by including toys such as plush dolls in the same package as the children's video. For example, Buena Vista has offered plush dolls for licensed characters in the same package as the videos "Winnie the Pooh" and "The Fox and the Hound." Disney "Sing-a-Long" tapes have included a microphone in a premium pack. "It's a big-time growth area for us," says Daly. "We've tested it a couple times and we had tremendous response from consumers, which makes sense. The video and the item for the child to play along with or accompany the video is something they wanted." In its ambitious plans for the third and fourth quarters, the company will promote more than 100 titles in 17 different promotions. By the end of the year, Daly predicts a happy ending for Disney.
"Because of the product we're bringing out, because of the maturity in the video marketplace, and also because of the expansion that we as a company are undergoing in bringing new products to the marketplace, I think this will be our biggest year," she says. "One caveat is building partnerships, and getting the commitment of supermarkets to swallow that much product and deal with it well at retail."