Gross-out strategy works for Couche-Tard’s ‘Sloche’

It may not be for the faint of heart, but Alimentation Couche-Tard's new summer campaign for its proprietary Sloche brand - the retailer's version of 7-Eleven's Slurpee - is striking a chord with city kids across Quebec.

It may not be for the faint of heart, but Alimentation Couche-Tard’s new summer campaign for its proprietary Sloche brand – the retailer’s version of 7-Eleven’s Slurpee – is striking a chord with city kids across Quebec.

Created by BOS, the Montreal-based convenience-store operator’s AOR, the program kicked off in June and consists of three parts – a trio of bus panel ads, two radio spots and a teaser that will debut at the movies this month. The retailer began advertising the two-year-old brand last summer with a campaign that mocked the cereal industry, by claiming Sloche has eight essential nutrients.

This time, transit creative spoofs the federal government’s decision to splash revolting images on cigarette packages in an effort to deter smoking. In one Couche-Tard ad, there is a close-up of a human heart and the copy reads: ‘Too much Sloche can make you heartsick.’ A second features an equally gross image of a brain and warns that if you slurp too quickly, Sloche can cause a brain freeze, while a third ad, for its Windshield Washer flavour, features a wiper being used to clean a person’s blue Sloche-covered teeth.

According to Michel Bernard, senior marketing manager and merchandising director, these ads reflect the personality of Sloche, which is rebellious, just like some teens. ‘It’s a bit anti-publicity, but we communicate with kids in a way they want us to communicate with them,’ he says. ‘We’re laughing at our product. This is what teenagers look for: ‘Tell me the truth. Don’t tell me that the product is good for my health, when it’s not.” The fact that the creative mocks Ottawa’s anti-cigarette stance is key, he says, both because it pokes fun at authority and because smoking itself is often considered an act of defiance.

Two radio spots also debuted last month. In one, listeners are treated to almost 30 full seconds of slurping, until finally a kid moans, ‘My brain is freezing.’ The commercial ends with another warning about ingesting Sloches too quickly. In another spot that highlights Couche-Tard’s new Wild Tar flavour, a teen visits the dentist, who screams in horror when the patient opens his mouth. The voiceover: ‘It’s black and it stains.’

So far there has been a 35% boost in sales compared to last year for the season and, while hot weather is probably a factor, Bernard also credits part of this growth to the campaign, including the chain’s in-store promotions. In an attempt to push Windshield Washer, for instance, Couche-Tard sold 1.5-litre drinks in small-scale versions of windshield-washer containers. The unique cups were a sensation, selling out in just one week.

The initiative will sign off with another push for Wild Tar that will play in movie theatres this month, marking the first time Couche-Tard has employed that medium.

At first, the spot seems to be a trailer for a stereotypical horror flick, where all you see is darkness and something sinister stirring. That something is a closeup of a Sloche. A voiceover teases, ‘This summer. If you’re not afraid of the dark, you’re gonna get it.’ Suddenly there is a quick edit to a Sloche machine in a Couche-Tard store, accompanied by the antithesis of scary movie music: muzak, which could be considered horrifying in its own right.

Bernard says response to the campaign has been positive, and surprisingly, nobody has complained about the gruesome bus panels yet, although he points out he wouldn’t be upset if they did. ‘You want people to talk about them,’ he says, quickly adding that one woman did object to a radio commercial. ‘She is teaching her son not to slurp, and we’re telling him the reverse.’ Which is exactly the point.

Credits

Client: Alimentation Couche-Tard

Agency: Bos

Creative Director: Roger Gariepy

Art Director: Reneaud Seguin

Copywriter: Martin Bernier

Account Director: Marie Trudelle

Producer: Catherine Perron