Loblaw innovates on new marketing fronts

Marcus Evans, managing director of TBWA\Toronto's Integer, weighs in on Loblaw's recent efforts in reality TV, magazine publishing and in-airport pampering.

Loblaw has been a real advertising shape-shifter lately. Over the past few months, the retailer has made a splash on several innovative new advertising fronts, including helping launch a reality TV show, debuting a new magazine and providing Porter Airlines passengers with some Joe Fresh brand activations to make the hustle and bustle of the holidays a little more palatable. We asked Marcus Evans, managing director of Integer, TBWA\Toronto’s new shopper marketing division, to weigh in on how the grocer has fared across these three very different marketing initiatives.

For its first foray onto the boob tube, Loblaw partnered with Temple Street Productions and Toronto-based Capital C to create a TV show that helped take product integration to a whole new level: product creation. Recipe to Riches allowed Canadians with great family recipes to turn them into President’s Choice products sold in Loblaw stores across the country. Each week, a winner was chosen for one of seven categories on the show, with their recipe being turned into a product that appeared on Loblaw grocery shelves that weekend so viewers could have a taste. Loblaw promoted each product with in-store displays and signage, and hosted events to promote the week’s winning product, encouraging taste testing. After the completion of the seven weeks, Canadians voted for the winning dish, with the winner awarded $250,000 and extended shelf life for their product.

“Branded content is emerging as a very viable and engaging way of delivering a branded message,” says Evans. “Loblaw’s involvement in the Recipe to Riches series as the expert and relatively benign judge and the retail outlet to distribute the winning product affords a brand presence that is persistent but a fairly light touch. In all it is a very smart idea: localized crowd-sourcing, pre-testing via a TV audience, a pre-release ad campaign plus a very deep product back story. It also shows that Loblaw values locally sourced ideas and products and is a brand that listens to – and clearly values – the input of shoppers. I wish I’d thought of it.”

Loblaw jumped from broadcast to publishing with another recent initiative that saw it partner with Transcontinental Media, now known as TC Media. Called Juice, the cross-platform magazine is targeted at Canadian women and distributed via print, a website, an e-newsletter and a tablet app. It will be published six times a year starting in March and be distributed to 400,000 loyal Loblaw shoppers, with content that focuses on the link between food and healthy living. The list of subscribers will be compiled by examining the shopping habits of President’s Choice credit card users.

“The Juice collaboration is aimed to provide genuinely useful, informative and entertaining content to shoppers at the all important pre-tail shopping planning stages that happen in the home,” says Evans. “Integer conducted research among over 1,200 Canadian shoppers which told us that, of the two broad types of grocery shoppers, Mission Based Planners and Inspiration Seeking Explorers, Canadians are more inclined to the Mission Based Planner approach. So, providing inspiration in the home, where the shopping list is created, has a good chance of influencing brand choice.”

Meanwhile, Porter Airlines passengers may have been noticing something a little different at Billy Bishop Airport lately. Joe Fresh teams offering mini-manicures in festive holiday colours aren’t part of the usual airport scenery, but they’ve been at Billy Bishop since the beginning of the month and will remain until Dec. 14. On Dec. 15, Joe Fresh winter gifts will be given out to select passengers.

“Surprising and delighting our customers at holiday time is what Joe Fresh and Porter wanted to do with our fashion-forward customers,” says Craig Hutchison, SVP, marketing & PR, Joe Fresh, Home & Entertainment for Loblaw Companies Limited. “Why not provide a bit of fun and excitement to people travelling during the busy holiday season and especially give the gift of holiday travel to two lucky winners to come visit our brand new Joe Fresh stores at Queen and Portland in Toronto and 110 5th Avenue in New York City.  The partnership was fun to work on and fit so well it came together very quickly. The feedback we’ve received from customers and colleagues has been outstanding.”

He adds that the Joe Fresh brand is now international and has a significant presence in many of the cities that Porter flies into.

The effort includes a weekend-getaway contest hosted at 50 Joe Fresh stores in Porter destinations within Ontario and Atlantic Canada. It will award two holiday shopping spree prize packages – one to Toronto and one to New York City – which include roundtrip airfare on Porter, a two-night stay at a Thompson hotel property and a $500 Joe Fresh gift card.

“The Joe Fresh and Porter promotional tie-up, while smart from the point of view of shared demographics, some shared geography and a high traffic time of year, is not really in the same league [as the previous two],” says Evans. “It certainly has appeal, but by its nature cannot deliver the light touch and multidimensional depth of the Recipe to Riches initiative.”