No Frills’ no-nonsense strategy

The Loblaw banner takes on the "discount renaissance" with a new mass campaign.


Canada is in the midst of a “discount renaissance,” and growing competition and consumer expectations has led No Frills to launch its largest mass campaign ever.

The Loblaw Companies-owned banner has historically stuck to flyers and print advertising, though it did have some mass advertising in 2010, says Mary MacIsaac, VP of marketing for the discount division.

But competition in discount is rising, she says.

“If we think about the market right now, being frugal and being a smart shopper – it’s a badge of honour,” she says. “People are proud to be seeking out value.”

Walmart has in the past few years upped its focus on grocery, including with click-and-collect and delivery programs, while Quebec’s Maxi (also owned by Loblaw) recently launched its own mass campaign focused on fresh. Consumers are also showing more interest in wholesale retailers like Costco and dollar stores.

National research undertaken by Loblaw also suggests fair pricing and good value for money are two important factors for Canadian shoppers, with 87% of those in the survey of 1,700 agreeing those things are crucial.

Consumers aren’t changing their high expectations either, MacIsaac says. In other words, we’re increasingly value-oriented but also not willing to give up freshness and overall quality.

No Frills has been the leader in discount grocery and is now leveraging its history and its focus on store owners for a mass campaign targeting value shoppers and “smart shoppers” – those who don’t necessarily have limited incomes and might shop at other banners but are still value conscious.

Working with John St., the brand has created a mass campaign focused on – what else? – it’s lack of frills. In the core TV spot, a woman questions why apples in the store are so expensive, with her explanation coming from an in-store jazz singer who poetically lets her know that entertainment like him are the reason prices are sky-high.

It’s hard to ignore that the Loblaws banner, which shares its parent with No Frills, does have locations that are home to luxuries like in-store entertainment and product demonstrations. But MacIsaac says that from a marketing perspective, each banner is focused on a message that’s right for its target shopper and customer base.

For No Frills, that base is a loyal one, with the brand leveraging a highly engaged Facebook audience of shoppers and store owners for the campaign. The tone of the campaign – including with radio in particular – is also meant to be no-nonsense, just like the way the franchisees operate their frill-free banners, MacIsaac says.

As more creative rolls out over summer, the messaging will get even more bold, especially to resonate with a younger, millennial target, she adds.