ORLANDO, Fla. -- Effective promotions not only boost sales, but also get customers and employees more involved in their stores, said speakers at the Food Marketing Institute's Advertising & Marketing Executive Conference here.
One such promotion is IGA's annual Country Jam in Eau Claire, Wis., in June, featuring big-name country singers, food samples and fund raising for the Special Olympics and other causes. Bozzuto's, a distributor based in Cheshire, Conn., wanted to launch a similar event that would raise money for charity, increase product distribution and sales, and show its retail customers how it could run successful events and promotions at its own stores. So, the company sponsored its own IGA Country Jam in Wallingford, Conn., in July 2003.
Although problems arise when organizing such a complex event, Kristin Manning, director of retail marketing for Bozzuto's, said there is a recipe for success. A top priority is to make sure the program remains in line with executives' expectations. Michael Bozzuto, chief executive officer, wanted a project that was global in nature, was non-season specific, and increased store traffic and sales, and he also wanted it to involve kids and pets.
Bozzuto's expectations, and goals, were met. "Moms were walking around with IGA shopping bags filled with goodies, and kids were having fun," Manning said.
Retailers said the 2003 IGA Country Jam in Wisconsin was also a success both in driving sales and in getting workers involved.
"We saw in-store traffic increase dramatically," said Dan Welgos, owner of Thorp IGA in Thorp, Wis. Shoppers knew they were going to get good bargains from food sponsors and a chance to win tickets to the event, he explained. The event also boosted employee morale, he said. Our Town IGA in Galesville, Wis., bought tickets and gave them to employees to thank them for their work throughout the year.
At Kings Super Markets, Parsippany, N.J., the chain wanted to win back customers after its London-based parent, Marks & Spencer, decided to keep the 27-unit chain after four years of trying to sell it. Late last year, Kings launched a month-long "Getting Back on Track With You" campaign that increased customer involvement in the stores and also sought to boost employee morale.
"We've had a for-sale sign in our front yard, which has been hard for employees and customers. We lost in trust in both avenues," said Patricia Mikell, senior director of marketing at Kings. To re-focus on its shoppers' needs, Kings organized consumer panels and a series of five ads, appealing to customers to tell Kings what it could do better.
In the first print ad, titled "Can We Talk?" with a graphic of a red rose, shoppers were urged to talk to or write to Kings. At stores that week, a red rose was given to each customer who walked through the door, and the chain organized panels of shoppers and store managers, along with the chain's director of consumer affairs.
Another ad, "To All of Our Quiet Superstars," honored Kings' employees. Mikell explained that, although associates had been through a lot in the past few years, few left the company.
Although it was "painful" to hear complaints from customers, the entire process received positive response from associates and customers, Mikell said. Overall communication from customers rose 64%, while letters from customers jumped 392%.
"We're seeing increased sales as a result, and we're more focused on our business," Mikell said. "Listen to your consumer. They will make your success story."
Kings also got employees and shoppers involved in its eight-week Celebrate USA promotion last summer. Kicking off the event on July 4, Kings executives wanted to celebrate the U.S. after 9/11 by profiling various regions of the country, tied in with food promotions.
Every two weeks, the chain featured a new region and food tie-in, such as Maine lobsters, foods from California, and Jersey Fresh. Employees wore red, white and blue Kings' hats, and participated in display contests between stores. One store built a display with strawberries and blueberries, while another made cakes decorated with the American flag. The stores were also decorated with red, white and blue banners, and featured recipe brochures that corresponded with the featured foods. Young customers were given red, white and blue pinwheels. "Those junior customers will be my customers tomorrow," Mikell said.
Out of the store, advertising for the promotion went beyond Kings' usual newspaper circular to include television commercials and ads in regional magazines -- with the tagline, "Come In and Celebrate the Flavor of America."
In addition to boosting sales, Kings' stores got attention from the local community. Several organizations and schools called to ask for Kings' patriotic shopping bags and hats that tied in to the promotion.