If store associates believe in a brand, chances are their support will rub off on shoppers.
That's the thinking behind a ground-breaking, private-brand promotion Family Dollar conducted last year.
The retailer sent coupons for its new Family Gourmet cookies to 48 stores so that employees could try them. Several weeks later, it ran a contest to see which stores could sell the most cookies. Those that did won cash prizes.
The event generated such a large sales lift that Family Dollar rolled out the cookie contest chainwide. The sales lift was equally as good.
“We wanted to incentivize our team members to drive sales of the cookies to foster greater trial among our shoppers,” said Mary Rachide, Family Dollar's private-brand divisional vice president. Rachide did not divulge the sales lift.
The effort is why Family Dollar is one of 10 retailers SN is recognizing in its second annual Top 10 list of distinguished store-brand promotions.
Indeed, retailers recognize that private-label success relies on more than just product innovation. It also requires a marketing plan that gets consumers interested in and excited about the brand.
As a result, companies are beefing up promotional activity, running everything from high-value sweepstakes like car giveaways to delivering free bags of groceries filled with private-label foods directly to consumers' homes.
SN selected the following initiatives based on a variety of criteria, including originality; high-value prizes; ability to generate consumer excitement about and engagement with the brand; Web-centric capabilities; and ties to a cause-marketing platform. All programs were executed over the last 18 months.
They appear in alphabetical order.
- Bi-Lo Goes Out to the Ball Game
MAULDIN, S.C. — Bi-Lo tapped into America's pastime to stimulate trial of its store brands last spring.
Consumers who purchased four participating Southern Home and/or Top Care items in one transaction with their loyalty card received a voucher valid for two free tickets to a 2010 South Carolina Gamecocks or Clemson Tigers home game at Carolina Stadium in Columbia, S.C., or Doug Kingsmore Stadium in Clemson, S.C. Vouchers were redeemed at the stadium.
Bi-Lo distributed about 2,500 tickets in the so-called “No Dough” promotion, according to Katie Batista, Bi-Lo's events and sports marketing manager.
The goal was to drive sales in its private-label division, while rewarding customers with something out of the ordinary just for shopping with Bi-Lo.
Store-brand loyalty comes from product trial, so finding ways to motivate shoppers to make a private-label purchase is critical, Batista told SN.
“The Bi-Lo No Dough promotion allowed our customers to try something that they may never try on their own,” Batista said. “They were able to taste a great product and realized that their pocketbook was not being hit as hard.”
Bi-Lo hopes that next time shoppers are in the store, they'll purchase a store brand over a national brand, even when they're not given baseball tickets to do so.
- Brookshire's Grocery Camaro Giveaway
TYLER, Texas — Brookshire Grocery Co. leveraged its sponsorship of the Texas Motor Speedway to promote its Food Club brand.
Brookshire's loyalty card data show that households that never purchased a store brand try its brands for the first time during a promotion.
While it frequently offers such incentives, it went a step further last year when it designed a high-value sweepstakes: a car giveaway.
From Sept. 1 to Oct. 12, shoppers earned an automatic entry to win a 2010 Camaro 2SS by purchasing any three Food Club items.
The goal of the promo, called Three to Get Ready, was to encourage non-buyers to try its brands, and current purchasers to try something new.
“We wanted to drive awareness of our [Texas Motor Speedway] partnership, while stimulating trial of our store brands,” said Chris Hardin, Brookshire's director of corporate brands and category management.
The retailer designed the promotion to be fun and exciting, as well as engage shoppers and build larger shopping baskets.
“It really doubled as a means to induce trial, and display our involvement in lifestyle activities that our customers are connected with,” Hardin said.
While Brookshire has been the official grocery store of Texas Motor Speedway for five years, this is the first time that it connected the partnership to a store-brand promotion.
Hardin said the initiative was a success, citing loyalty card data showing a 14% increase in transactions that had three or more Food Club items during the promotion.
- Family Dollar Targets Employees
CHARLOTTE — As an employer of 45,000 people, discount chain Family Dollar Stores knows how valuable store associates can be in promoting brand awareness.
That's why it targeted them in a promo supporting the launch of its new Family Gourmet edible grocery line.
It sent coupons for free boxes of Family Gourmet cookies to stores so that employees could try them. Soon after, it ran a contest to see which stores could sell the most. Those that did won cash prizes.
“The Family Gourmet brand is new, and we wanted to encourage our store team members to try the products,” said Mary Rachide, Family Dollar's private-brand divisional vice president.
The contest started out as a 48-store test. Sales of the cookies increased so much that Family Dollar expanded it chainwide.
Store participation was high, and sales results were strong, according to Rachide.
Under another program, called “Taste of Family Dollar,” employees at the chain's corporate office in Matthews, N.C., were served lunch made completely from store brands.
Such efforts are designed to position employees as brand champions, according to Rachide.
“We believe that our store team members are uniquely positioned to be in-store ambassadors for our brands,” said Rachide.
Its employees are some of its most loyal shoppers, and customers look to them for their advice about the products sold in its stores, said Rachide.
“If we can encourage our store team members to try our products and have good experiences with them, they will share those experiences with their families and friends, and be much more likely to proactively recommend them to other shoppers in our stores,” said Rachide.
- Stock-Up Sale at Food Lion
SALISBURY, N.C. — Food Lion motivated shoppers to buy not just one, but dozens of store brands when it ran its private-brand “Super Sale” early last year.
Shoppers earned $10 in savings redeemable on a future trip when they stocked up on 40 of its Food Lion- or Home 360-brand products.
Those who bought less were also rewarded. Shoppers who had four items earned $1 in savings; six, $1.50; eight, $2; 10, $2.50; and 20, $5.
The purpose of the Private Brand Super Sale was to offer Food Lion and Bloom customers additional savings, drive brand awareness and invite potential new shoppers to try its private-brand products, said Food Lion spokeswoman Tenisha Waldo.
“In today's economy, customers are looking for the best quality and value. By offering a financial incentive for shoppers, we were able to reward our loyal customers and put money back in their pockets,” said Waldo.
Meanwhile, Food Lion is on the leading edge when it comes to private-label mobile promotions. For instance, it ran a “Breakfast Club” mobile offer good for $1 off Food Lion-brand instant oatmeal.
The temporary offer was given to all those who texted “oatmeal” to 467467. Savings were automatically downloaded to shopper loyalty cards.
Separately, when Food Lion opened a new store in Wilmington, Del., the first 100 customers who entered the store received a free Food Lion reusable bag filled with private-label products.
- Hannaford Teams With Bloggers
SCARBOROUGH, Maine — Recognizing the value of word-of-mouth marketing, Hannaford Bros. enlists bloggers to talk up its brands.
It has teamed with FitMamaEats.com and three other food bloggers who write about nutrition and cooking.
In October and November, the bloggers were asked to replace national brands with the Hannaford-brand equivalent, and to cook and test recipes using only Hannaford-brand products. Each was compensated to write about their experiences.
The effort was designed to get authentic and real opinions about Hannaford's store brands, said Bruce Daman, the retailer's director of brand communications.
Hannaford took a risk because the bloggers were not under contract, meaning they could write whatever they wanted — good or bad — about Hannaford's brands, Daman said.
“A strong post — either in a positive or negative direction — can have a significant impact on shoppers and their attitudes and beliefs toward Hannaford,” Daman told SN. “If they're dissatisfied, they're going to tell us and they're going to tell the world in a viral way.”
But Hannaford was confident the relationship would work to its benefit. As it turned out, feedback was generally positive.
“They are honest with us and sometimes do a better job of enunciating our brand than we do ourselves,” he said. “It is particularly rewarding when they share strong interests in what we want to communicate and help us build strong and honest relationships with our customers.”
The promotion coincided with Hannaford's “Buy and Save” event, which gave consumers an opportunity to receive $1 off their next shopping trip (up to $10) for every four Hannaford-brand products purchased. The coupon was printed at checkout. For example, if a customer bought four boxes of Hannaford brand pasta, the next time they shopped, they'd have a $1 coupon to spend like cash in the store.
- H-E-B Brands Donated to Food Banks
SAN ANTONIO — The H.E. Butt Grocery Co. leveraged its green store brands during an Earth Day promotion last year.
Among the items publicized online and in circulars: H-E-B aluminum water bottles, H-E-B Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs, Central Market Organics Coffee and H-E-B Café Ole coffees, grown on family-owned farms using sustainable agricultural practices.
It also put its H-E-B Enviro-Bag trash and kitchen bags in the spotlight. The bags are made from plastic shopping bags students collected and sent to WasteZero, Murrells Inlet, S.C., which recycled them into 13-gallon kitchen and 30-gallon trash bags sold at H-E-B.
The students earned up to $1 per pound of bags they collected, and could use the money in a variety of ways, from purchasing trees to science and computer equipment.
H-E-B has promoted its brands in other ways over the year. For instance, it assembled meal boxes containing H-E-B Mac-n-Cheese, Hill Country Fare Green Beans and Hill Country Fare Whole Kernel Corn, and donated them to food banks for the holidays.
It was part of its “Help Feed Texas” Facebook initiative benefiting Feeding America, a national hunger-relief organization that supports 15 food banks in Texas.
From Nov. 2 through Nov. 17, H-E-B donated three meals for every new person who “liked” the H-E-B Facebook page, up to 160,000 meals.
The goal was to tap into the power of social media to raise awareness about hunger relief.
“We wanted to provide an easy way for Texans to get directly involved in supporting their local food bank,” Danny Flores, H-E-B's public affairs manager, said in a statement.
- Lowes Connects Pet Brand to Charity
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Catering to pet lovers who shop its stores, Lowes Foods gave donations to local humane societies several times last year.
For several one-month periods, Lowes donated 1% of its Paws-brand product sales to local humane societies in Charlotte, Raleigh, Winston-Salem and Wilmington, N.C.
Marketed as a national-brand equivalent, Paws Premium is a Topco Associates brand that includes 35 varieties of dry and wet food, as well as treats, toys and accessories.
The June promotion generated $2,783, Lowes announced on its Facebook page.
An additional $884 was raised during a one-month period ending June 7 under a complementary Facebook promotion in which for every new fan Lowes Foods acquired on its Facebook pages, it donated $2 to the humane societies. Lowes gained 442 Facebook fans during the promotional period.
- Safeway Cleaners Used in Parks
PLEASANTON, Calif. — Safeway doesn't just talk about how good its natural household cleaners work; it proves it.
As part of the “Bright Green Clean Team” annual tour, Bright Green products were used to clean parts of parks, zoos, malls and other areas in seven cities last year, including Washington, San Francisco and Chicago. The locations were selected based on a number of criteria, including cities where Safeway has a major presence, family friendly venues and eco-supportive sites like zoos and aquariums.
The goal of the Bright Green clean team is to build awareness and trial of Bright Green, interact with consumers on a personal level and do something good for the community.
At each stop, the five-person Bright Green Clean Team — along with help of Girl Scouts and other community volunteers — cleaned windows, benches, doors and other areas.
The promotion included a “Clean It Green It Sweepstakes” that awarded one student a free clean-up day for their school.
“The Bright Green Clean Team was a fantastic opportunity to educate consumers about the Bright Green brand, talk to them about simple ways to be more green, and hear great feedback and new ideas from them,” Safeway spokeswoman Teena Massingill told SN.
The tour will hit the road once again in 2011.
- Free Groceries From Save-A-Lot
ST. LOUIS — When Save-A-Lot opened a new store in Louisiana last year, it didn't just sell groceries, it gave them away for free.
The retailer delivered about 3,800 bags filled $10 to $20 worth of shelf-stable store-brand items to homes within a 1.5-mile radius of the Opelousas, La., store.
Delivering the bags was no easy task, as temperatures soared to nearly 100 degrees throughout the four-day operation. But the results were worth it, as new customers are now shopping the store, according to Mark Kotcher, Save-A-Lot's brand marketing and design director.
“Our neighbors in the area were excited, grateful, and some tears were shed at receiving such a great gift from their local Save-A-Lot,” said Kotcher.
The event was much more than a grocery bag drop-off. Rather, Save-A-Lot representatives had a face-to-face conversation with the recipients.
“The world has gotten big and impersonal; Save-A-lot strives to have one-on-one relationships with each of its customers,” he said.
By getting its brands directly into consumer houses, Save-A-Lot showed how easy it is to get quality products for less.
“It's ingrained in people's minds that national brands equal quality. We want to help alter the perception that ours are just as good,” Kotcher said. “It's a little known fact but many of our products are manufactured and come off the same line as national-brand manufacturers.”
The outpouring of support for the program has been overwhelming, Kotcher said. The store manager fielded numerous calls of thanks from recipients.
Save-A-Lot hopes the effort will spur a new business model, one in which retailers create emotional connections with their consumers.
“A good, effective, emotional connection is still most powerful face to face,” he said. “We hope to bring that trend back.”
- Winn-Dixie Water Helps Toys for Tots
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Winn-Dixie Stores rolled out limited-edition packaging for its private-label bottled water over the holidays as part of a charitable-giving effort.
For every 24-pack sold of the Winn-Dixie brand spring water and purified water, Winn-Dixie donated 10 cents to the Marine Corps Reserve's Toys for Tots program, up to a total of $100,000. Niagara Bottling and Silver Springs Bottled Water, which provides Winn-Dixie with its store-brand water, supplied the products.
The 24-packs, which sold for $3.69 in all stores, hit store shelves in October. Winn-Dixie expected to sell through 1 million 24-packs throughout the holiday season.
“Children and the holidays just naturally go together, which made this promotion a perfect fit for us,” Dan Portnoy, Winn-Dixie's senior vice president and chief merchandising and marketing officer, told SN. “Our hope was to raise attention for the Toys for Tots program and give our customers and associates an easy way to help make this holiday season just a little bit brighter for our neighbors.”