LAKELAND, Fla. — Publix Super Markets here is gearing up for its second Publix Brand Challenge, a buy-one, get-one-free promotion pitting Publix's private-label products against their national-brand counterparts.
During five consecutive week-long promotions beginning this Thursday, shoppers who purchase one of three national-brand items designated for that week by Publix will receive the Publix-brand counterpart of the product for free.
The retailer ran a similar event in 2006 on a smaller scale in approximately 100 stores in Florida's Hillsborough and Pasco counties and at select Alabama locations.
This year's promotion has been significantly expanded.
“We experienced very good results last year and wanted to offer all of our customers the opportunity to try our products the same way,” Publix spokeswoman Maria Brous told SN. “This year the Publix Brand Challenge will run in all 901 stores and will feature a different lineup of products.”
As it did last year, Publix will showcase three sets of products each week for five weeks. Shoppers will be limited to one buy-one, get-one-free-offer per week.
Among the pairs of items slated to be featured during the first week's challenge are Welch's 64-ounce Grape Juice and Publix's 64-ounce Grape Juice; Kellogg's Raisin Bran Crunch cereal and Publix's Crunchy Granola Raisin Bran Cereal; and Thomas' six-count English Muffins and Publix's six-count English Muffins.
“This is one of the cleverest promotions invented by a supermarket in a long time,” said Jim Wisner, president, Wisner Marketing Group, Libertyville, Ill.
“It will appeal to people who buy particular national brands. But even consumers who don't take advantage of the promotion will get the message that Publix is willing to put their brands side by side with others.”
The key to running this type of promotion is to have confidence in the quality of your private-label line, said Brous. She declined to comment on the cost of the promotion.
“Our premise has always been that our Publix-brand products are equal to or better than the national brands, and we always offer our Publix guarantee that if a customer isn't fully satisfied with their purchase, they can return it for a full refund,” she said. “We firmly believe that our products are of the highest quality, and not everyone can replicate that.”
Publix-brand products are already priced 10% to 30% below their national-brand counterparts, but offering them for free creates a way for customers to try something without the commitment that making a purchase entails, noted Brous.
During the Publix Brand Challenge, designated products will likely be pulled from their usual aisles and positioned on endcaps to help draw consumers' attention, she said. Publix plans to advertise the promotion on its website and in its weekly circulars. Awareness will be created in-store through signage and other point-of-purchase materials.
“Such a direct promotion like this might cause national-brand manufacturers to be less than thrilled, but consumers ultimately own the stores, and it behooves the retailer to act on behalf of their customers,” said Wisner.
Brous concurred, but pointed out that combining national brands and private label into a single promotion has the potential to benefit more than just the retailer and consumer.
“This promotion is not meant to alienate our relationships with suppliers and vendors,” she noted. “In some cases, the manufacturer that produces the national brand also makes our private-label product. In those instances, they win when either product sells. At the end of the day, our goal is to enhance the shopping experience for our consumers, which includes offering high-quality private-label products at lower price points.”
Publix has taken major strides in recent years to improve its overall private-label program. Three years ago, Publix's team of in-house designers revamped the look of its company-brand products by creating a fresher, more upscale packaging design.
“We did a private-label conversion that resulted in a new crisp, clean look,” said Brous. “Now everything has a bright white background with a single image, so it isn't cluttered and is therefore more visually appealing.”
The chain has also continued introducing new company-brand products, including a line of Hispanic offerings, launched in 2005, and an assortment of upscale products including Publix Premium Cool Mint Cookie Ice Cream and Blackjack Cherry Frozen Yogurt.
Publix is also expanding its organic GreenWise line, which currently includes chicken, canned vegetables, dairy items, juices, paper goods, snacks and other new additions like organic GreenWise ketchup, one of several new products introduced this spring.
“We have a great line of Publix items, and we plan to continue developing and evolving our private-label products,” said Brous.