National-brand manufacturers aren’t the only industry players that have harnessed the power of social media. YouTube videos, Facebook contests, online blogs and Twitter giveaways have become a regular part of many retail private-label promotions.
Indeed, a variety of social media are communicating the quality and value of private label.
“We see social media continuing to be a key driver of our ‘own brands’ promotional activity for the foreseeable future,” Dan Donovan, spokesman for Giant Eagle, told SN.
(This article is part of SN's "Store Brands 2012: State of the Industry Report," which examines trends in private-label products and marketing. See the Related Articles list below for more stories in this report. Read Carol Angrisani's Store Brands 2012 introduction here.)
Giant Eagle has used Twitter parties, Facebook contests and online videos to promote its private labels.
For these reasons, SN recognizes Giant Eagle in its annual Top 10 list of distinguished store-brand promotions.
While social media tactics dominate the list, unique offline promotions are recognized as well. Take Stop & Shop. It commissioned a store-brand “patrol” team to hand out gift cards to shoppers with private labels in their carts.
“Customers were surprised and excited,” Stop & Shop spokeswoman Suzi Robinson noted.
SN selected the following initiatives based on a variety of criteria, including originality; prize value; and ability to generate consumer excitement about and engagement with the brand. All programs were executed over the last 18 months.
The winners appear in alphabetical order by retailer parent name.
1. Meet the Butcher
MONTVALE, N.J. — A&P placed its butchers in the spotlight when it introduced its Woodson & James steakhouse-quality Angus beef line last year.
Made from grain-fed USDA Choice Angus beef, Woodson & James is available in cuts such as porterhouse, T-bone, sirloin and ribeye.
Tom Alvarez, a butcher at A&P’s Woodcliff Lake, N.J., store, was featured in television ads and YouTube videos.
In one YouTube spot, Alvarez describes the beef as “steakhouse quality at supermarket prices.”
“I’ve never seen meat with such perfect marbling,” Alvarez states in one of the videos.
The commercials are a first for A&P private-brand promotional efforts.
“The goal was to showcase the brand as well as Tom Alvarez’s knowledge of the product,” A&P spokeswoman Marcy Connor told SN.
Alvarez is also featured on a new website,
www.woodsonandjames.com, which has recipes, a store locator and an Internet coupon for $5 off a $25 Woodson & James purchase.
A&P introduced Woodson & James over Memorial Day weekend last year in all its banners: A&P, Pathmark, Superfresh, Waldbaum’s and The Food Emporium. It timed the launch to the start of the grilling season.
At the end of the summer, A&P sponsored a tailgating cook-off before the Jets-Chargers football game at MetLife stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.
Six contestants competed by cooking Woodson & James steaks. The event included live entertainment with lassoing cowboys and a mechanical bull.
Five judges, including A&P’s president and chief executive officer, Sam Martin, and two Jets alumni — Bruce Harper and Randy Beverly — critiqued contestants on presentation, taste, originality and creativity.
The winner received $2,000 worth of A&P gift cards, while all six contestants received two tickets to the Jets-Chargers game and were brought onto the field during halftime for the announcement of the winners.
“The cook-off provided a fun way to bring the brand to life and get consumers to interact with it,” Connor noted.
2. Bi-Lo Scores a Touchdown
GREENVILLE, S.C. — Bi-Lo rewarded shoppers for their private-label purchases with tickets to a Clemson University football game.
Under the “No Dough” promotion, customers who purchased any six participating Southern Home, Full Circle or Signature Deli items in one transaction with their Bi-Lo loyalty card received a voucher for two free tickets to a Clemson football game. More than 2,000 tickets were distributed.
Eligible products included Southern Home Break N Bake Cookies, Full Circle Soy Crisps, Signature Deli teas and others.
The campaign supplements another Bi-Lo effort in which the retailer partners with Clemson and the University of South Carolina by giving away basketball and baseball tickets from both universities. While that promotion is well received at USC, it did not take off as quickly at Clemson.
Bi-Lo hopes the football promo boosts awareness of its other promotions at Clemson, said Katie Batista, Bi-Lo’s events and sports marketing manager.
“We wanted to get fans excited about it, and free football tickets are the best way to do that,” she said.
The promotion was received well because there are not many opportunities to get free college football tickets for the Clemson or USC teams, Batista noted.
“The No Dough promotion provides a unique opportunity for fans and shoppers alike that can only be received by visiting their neighborhood Bi-Lo,” said Batista.
3. Twitter Tactics
PITTSBURGH — Giant Eagle has made a significant investment in digital media as a private-label marketing tool.
Throughout the last year, it has run several Twitter promotions aimed at building awareness of its store brands. In a promotion called “My Favorite Giant Eagle Brand,” Giant Eagle gave out $150 gift cards to Twitter followers who Tweeted about their favorite Giant Eagle-brand products. One gift card was awarded every day for a week.
Among the Giant Eagle-brand products people Tweeted about: ice cream, ready-to-serve soup and chunky pasta sauce.
“Social media is a key component of our digital-marketing strategy, and lends itself very well to highlighting both brand-specific and new ‘Own Brands’ promotions,” Giant Eagle spokesman Brian Donovan said.
The retailer also partnered with consumer packaged goods companies for Twitter contests. During one such event, Giant Eagle Tweeted various questions about Gillette and shaving. The first five people who Tweeted back the right answer to @Giant_Eagle, using the hashtag #GEGillette won a new Gillette Fusion ProGlide shaving kit.
More recently, it used social media to demonstrate product use, including an online video of a one of its chefs cooking with its Market District private-label pasta sauce.
There are many benefits to utilizing social media to promote Giant Eagle’s private-label offerings, said Donovan.
“Social media allows us to focus on those customers who are most engaged with our brands, and who traditionally provide the most detailed feedback,” said Donovan.
Social media also allows for quick consumer feedback, thanks to real-time two-way customer communication, Donovan said.
Giant Eagle also uses social media to consolidate all of its private-label marketing messages.
“We are able to utilize social media to call attention to our broadcast, circular and in-store communication vehicles, maximizing the reach of these more traditional tools, all at comparatively small cost,” Donovan said.
4. Testing Shopper Knowledge
SCARBOROUGH, Maine — Hannaford Supermarkets quizzed shoppers on how much they know about private label.
A “price check quiz” featured at Hannaford.com let shoppers see for themselves how much they can save by switching to private label.
“We’d like you to switch, but how much do you really save?” Hannaford said in promotional materials.
The quiz featured two questions comparing a national brand to a private label. Players were asked to guess how much they save — 5%, 15% or 35% — by buying the private label vs. the national brand.
“We saw the quiz as an opportunity to educate customers about just how much money they can save through private-brand products,” Hannaford spokesman Eric Blom told SN.
Players learned that Hannaford-brand kettle chips cost 15% less than the Cape Cod brand, while Hannaford extra sharp white cheddar costs 35% lower than Kraft’s Cracker Barrel.
“People were surprised with the size of the savings,” said Blom.
After taking the quiz, players were rewarded with a downloadable coupon for $1 off any Hannaford-brand item.
“It is important to help customers understand that they can save a significant amount of money — and be assured of good quality — with private-label products,” said Blom. “This message is particularly valuable today, given economic conditions and consumer focus on finding value.”
5. H-E-B’s Beauty Shot
SAN ANTONIO — H.E. Butt Grocery Co. has tapped into the power of bloggers by creating its very own online beauty blogger panel.
The panel consists of 10 mom, coupon and other bloggers from Texas. Several H-E-B beauty employees also contribute.
H-E-B sends each blogger a sample of its “Beauty Pick of the Month.” Each is asked to review the item on her blog. A link to each blogger’s website is posted on heb.com.
While the bloggers write about national brands, they have also reviewed H-E-B’s new Orchid private-label products, including antibacterial hand soaps and sanitizers and nail lacquer
Orchid nail polish is described as professional quality, chip-resistant polish that is free of ingredients such as formaldehyde, tolunene and DBP.
The polish is available in 64 shades that carry fun names like “So You Think You Can Salsa,” “Cougarville” and “Girls Night Out.”
Members of the beauty panel recently touted the quality and value of the line.
Among the comments:
“Orchid nail polish seems like an easy and affordable way to quickly spruce up your look.”
“Orchid has a great brush that provides for an easy application.”
“I am really picky when it comes to nail polish. I usually go for OPI or a very similar brand. I was really surprised at how much I liked the Orchid Nail Polish at almost half the price.”
“The brush is the best part — it’s wider and shorter than normal brushes with an angle, which makes it easier to apply without getting the color all over your skin.”
Beauty panel bloggers also run an H-E-B-sponsored contest that lets two readers get the item for free
The blogger panel comes at a time when H-E-B is building its beauty department. To do so, the retailer employs beauty advisors in select stores, and has brought in premium brands like Bare Escentuals foundation, O.P.I. nail color, and the Essence beauty line of eye shadows, foundation and lip gloss.
6. Loblaw Gets Reality Show
BRAMPTON, Ontario — “Recipe to Riches” is a new Canadian reality television series featuring home cooks competing to have their recipes become a President’s Choice product at Loblaw Cos.
“Recipes to Riches,” running on Food Network Canada, features 21 home cooks competing to have their recipes made into a President’s Choice product. Contestants compete in various categories, including appetizers, pies, frozen treats and entrees.
“The ‘Recipe to Riches’ gives Loblaw the opportunity to further enhance the connection that President’s Choice has with our customers, said Allan Lindsay, Loblaw’s vice president of brand marketing.
Each week, top three finalists in each category fight to have their recipe become a President’s Choice product, and to win the weekly cash prize of $25,000.
Among the recipes that became President’s Choice products: President’s Choice Luscious Lemon Pudding Cakes; President’s Choice Rock n’ Peach Bliss Cheesecake; President’s Choice Gluten-Free “The Smart Cookie”; and President’s Choice Kulfi Karma Ice Cream.
The top finalists competed in the Dec. 14 season finale for the grand prize of $250,000
The series was born after Temple Street Productions, a television and film production company, approached Loblaw about the idea. Loblaw was immediately receptive.
7. Safeway Hits the Road
PLEASANTON, Calif. — Nancy Cota, Safeway’s vice president of innovation for consumer brands, not only spearheaded the development and launch of the new Open Nature natural product line, she traveled the country to market the brand.
She and her family traveled state-to-state in a custom recreational vehicle over the summer to sample Open Nature natural granola, peanut butter and other products. Stops included San Francisco, Idaho and Yellowstone National Park.
“The RV has crossed many state lines and we’ve really enjoyed bringing Open Nature to folks nationwide,” Cota wrote on the official Safeway blog.
In addition to Cota’s road trip, the Open Nature brand was the subject of other unique promotional efforts.
For instance, the brand sponsored a Facebook contest to find “America’s Most Natural City.” Portland won with more than 1,000 votes for its exemplary natural-living practices. The city’s Parks and Recreation Department won $20,000 and 25 picnic tables for its parks.
The tables are from Safeway’s recent World’s Longest Picnic Table promotion held this past June. The retailer built a 305-foot-long picnic table in San Francisco. The table was so long that it earned a Guinness World Record.
8. Potluck Dinner at ShopRite
KEASBEY, N.J. — Wakefern Food Corp.’s ShopRite banner found a way to promote private-label among shoppers looking for tasty meals at value prices.
It created Potluck, a blog panel located on ShopRite.com (blog.shoprite.com). Potluck is a community of food enthusiasts who post recipes, reviews and cooking demonstrations using ShopRite private-label products. Originally launched with 12 panelists, Potluck now has 14 bloggers who reside in each of ShopRite’s trading areas — New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut and Delaware.
Each month the Potluck panelists are sent a selection of products from ShopRite’s Kosher, Auténtico, Organic or Specialty Imported private-label collections so that they can create their own recipes.
“Potluck is a great way to reach customers, allowing panelists to create a dialogue with them to get them engaged with the ShopRite brand,” Santina Stankevich, a ShopRite spokeswoman said. “Our bloggers — ShopRite shoppers themselves — can share with their own audiences the quality, authenticity and value to be found in the ShopRite private-label line.”
The Potluck panelists are also invited to attend exclusive events, such as the ShopRite-sponsored Grand Tasting at the New York City Wine and Food Festival; the ShopRite LPGA Classic; new store openings; and community events.
Potluck already has had more than 100 posts, and the panel continues to attract a bigger audience month by month as the content grows, according to Stankevich.
9. Stop & Shop Goes on Patrol
QUINCY, Mass. — Ahold USA’s Stop & Shop banner surprised shoppers who had private-label goods in their carts by giving them gift cards.
The “Our Brands Patrol” visited all Stop & Shop stores Aug. 19 through Oct. 9. It selected random shoppers in each location to receive a $5 gift card for every Stop & Shop private-label item in their cart up to $50.
Over the promotional period, $40,000 was given away.
“The Brands Patrol were on the look-out for customers as they approached the checkout,” said Stop & Shop spokeswoman Suzi Robinson.
Participating items included Stop & Shop brand, Nature’s Promise, Simply Enjoy, Guaranteed Value, CareOne, Companion and Cottontails.
Select shoppers without private-label goods in their baskets were given coupon booklets good for private-label items. The goal of the promotion was to thank customers who are already purchasing Stop & Shop private brands, and to raise awareness of private-label goods with other shoppers. Customers liked getting a surprise reward, said Robinson. “We often heard how much they loved our “Own Brands” products and were very appreciative to be recognized for purchasing them,” said Robinson.
10. Topco’s Custom Health Solution
SKOKIE, Ill. — The Top Care Vitamin Finder is an online tool that provides shoppers with customized private-label vitamin suggestions.
After clicking on the widget located on participating retailers’ websites, users are taken to a five-minute survey consisting of 20 questions about age, gender and lifestyle.The recommendations from the survey determine which Top Care vitamin supplements are best for each person’s individual lifestyle and personal needs.
Immediately after the survey is completed, users see a list of recommended vitamins. One suggestion for a 40-something female who leads a healthy, active lifestyle is Top Care Century Ultimate Women’s Multivitamins.
Vitamin Finder’s recommendations have been approved by health professionals at the University of Illinois and are based on a conservative subset of 25 clinically supportive and science-based supplements.
Topco developed the widget with Aisle 7, Portland, Ore., a provider of wellness-driven shopper marketing programs.
In addition to providing a list of suggested vitamins, all results explain why each vitamin was recommended.
Results are confidential and not retained
for future marketing purposes. However, retailers can post promotional messages — such as “buy-two, get-one-free” — on the printable survey results.