photo by John Haslam
What are you passionate about?
Turn that passion into an opportunity to grow your business and to help a cause!
Price Shopper Supermarkets in NY did a fantastic job supporting animals in need and bonding relationships with their target. Here’s their case study:
Retailers Are Forging Emotional Bonds with Pet Owners by Hosting Cause Marketing Programs That Benefit Animals in Need
Despite channel blurring at retail, you’d be hard-pressed to find a cat or dog on a grocery list. But given recent cause marketing efforts, the idea isn’t so far-fetched.
Just recently, Price Chopper Supermarkets, Schenectady, N.Y., turned four shoppers into pet owners at Pet Day, part of Price Chopper Pet Month of September.
In addition to the chance to adopt a dog or cat, shoppers and their pets enjoyed a day of parking lot festivities at Price Chopper’s Niskayuna, N.Y., store. Highlights included:
- A rabies vaccination clinic set up by the Mohawk and Hudson River Humane Society to administer shots for $10 — less than half the regular cost.
- Discussions about pet medication led by a Price Chopper pharmacist and pet care tips from a local trainer and groomer.
- Freebies like goody bags filled with samples; customized pet photo magnets; the chance to win free Purina dog or cat food for one year; and raffles for baskets filled with Price Chopper’s Best Friends pet foods and products from sponsors Nestlé Purina and Yöghund, maker of organic frozen yogurt for dogs.
- A pet food drive benefiting the Mohawk and Hudson River Humane Society.
Price Chopper got behind other philanthropic programs last month, like the donation of $1 to the ASPCA for every new Facebook fan Price Chopper received; the donation of a pet service dog in partnership with Milk-Bone; and the sponsorship of the Animal Protective Foundation’s Fireplug 500 Walk for Animals.
“We have an appreciation for the important role that pets play in our customers’ lives,” said Price Chopper spokeswoman Mona Golub. “We created pet month as a celebration of pets and pet ownership.”
Price Chopper is making pets a priority at a time when supermarkets work to sustain sales captured from the pet specialty channel.
Looking to save money and consolidate trips, more cash-strapped pet owners turned to their local grocer for pet food and supplies a year or so ago. Food retailers hope to keep them coming back.
“Even though the pet market is relatively recession-resistant, it was not completely immune to the economic downturn so shoppers changed brands and switched channels,” noted David Lummis, senior pet market analyst for market research publisher Packaged Facts.
Since then, Price Chopper has increased its category presence by expanding its selection of natural and organic pet foods, and adding flea, tick and heartworm medications from brands like Frontline Plus, K9 Advantix and Heartguard Plus. Its stores now more closely resemble one-stop pet shops.
“The consumer is able get pet medications in the same place that they buy food and other supplies,” noted Golub.
That’s not where the similarities end. The retailer is taking another page from the book of pet specialty stores when it demonstrates for animal lovers that it cares about pets too.
“It’s a very good strategy for supermarkets since specialty already has the edge of ‘we care about pets, we’re all about pets,’” noted Lummis.
Cause marketing programs have become a popular way to form emotional bonds with pet owners since they’re relatively inexpensive.
“There is a lot of bang for the buck,” Lummis said.
Take for instance Bi-Lo’s Paws “Feed the Love” food drive, which makes available bags of private-label food for dogs or cats that can be purchased for $5 and placed in bins for donation to local food shelters.
Bi-Lo’s goal is to help reduce the number of animals being abandoned or sent to shelters due to an inability to cover food costs, so beneficiaries are the four-legged members of families who have a hard time keeping food on the table and in their pet’s bowl.
“When families suffer hardship there is a direct effect, not only to the quality of food the family pet receives, but the quantity,” said Darren Johnson, category manager for pet and baby at Bi-Lo, Mauldin, S.C.
All of Bi-Lo’s 200-plus supermarkets feature an endcap with the bags and signage explaining the program.
As an added bonus, shoppers who purchase and donate a $5 bag at one of Bi-Lo’s 177 stores participating in its fuelperks! program earn 5 cents off per gallon in fuelperks! Rewards. Normally, customers would have to spend $50 at Bi-Lo to earn that. Shoppers in stores that don’t participate in rewards program receive a coupon for $1 off their next purchase.
During the first drive, held for four weeks last February, 8,200 bags were donated.
“That was huge,” said Johnson.
So big, in fact, that the chain decided to host the promotion again last month.
After two weeks, it was on track to meet the number of bags sold in February, Johnson said.
The benefits for Bi-Lo are substantial since each $5 bag contains multiple store-brand products. Paws dry cat food, 3.5 pounds, and two cans of Paws wet cat food, 13.2 ounces, are included in the cat bag, while Paws dry dog food, 4.4 pounds, and three cans of Paws wet dog food, 13.2 ounces, can be found in the dog bag.
Though the drives are temporary, greater corporate-brand penetration and sales lift are longer lasting.
“The Paws brand continues to grow, even when the ‘Feed the Love’ food drive isn’t going on,” Johnson said.
Future iterations of the campaign will likely include digital coupons and social media vehicles like Facebook and Twitter to help reach a larger audience. Bi-Lo is even considering a customer/pet look-alike contest.
“We’re trying to take it to the next level and create excitement,” Johnson said.
To help amplify its messaging during Pet Month, Price Chopper also tried something new: the promise of a $1 donation to the ASPCA for every new Facebook fan it received.
More than 3,000 new fans joined its following for a total of over 36,000.
“That is substantially more than we’ve gained during previous months,” noted Golub. “We have a very active Facebook fan base.”
Price Chopper’s Facebook followers are so engaged that exclusive coupons offered via the medium have redemption rates that are significantly higher than average, according to Golub. During Pet Month, Facebook offers included free Sergeant Skip’s Flea and Tick Shampoo and Pup-Peroni for $1.
The chain’s dedicated Facebook team kept fans engaged by asking them to do things like submit their favorite pet stories. Over 100 shoppers responded.
“We use the feedback we receive on Facebook to improve the shopping experience,” said Golub.
Although a popular component of cause marketing campaigns, Facebook and Twitter are just the tip of the iceberg, noted Sarah Kerkian, insights supervisor at Cone, a Boston-based consultancy.
When it comes to reaching audiences with a robust set of information, marketers are exploring the use of quick response (QR) codes and geo-location technologies that are compatible with smart phones.
“We’re seeing companies as well as non-profits try to reach consumers when they’re making a purchase and giving them the opportunity to hear more about a cause,” Kerkian said.
Videos of animals in need could go a long way toward prompting sales of items tied to donations that will benefit them.
“There is such a deep sense of compassion where animals are concerned. In fact, some data has shown that people are more likely to help a neglected puppy than starving children,” Kerkian said.
(Source: Supermarket News, 10/04/10)