Rather than holding a review, Shoppers selected the agency based on its multimedia focus and its status since February 2014 as AOR for Loblaw, which purchased the pharmacy chain for $12.4 billion in 2013.
Since arriving at the chain in September 2014, Shelagh Stoneham, Shoppers’ senior vice-president of marketing, said her team has been engaged in market research and strategic planning that has led to a bigger marketing spend, an increased television presence, more online video and new partnerships with Women of Influence and the entertainment show ET Canada.
“Over the last eight years, we have been working with a variety of different agencies with no strong commitment. I call it serial dating,” Stoneham told Marketing. “I do think the best relationships are ones that show commitment on both sides. Those are part of our values in terms of collaboration, trust and respect. As such, we have made a commitment to John St., and John St.’s made a commitment to us.”
“My goal is to support the brand through strong, compelling and differentiated brand marketing,” said Stoneham. “There are three key pillars we invest behind and build upon to support our core offering — convenience, beauty and health…. All of the creative is supporting programs that support these pillars. We’ll have a creative thread that goes across all media channels. You’ll see it in print, TV, radio, online and social media.”
Stoneham wouldn’t confirm when the next mass campaign is slated to launch.
Shoppers is expanding an existing sponsorship relationship with Women of Influence, an association that organizes events and publishes a magazine aimed at increasing the professional advancement of women. John St.’s first creative work for Shoppers was a print ad in Women of Influence earlier this month — it featured a coffee cup marked with a woman’s lipstick and declared, “Some marks you leave are more permanent than others.”
News of its enhanced marketing strategy comes as Shoppers prepares to expand its fresh food program to eight stores in Regina this May. Launched in Toronto last September, the number of Shoppers offering produce, meat and prepared foods grows to 14 with the impending locations. While the company is still gathering and analyzing the results of the pilot, early indications show consumers have adjusted to the concept of buying produce in a drug store because of the increasingly acknowledged connection between nutrition and wellness.
“Loblaws has been committed to wellness, and the links between eating well and health and wellness,” explained Stoneham. “The idea of food in a Shoppers Drug Mart makes a lot of sense. To drive home the benefits, we’ve even provided pharmacists in those stores with additional nutrition training. We’ve provided them with health information so they can help customers and patients shop well.”
Though Shoppers didn’t invest a lot to market the pilot project, waiting first to see how successful it would be — signage and merchandising worked to alert customers to the fresh food — the chain will debut a comprehensive marketing strategy as new stores open in Regina, said Stoneham.
In the near future, Shoppers will also debut a pharmacy campaign communicating the importance of medication review, she said.
“As marketers, we need to be pinball wizards,” said Stoneham. “If you think about the consumer as a silver ball and brand consumer touchpoints as the bumpers, the consumer no longer follows a predictable purchase funnel. They meet us at the bumpers through various channels. How they move through the pinball game is determined by relevance of our content. Therefore, this ecosystem demands a media-neutral campaign idea that can be extended across all consumer touchpoints. What John St.’s providing is a creative thread that can be extended across all our enviable owned media channels.”
This is all in addition to the partnership Shoppers announced in early March with Shaw Media‘s ET Canada entertainment show to deliver a multi-platform campaign about beauty trends. The partnership is aimed to position Shoppers as a key cosmetics destination. The show spotlights red-carpet beauty looks that viewers can later recreate with the help of cosmetics experts at select Shoppers locations.
What consumers think of Shoppers
Stoneham said an internal study of perceptions of the Shoppers brand personality conducted in December of last year with adults across the country showed the three words Canadians most associate with the store are “trustworthy,” “genuine” and “caring.”