Following its transformation from a tired, underperforming business to a major convenience-based operation over the past five years, the Co-operative Group wanted to strengthen its brand image in the eyes of consumers.
In particular, in 2002/2003 it set out to develop a brand communication strategy segmented to appeal to both its core customer base and new/infrequent customers and to ensure its retail brands were perceived to deliver good value through product quality, strong and well-communicated promotions and competitive pricing.
At the same time, it planned to increase own label and fresh food participation to 50% within the business and to reinforce its position as a responsible retailer. To achieve all this it embarked on a series of marketing initiatives. Most visible were two new executions of the Creatures TV advertising campaign, developed by Partners BDDH. These focused on the strengths of the local proposition in terms of range and responsibility. A secondary, tactical campaign used the Creatures creativity to communicate the best promotional deals. The group buys 3,000 TV hours on an annual basis.
Press advertising focused on the integrity of the Co-op and this message was reinforced in store with the introduction of the Fair Trade mark on all Co-op brand chocolate. To improve customer loyalty, a revised Dividend offer was rolled out across the portfolio, giving 3% on Co-op brand and fresh foods and 1% on brands. A Co-op Visa card was introduced offering 1% dividend on purchases in Co-operative Group stores and 0.5% on all other purchases across the world.The marketing message was also taken to labels, carrier bags and point of purchase communication.
The judges were impressed by the "coherent and broad strategy", praising the execution and creativity. But most of all they were looking for evidence of commercial impact on the business. And the results spoke for themselves.
Analysis demonstrated that the campaign generated £19 for every £1 spent on advertising. Own label and fresh foods penetration exceeded 50% for the first time and, according to the group, this contributed to a dramatic improvement in underlying profitability. At the half-year the group recorded a 67% increase in operating profit.
The Co-op believes Creatures has been the most successful advertising campaign in its 150-year history. "We have data tracking awareness back to the early 1980s and this campaign has scored the highest ever," says John Bowes, chief general manager strategy. Bowes says the Co-operative Group has finetuned its approach to marketing over the past five years. "In 1998 we took bold moves with a broad pen. This year there has been more subtlety, skill and science in terms of what we are doing."
And what does the future hold? With awareness levels at record levels consumers may see more Creatures coming their way. Says Bowes: "As a campaign it has serious legs."