Countdown: Serving up integration inspiration
Progressive Enterprises had a problem: how to turn three supermarket brands into one standing for quality, value and inspiration. They turned to television, and what a result they got.
We really needed to grow people’s relationship with the brand, but you can’t do that unless people are going to emotionally connect – and MasterChef was that opportunity for us.” Bridget Lamont, General Manager Marketing, Countdown.
Reinventing a household brand on the back of a recession is a bold endeavor by anyone’s reckoning, but Progressive Enterprises did just that when it decided to merge its three brands – Foodtown, Woolworths and Countdown – under just one, Countdown.
If that wasn’t enough, to regain market share from its main rival Foodstuffs – owner of New World, Four Square and Pak’nSave – Countdown had to stand for something more than it did before: it had to mean quality, choice and value – a big ask for a brand that had previously been known as a budget brand.
“We knew we had to take New Zealanders on a journey to what we essentially considered a whole new brand,” says Bridget Lamont, General Manager Marketing at Countdown.
Lamont and her colleagues had started to lay the groundwork for building a relationship between the new Countdown and its customers, but they knew they needed to do more. “We really needed to grow people’s relationship with the brand, but you can’t do that unless people are going to emotionally connect – and MasterChef was that opportunity for us.”
The fit was good, but it was also a big leap to go in all guns blazing and do a fully-integrated campaign, making the television show and everything in it and around it a central pillar of Countdown’s marketing strategy. “It was a big risk because Countdown as a brand in New Zealand at the time was very different to what MasterChef stands for. Here people were still trying to get over that Countdown was not this big-box, warehouse supermarket anymore,” says Sally Copland, Countdown’s Business Manager Brand. “We wanted to be fully integrated because we knew that the show could really help us talk about the quality and the range at Countdown.”
Countdown went all out to own MasterChef and ensure its brand was synonymous with the choice, quality and inspiration MasterChef provided. The brand was fully integrated into the programme with the Countdown Pantry, the Countdown clock and references to Countdown.
There were a host of different advertisements supporting the sponsorship, both standalone and involving Countdown’s own TV family The Colemans. The MasterChef brand was rolled out through online initiatives and in-store where staff wore MasterChef-branded T-shirts and, later, aprons.
After the first series more than 73% of MasterChef viewers were aware Countdown was the principle sponsor. Today recall’s up to 94%.
Now on to its third series, the sponsorship initiatives have evolved even further with the success of the partnership. The winner of the first MasterChef series, Brett McGregor and finalist of the second series, Jax Hamilton have taken over Countdown’s regular Smart Shopper slots and have produced a range of “How to” videos for YouTube to help budding master chefs with the basics. Also the spin-off show, MasterChef Masterclass, featuring recipes from Masterchef judges, promotes what’s currently in season at Countdown.
Not everything has worked. An online game introduced for series two was dropped in favour of the “How to” videos for series three. Recipes have been simplified and one episode in series two which required a contestant to rush out to the nearest Countdown store to get an ingredient was considered a step too far, admits Alistair Duff, TVNZ’s General Manager of Media Sales. “Things work when they don’t feel forced; when they make sense to the show.”
Countdown’s customers are asked at the end of each series what they like. Countdown also holds regular focus groups, reviews opinions and discussions online and has an online research panel to track what people think about the brand. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
Countdown’s market share has increased, how people see the brand has vastly improved and, proving that emotional connection, Countdown’s Facebook fans have shot up from 33,000 to 115,000 in less than a year. “We’ve added and we’ve refined as the shows have continued because we’ve got better at it,” says Copland. “This is a campaign that touches everything we do.”
Copland admits it wouldn’t have been possible to achieve what the company’s achieved without TVNZ’s television show. “It’s subtle: the same time that people are being entertained, they are being exposed to Countdown as a new, modern-day supermarket concept. Television gives us that core; that core content, that core idea that we want to communicate to our consumers. We want to inspire people to be master chefs in their own kitchens. We could have chosen to be in the show and do nothing more about it. But that’s not actually connecting us to what we do for New Zealand consumers when it comes to food.”
For integration to work well it has to be a no-holds-barred partnership between broadcaster, programme producer and advertiser, says Duff. “Television delivers the mass eyeballs, but what next? That’s what a good integrated partnership is about; really understanding what the client wants to do and helping them get there. Smart advertisers know you have to leverage it and smart broadcasters should be able to help advertisers to do that. The reach of television today goes far beyond the screen.”
Integrated television campaigns are in a process of evolution in New Zealand, says Duff, but there’s still a long, long way to go. “If you do it well, it might cost a little more, but the returns are infinitely higher than just putting your billboard around something.”