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Retailer as Advertiser – Building a Retail Brand Successfully
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Retailer as Advertiser – Building a Retail Brand Successfully

Retailers can successfully shape perceptions about their brand by creating and executing marketing programs with the same creativity and discipline as manufacturers. In its journey to rebuild its brand in a differentiated and relevant manner, Walgreens has achieved milestones that offer other retailers important lessons in brand building. Kim Feil, CMO, Walgreens describes the practices that helped rebuild the brand.

Retailers can build a more distinctive proposition for shoppers through creative and disciplined marketing, noted Kim Feil, CMO, Walgreens during her presentation at the Nielsen Consumer 360 event in Florida.

Feil noted that while the Sunday circular has been the vehicle of choice for most retailers, it is limited in its ability to shape brand perceptions effectively in a differentiated manner.

When Walgreens began its journey to reshape its brand perception and resonate with consumers despite a difficult economic scenario, it crafted a comprehensive marketing program with all the elements of a contemporary marketing mix.

Feil described the process at Walgreens when she took charge of the marketing function and worked towards a more broad-based approach for communicating the Walgreens’ brand as well as its offerings.

It began by understanding the brand’s lineage and long history of innovation, which shaped a well-recognized brand. However, consumers saw the brand as old, convenient, cluttered and a standard, undifferentiated store. Consumers did not recognize Walgreens as a comprehensive health services provider, despite the fact that they employ the second largest healthcare team after the government.

Walgreens embarked on a journey to rebuild the brand. By segmenting consumers carefully, they realized that while shoppers wanted to be helped, they also needed to make their own informed choices. This realization reconfigured Walgreen’s positioning to become the first choice for health and daily living that helped consumers live well, stay well, and get well.

To execute on this positioning, Walgreens broadened the set of ‘touch points’ to reach out to consumers using a variety of media that included television, mobile and online amongst others. For instance, the Walgreens’ online team converted shoppers’ online experience to echo the brand’s proposition by offering information and advice as well as integrating more social media. This created the real-time ability to conduct a dialogue that helped the retailer offer promotions that resonated with consumers.

The strategy yielded positive, tangible business results in 2009 and 2010 when Walgreens applied its new marketing mix during the flu season. By taking the same core principles and what Feil described as ‘connection points’ with consumers to other areas such as consultations, health services, outdoor, mobile and online Walgreens was able to increase awareness, consideration for their offerings and reinforce the brand’s new positioning.

Similarly, in the mobile arena, the Walgreen’s mobile application became one of the top 10 downloaded apps during the weeks that it was advertised.

As a result of these actions and their positive outcomes for both sales and profitability, Walgreens has demonstrated that by applying the right marketing mix models and metrics to brand building, retailers too can be successful advertisers.