In a change of tack from giving out free cutlery, knives and glassware, the embattled Countdown followed New World's Little Shop suit recently and hawked DreamWorks Heroes 3D collectible character cards and albums. And kids and adults alike have loved it, with general manager of marketing Bridget Lamont saying the campaign saw millions of cards in the hands of Kiwi parents and kids, and more than 100,000 albums sold out across the country.
The campaign, which handed out cards featuring characters from Shrek, Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda, Turbo, The Croods or Puss in Boots with every $20 dollars, came at a time when the company was dealing with some major perception issues after allegations in February by then-Labour MP Shane Jones that Progressive and its Australian-owned parent Woolworths had engaged in anti-competitive and corrupt behaviour. The Commerce Commission's investigation is ongoing and the Facebook page to "boycott Countdown" with more than 10,000 likes is still active.
Countdown, which, according to a story in Stuff, has an estimated market share of 44 percent and clocked revenue of nearly $5.8 billion and profit of $155m in the year ending June 30 (up $26m on the year before), has responded with some deep discounting through its Price Drop platform in an effort to win back market share.
Its main competitor Foodstuffs, which runs the New World, Pak 'n' Save and Four Square brands, went on the offensive after Jones made his accusations and loudly trumpeted its Kiwi-owned heritage. And while it wouldn't comment on whether it had improved its market share as a result of Progressive's woes, group general manager marketing Steve Bayliss says "we’re very happy with how our brands are trading and the momentum they have with consumers".
Lamont declined to comment on whether the DreamWorks campaign increased grocery sales, but said: “When you hear of customers buying cat food to get a card when they don’t even have a cat, that’s a good indicator of how the campaign has gone.”
A free app also tied into the DreamWorks campaign. It used augmented reality to bring the cards to life when viewed through a device camera. It also gets customers searching for a Hidden Heroes sticker on the supermarket floor, and through the app the character then appears in front of them. They could then take a picture with them and the hero and share it on social media. There have been nearly 30,000 downloads of the DreamWorks Heroes app, nearly 600,000 photos taken with the app and more than 114,000 visits to the app with a session time of nearly eight minutes.
Countdown pushed the campaign using a wide variety of media: TV, radio, press, magazines, Adshels, advertising in malls, digital, email, mailer and in-store radio. And Lamont says the campaign was a “great example of a truly 21st century collectible campaign that’s engaged our customers using both traditional and digital media channels”.
“We really wanted to deliver a campaign that would provide our customers with an experience they hadn't seen before, and from the time of launch it’s far exceeded our expectations and saw positive engagement with the Countdown brand. Interactivity was key to the success of the campaign and in particular, the smartphone app which brought the DreamWorks characters to life, and tied back to our in-store, Facebook and website channels.”
Agencies involved in the campaign were: TCC as campaign partner, Ogilvy in media planning and creative support, Affinity ID in digital support, and Hypermedia for in-store media.
The campaign was not too unlike New World’s Little Shop Collectables promotion last year, another wildly successful use of child’s pester power, with one full set of the 44 miniatures going on Trade Me for $540. When asked whether the Dreamworks Heroes campaign was launched in response to that campaign, Countdown had no comment.