Singing-Produce Section Part of Supervalu Comeback Strategy

Grocery Giant Tweaks Private Label, Goes Hyper-Local

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Supervalu's latest move to spark a turnaround involves singing tomatoes, green peppers and broccoli.

The $37 billion grocery giant -- which oversees big regional chains such as Albertsons, Jewel-Osco and Farm Fresh -- is animating the produce section in a TV ad debuting Wednesday by Publics Groupe's Kaplan Thaler Group, which was recently brought on as agency of record. The new campaign comes as Supervalu seeks to reverse sluggish sales trends through a host of new efforts, including revamping and consolidating its core private-label offering and pushing a "hyper-local" philosophy that puts more merchandizing decisions in the hands of individual store operators.

The Eden Prairie, Minn.-based company seized a bit of momentum in late July announcing a 10% increase in quarterly earnings to $74 million, which beat analyst expectations. Even so, same-store sales fell again, dropping 3.9%, leaving plenty of room for improvement.

Ad Age recently talked with Sidne Berg, the company's director-marketing communications, to find out what role the company's advertising and marketing are playing as Supervalu seeks a comeback.

Ad Age : Talk about the campaign. Why produce?

Ms. Berg: We know customers want to eat better. We want to serve our customers and help them deliver on this goal. The advertising is focused around our produce department which is a key department for us. The campaign itself really leverages the visceral and exciting attributes of that department. We're bringing fun to grocery advertising. The key assets are around music, animation. We've animated fruits and vegetables to deliver that message of quality and fresh.

Ad Age : Why did you go with Kaplan Thaler Group?

Ms. Berg: We wanted to break through, be innovative, be different from what we've been doing and what we see in the marketplace today in traditional grocery advertising. Kaplan Thaler Group was brought in to reinvigorate that business and be our partner. They demonstrated, for us, some really great outside-the-box thinking.

Ad Age : Supervalu has recently revamped its private-label offerings, consolidating regional store-name brands under a new national lineup called Essential Everyday. Why? And how to you plan to market this?

Ms. Berg: Consolidating our brands and focusing on Essential Everyday as our strong national brand equivalent in our private brand portfolio gives us some of those synergies in our marketing and our promotions. We are looking forward to getting to critical mass in our next fiscal year where we can really start promoting it and advertising much more heavily than we have.

Ad Age : Talk about your hyper-local strategy. Why are you doing this and how local does it get?

Ms. Berg: It's a store-by -store focus. Our store directors have been equipped with data from our analytics team on what the neighborhood and demographic looks like around each of their stores. They are then empowered in multiple areas within their store where we don't dictate but we can help support and provide direction on how they merchandize.

Ad Age : Can you give an example of how this works?

Ms. Berg: If it's the high school football team just won 30 games in a row or blew out the season, [the local store is ] empowered to support, to celebrate and to use marketing tactics to communicate their role and their pride in within their community. And that 's not something that 's pushed down from Eden Prairie but they are empowered to bring to life in their own store.

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