Best Buy is shaking up its approach to the holidays with a
streamlined creative message and increased spending, particularly
in the digital space.
Chief Marketing Officer Barry Judge said that the company's
marketing spending around the holidays is up, despite a challenged
first half for the retailer and a mixed outlook for the
consumer-electronics category. Best Buy has reported declining
sales at U.S. stores open at least 14 months for five consecutive
quarters. And it is projecting same-store sales for its fiscal year
will be flat to down 3%. Still, Mr. Judge and Drew Panayiotou,
senior VP-U.S. marketing, said things are looking up.
"I'm optimistic things are a bit stronger than they were [in the
first half]," Mr. Judge said. "Best Buy is in the midst of
transforming the products we sell. Increasingly we're selling more
mobile phones and tablets and the connections that go with them.
... And those products are on fire."
"All signs point to a consumer coming back in the market," Mr.
Panayiotou added. "We're all still nervous, but the first two weeks
of data say she's there and buying more gifts."
And Best Buy plans to make sure she knows it's not just selling
TVs and computers this holiday season, with tablets, e-readers and
smartphones all appearing in new TV spots. In a coup for the
retailer, it will also air a commercial that highlights all of the
Apple products it
carries -- a rarity in the closely monitored world of Apple
marketing. Mr. Judge said Best Buy will also be emphasizing its
value propositions -- price match, extended returns and free
shipping with no exclusions -- as well as promoting its selection
of gifts under $100. Best Buy spent $282 million on measured media
last year, including $114 during the fourth quarter, according to
The first holiday spots, which make Mom the star, roll out
Sunday with the message, "Game On, Santa." And in a shift from
years past, that creative message will dominate Best Buy's holiday
messaging across all media. The retailer has typically run
concurrent campaigns -- for example, last year it ran both "True
Stories" and spots featuring Kenneth the Blue Elf, which led to a
greater number of spots. This year there are five 30-second spots,
down from 11, as well as two 15-second spots.
"When there's too much messaging, it waters down the power of
the core creative idea," said Mr. Panayiotou. "That simplicity,
that focus is very important. The landscape is getting very noisy.
So, if our core creative idea is about making Mom feel victorious,
we want to put all of our dollars behind that message."
The intent of "Game On, Santa" is to allow moms to revel in
their role as "chief gift giver." Mr. Panayiotou said that his
team's research found that Mom really wanted to feel like she was
"winning" the holidays, though she didn't necessarily need to take
credit publicly. The spots show women talking about various gadgets
with Best Buy employees, before flash-forwarding to Christmas Eve,
where Mom celebrates her purchases amid Santa's arrival and razzes
the big guy.
It's a risky move. Kenneth the Blue Elf was a hit last holiday
season, giving Best Buy the second-most popular holiday ad and
fourth most-popular holiday campaign, according to Ace Metrix. Mr.
Panayiotou said it was a tough decision to abandon something that
had been successful, but he believes "Game On, Santa" will be more
relevant to Mom. (Kenneth the Blue Elf will live on in a holiday
campaign for Best Buy's Five Star chain in China.)
Mr. Panayiotou also admitted that toying with Santa on national
TV is a "high-risk, high-reward" endeavor. "We knew it would win or
lose, [based on] whether she was having fun with Santa or beating
up on Santa. And we had to have a cool, strong Santa that was
amused and entertained by what was going on," Mr. Panayiotou said.
"So far, moms who have seen the spots in limited release say
they're good with it, it's fun and it doesn't feel like we're
Best Buy worked with Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Starcom and Razorfish on the campaign.
This year's campaign is also reverting to a later start date,
after Best Buy pushed up its holiday media blitz a year ago. Last
year ads began airing on Nov. 1, but this year Best Buy opted to
focus on digital efforts in the first weeks of November and hold
off on airing TV ads until just days before Thanksgiving.
"We decided that being very loud and aggressive online was a
place we could stand out," said Mr. Judge, noting that digital
spending is up by 50% to 100%. "People start thinking about
Christmas shopping in early November, but they're searching online
and thinking, not necessarily buying."
Social media will also be a major focus, Mr. Judge said. A
program launching in the coming weeks will ask Facebook fans to
vote on the deal they like best. The one getting the most votes
will be offered as a promotion the following week. A digital
circular is also about to roll out. Unlike the PDF version, which
has existed online to date, the new version is interactive and
features editorial videos, as well as video highlighting the best
deals of the week.
Natalie Zmuda oversees the CMO Strategy section and is responsible for identifying and analyzing the latest trends impacting chief marketers. Natalie also covers the retail and non-alcoholic beverage categories. She joined Advertising Age in 2008, following five years covering the retail and fashion industries for Conde Nast Publications.