There’s a Holy Grail for brands and retailers: to embed themselves so much with the families that make up their core demographic that their place in the family shopping basket is secure. Some try this through sporadic, tactical promotions which tap into interests and trends – collect tokens for a free tennis lesson, for example – whilst others try to create initiatives that lead to deeper, longer term engagement.
So it seems with Waitrose, which has unveiled a national ‘Grow and Sell’ initiative aimed at encouraging 7 to 11 year olds across the UK to grow their own produce and sell it to Waitrose customers, and Heinz with a Grow Your Own campaign to encourages families across the UK to grow their own tomatoes. Heinz is giving away free seeds via Facebook.
There are sound commercial as well as social reasons for these initiatives. The growth of online shopping and Click & Collect will lead to fewer people coming in store. With less pester power going on in the aisles, brands need to find new ways of engaging with parents and their children, whilst over the longer term consumers are going to be expecting brands and retailers to be engaging with them more at this deeper, more genuine level. Note the difference between “engaging” with them and “marketing” to them.
Both Waitrose and Heinz seem to have found something with authentic consumer appeal. The initiatives not only tap into families but, by virtue of their educational content, to teachers and businesses as well. They warm up the parents, remain close to each company’s particular brand values, fit with current trends and interests whilst being undeniably child friendly and educational.
Unlike the more sporadic promotions, where there seems to have been little contextual research undertaken into what parents really value and what would have a legacy beyond the immediate life of the promotion, here research appears to have helped create something distinctive but which has genuine appeal. Using a more experiential approach to qualitative research, promotions teams can create that engagement with mums as part of the ideation process for these initiatives. Quantitative research can also be designed to better engage with respondents – getting them involved with the issues, enabling and empowering them to feed back.
There’s a lesson here for all of us. Creating authentic engagement requires brands to work harder, think longer and research their promotions better. It needs them to research again once the initiative has happened to undertake a proper evaluation and explore how it can be developed further. Above all, it’s about showing not telling and demonstrating a willingness to have an authentic two-way relationship.