HhGregg Applies Warm Campaign To Cooling Sales

In what will likely win kudos for some of the year’s cutest inside-the-box thinking, electronics retailer Hhgregg is stepping away from high-tech showrooms and into suburban backyards. Themed “Happy Home,” its new campaign -- part of what it calls a brand transformation -- highlights the lowest tech of all: The cardboard packing boxes used to ship appliances and consumer electronics.

In the new ads from Leo Burnett, neighborhood kids industriously fashion a colossal cardboard castle, while mom and dad put the finishing touches -- including a flat-screen TV and fancy new fridge -- on the inside. “We sell very commoditized products, which consumers can easily find in many stores nearby,” says Julie Lyle, CMO of the Indianapolis-based retailer, who joined the company four months ago. “So the point of this brand transformation, which is like a repositioning on steroids, is 'How do you make yourself special?’”

One of the retailer’s strengths, she tells Marketing Daily, “is that our customers have always said they value the consultative relationship they have with us, and we found they want us to extend that beyond the transaction.”

That insight is the jumping-off point, she says, including major changes in merchandise assortment, customer shopping experience, expanded credit offerings and enhanced service capabilities. “Where we can be different, and earn that right for consideration, is in a high touch way.”

The move comes at a tough time, as both on and offline retailers struggle to capture consumer loyalty for high-end electronics. In its most recent quarterly results, Hhgregg’s same-store sales fell almost 10%, with the consumer electronics category dropping 23%. And net sales for its fiscal fourth quarter sank 10% to $538.3 million, from $597.6 million in the same period of the year earlier. (Appliance sales, however, were up a bit, gaining 1%, marking the chain’s 11th consecutive quarter of comparable store increases in appliances.)

The new campaign, including 30- and 60-second versions of “Boxes,” as well as several more retail-oriented TV ads, emphasize the joy that buying at Hhgregg brings to customers’ homes, says Becky Swanson, EVP/executive creative director, Leo Burnett Chicago. The campaign also includes radio, digital and social media efforts, store-level activities, social sharing contests, and giveaways.

Peoples’ powerful reaction to the boxes was a nice surprise, she tells Marketing Daily. “We wanted to focus on the brand’s emotional connection to technology, and were kind of amazed how every person we talked to has a childhood story about playing with an appliance box. So we felt there was an emotional connection to childhood and happiness that served two purposes.”

Swanson even learned that boxes have been inducted to the Toy Hall of Fame, and while she initially thought they would just appear in the campaign’s kickoff, the team is already at work on an ad featuring a grandfather-and-grandson team who turn an appliance box into a lemonade stand. 

“This approach is quite different, and may be a gamble,” she says. “But appliances are big-ticket items and a young couple can't afford to make a mistake. Our goal was to make it warm, inviting and reassuring.”

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