That Was Easy: Staples Ditches 10-Year-Old Tagline

In its first campaign since moving to McGarrybowen last spring, Staples is stepping away from its decade-old campaign with a new effort called “Make More Happen.”

“The main thing is that people don’t know all the amazing stuff they can buy at Staples, from mannequins to cowboy hat-shaped hard hats,” says Marianne Besch, executive creative director at Mcgarrybowen, a Dentsu agency. “Everyone knows they can find office supplies there, but the four TV spots all focus on the many unexpected items, whether it’s something to germ-proof your life, coffee, a bullhorn or medical supplies.”

She tells Marketing Daily the new campaign, scheduled to break on Monday, also includes a disruptive digital and social media element called “What the L,” where the “L” in Staples (usually a bent staple) is continually replaced with different L-shaped products.



She says stepping away from the “That Was Easy”  involved assessing the equity it acquired over the years, and finding a way to build on it. The Easy Button, for example, is still prominent.

“It’s got a 96% attribution rate, and it doesn't even say ‘Staples.’ It really is iconic, and this campaign is a way to advance the Easy button, to show how Staples has expanded outside its core product offerings.”

Staples, based in Framingham, Mass., claims to be the world’s second-largest Internet retailer, and says it is adding thousands of new products every day. In the midst of what it describes as “a strategic reinvention,” including a major refresh of its website, the retailer reported a 5% decline in North American sales in its most recent quarterly results, and a 3% dip in same-store sales.

The first 30-second spot, called “Big Idea,” is set in a modern factory, with workers using products bought at Staples, to manufacture the biggest idea ever seen. But it turns out the assembly line produces nothing, making the point that Staples has everything a business needs for a big idea, except for the big idea. 

The TV spots are scheduled to run on cable and primetime network programming, such as “Big Bang Theory,”  “Scandal” and “Modern Family.” 

“The ads are meant to appeal to a culture of people who are doers,” adds Besch, “and we want to let them know that Staples has absolutely everything they need to get things done.”

3 comments about "That Was Easy: Staples Ditches 10-Year-Old Tagline".
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  1. Mickey Lonchar from Quisenberry, January 3, 2014 at 1:07 p.m.

    In the mundane, low-interest category of office supplies, 'That was easy' provided an easy to remember (no pun intended) meaningful difference consumers could relate to. Rather than toss it aside for 'What the L' (or something similar that assists Staples into receding into the indistinguishable morass of other supply retailers), Mcgarrybowen should have focused on ways to amplify 'That was easy' throughout the organization and value chain. Odds are this would have done more to reverse a sales decline than a paint-by-numbers easily forgettable ad campaign.

    What the 'L' indeed.

  2. Tracy Levitz from Adverteria, January 4, 2014 at 8:30 a.m.

    The "unexpected" is a bonus, not a campaign. Cowboy hat-shaped hard hats and bullhorns are a tangent, not a point.
    Is it a surprise (and sometimes - sometimes - weirdly convenient) to find mixed nuts and children's books at Staples? Yes, but that's not why I shop there. I predict this one's going to go quietly into the morass of not-so-big ideas.

  3. Christopher Weakley from Virgo, January 7, 2014 at 3:26 a.m.

    It's always hard to say goodbye to a good tag line. And maybe that's why new ones can seem a bit "off" at first, especially when they're being judged out of the context of an actual campaign Let's wait and see the spots before we like or not like Mcgarrybowen's new approach.

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