In First-Ever Brand Ads, Rite Aid Aims For 'Radical Empathy'

Rite Aid is introducing its first-ever brand awareness campaign. The effort is meant to remind a new audience that it’s OK to blend conventional health with alternative wellness–in the same way it’s OK to eat Gummy Worms after a yoga class. Jeffrey Lack, group vice president of marketing, tells MarketingDaily what’s behind the $30 million effort.

MarketingDaily: After 60 years, why introduce brand-awareness ads?

Jeffrey Lack: Brand marketing is super critical to making sure that people have an emotional connection to your business. When people say brand marketing doesn’t matter, I remind them how they feel when they see a shelf that doesn’t have their favorite toothpaste or deodorant. There’s a little panic. People think, 'Oh no, I’m going to have to start from scratch. And what if I don’t like the new one?’ That’s the benefit of brand marketing. It’s a function of both habit and love for that product. Rite Aid is well known, but because we’ve been quieter than others, we’re not top of mind. This is an opportunity to tell a new and compelling story.




MarketingDaily: Was it hard to sell upper management on the effort?

Lack: In an organization, it’s always hard to ask for money. But our CEO is very supportive of this, going back to our rebranding, which started in 2020–before I got here. So the company is supportive of investing in bringing our story to life.

MarketingDaily: Why now?

Lack: As I said, it started two years ago, with our new positioning. Our vision is to be a partner for our consumers on their whole health journey, supporting their need for traditional medicine and alternative remedies. Then COVID came, and while our mission didn’t change, everything had to revolve around symptom remediation and vaccine distribution.

MarketingDaily: So COVID delayed this?

Lack: Yes. But COVID also served to push retail drug chains into the conversation. I hate to call it a magical period because there’s been so much loss. But for our company, our industry, to be such an important part of the solution has been amazing.

MarketingDaily: Why use this approach, targeting young moms? One spot starts with a pregnant mom saying she wants a natural delivery in the morning, but by that evening, she’s calling for an epidural.

Lack: We worked hard with Leo Burnett to find this approach, leaning into what we’re calling radical empathy. As much as consumers want to be healthy, they also want to live and have fun. So they’ll work out, then enjoy ice cream. They’ll make their kids eat carrots and sneak into the pantry to eat Doritos. That's just the nature of human beings. And we didn't want them to feel they were being judged for those choices. We just want to say that we've got you covered whatever part of the spectrum you’re on right now. And it’s aimed at our new target consumer–a mom between 25 to 54 taking care of her kids and her parents.

MarketingDaily: How is that different?

Lack: Previously, we focused on older moms in her 50s and 60s.

MarketingDaily: You’ve said they break in a few weeks, running in 30 markets. What is the media strategy?

Lack: It’s much more targeted, zeroing in on significant targets in a way that we've not done before. We are using some mass messaging, but for the most part, we're using addressable and connected TV platforms. We’ll start with TV, then introduce other content, moving people down the funnel. We’re spending between $30 million and $35 million.

MarketingDaily: Of course, you’re hoping for a sales increase. But what other metrics will let you know if this is successful?

Lack: I'm a performance marketer at heart. So the No. 1 metric for me is whether we are driving more traffic to the store. I also want to move the needle on brand affinity, consideration and purchase intent.

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