Albertsons, the grocery giant whose brands include Safeway, Vons, Jewel-Osco and Balducci's, had never had a core purpose that worked for the entire company. After years of work, it's crystallized that larger vision: "Sincerely," created as a love letter from the many foods that drive the company's $76 billion in annual sales. Chief marketing officer Sean Barrett tells Retail Insiderwhat the company hopes this brand transformation will do.
Retail Insider: You're calling "Sincerely" a brand transformation, something that's much bigger than a marketing campaign. Why did you decide to make that transformation now?
Sean Barrett: We had never really had a companywide purpose, one that unified all 24 of our banners. We started working toward one in 2019, asking ourselves what we stood for. How do we think about our values and our behaviors? How do we show up to our customers and communities every day?
We got to the final articulation of our purpose in October of 2021: to bring people together around the joys of food, and to inspire well-being. That galvanized a lot of things across the company.
We see this as the net phase. And, of course, it will come to life as a marketing campaign, but it's much more than that.
Retail Insider: A unifying platform must be challenging because it isn't as if the people who shop at Shaw's in New England, for example, know the store is owned by the same company that owns Safeway.
Barrett: It is unifying in that it will also be used in each of our local communities from the voice of the local banner. The joys of food are universal and cut across all of our customers and banners. This one platform allows us to represent ourselves uniquely in each local market.
Retail Insider: This is an ages-old marketing debate: Should you be a house of brands, like Procter & Gamble? Or a branded house, like Apple, which puts its name on all its products?
Barrett: We do not have plans to do that. We know how important the local banner is to our community. In some cases, they're over a hundred years old. People not only associate with the banner where they shop, but also associate most often with the individual store they shop at. We put immense value in that rich history and heritage. Albertsons doesn't mean anything to a Shaw's shopper.
Retail Insider: Do you envision there will be an entirely different platform conversation if the proposed Albertsons/Kroger merger goes through?
Barrett: We can't speculate on the merger. What we're focused on is creating the best experience for our shoppers and connecting with them in an emotional way.
Retail Insider: Tell us about the ads themselves. What convinced you "Sincerely" was the way to go?
Barrett: Our lead agency is Anomaly, based in New York, and we worked with them to come up with a disruptive and distinctive way of talking about the role that food plays in our lives every day. We're talking from the food's point of view and the way it brings families, friends and communities together.
That became a great platform for us to talk about the differentiated departments and fresh offerings -- our butchers, florists and cake decorators. We feel like "Sincerely" reflects the DNA of the company and the caring personal service we try to provide to every customer, either in our stores or with one of our digital properties. And all the store associates in these spots work in our stores.
Retail Insider: Anything different in the media plan for this?
Barrett: It's heavily digital, which is part of our model -- we can reach customers in a very direct and tailored way. And we've got some unique activations coming; grand gestures that will bring this to life.
Retail Insider: What metrics are you watching closely to see if this succeeds?
Barrett: The intention is to connect emotionally with our shoppers, so we expect this to result in stronger brand equity and perception scores. And we have distinct brand equity goals.
But as I mentioned, this is bigger. It's part of our cultural transformation. So it's very much intended to improve our brand perception among 290,000 associates. They are our brand to our shoppers every day.
So we'll measure that in terms of frontline associates. Are they inspired? Are they engaged? We expect improved associate scores from surveys and lower turnover.
Retail Insider: Grocery associates have had a tough few years, and all retailers have struggled to hire workers into roles that are often seen as miserable. Is this the first time you've targeted an effort at associate morale?
Barrett: No. We're trying to address their pain points every day, but this is the largest thing we have done.