With Haulerverse, No Frills turns its customers into shopping heroes

Who: Loblaw’s No Frills, with John St. for creative, Eddy TV Paris for production and animation, and DentsuX for media.

What: “The Haulerverse,” a comic book-inspired addition to the discount grocer’s popular “Haulers” platform. It’s the latest in an ongoing series of pop-culture inspired efforts from No Frills, following the video game Hauler: Aisles of Glory and this year’s album, Haulin’ state of mind.

“We’ve worked hard over the years to earn our voice in pop culture,” said No Frills director of brand marketing, Ashley McGill. “Pop culture has allowed us to break through and be part of the conversation, instead of just advertising.”

When & Where: The campaign debuted today (Nov. 12) including the halftime show of TSN’s Thursday Night Football telecast. The media buy includes Twitter, Instagram and GIPHY, as well as a central hub at Haulerverse.com.

Why: No Frills describes the campaign as the latest effort in its long-term approach to celebrating “everyday haulers” and their collective mission to get a lot for less.

“It’s no secret that the pandemic has changed the way customers shop, especially for groceries, and we wanted our haulers to feel that No Frills swagger,” said McGill. “We knew we needed a campaign that was both aspirational and unifying, but also stayed true to the brand—we needed to celebrate our ‘Haulers’ And what’s more aspirational than tapping into the bravado of comic superheroes?”

How: The 60-second anchor spot, “Welcome to the Haulerverse,” opens with an homage to the classic Marvel comics intro, except with the superhero imagery replaced with grocery-related iconography that includes blink-and-you’ll-miss-it callouts to brand partners like Cheerios, Dr. Oetker, and of course, No Name products.

The rest of the spot unfolds as an introduction to this team of grocery superheroes, showcasing four “Haulers” representing different shopper archetypes (and one store employee):

  • Meg, the “OG” hauler who knows the ins and outs of savvy shopping;
  • Nia, a digital deal hunter;
  • Jeff, a baby-carrying “budget boss”; and
  • Hank, a “deal slinger” who uses his pricing gun to show “frills” who’s the boss.

The characters represent No Frills’ key demographics and shopper mindsets, from longstanding loyal customers to digitally savvy customers and those who understand the value of a good deal. “It was also important to us to include an employee,” said McGill. “After all, we wouldn’t be here doing what we’re doing without the thousands of hard working No Frills employees across the country.”

“We always like to think of No Frills customers as these larger-than-life figures who do some pretty amazing stuff to save money,” said John St.’s executive creative director, Cher Campbell. “They bag their own groceries. They bring loonies to unlock their carts. They use a digital flyer to find deals.

“So we thought what better way to elevate and celebrate ‘Haulers’ than by creating a full-blown animated universe that revolves entirely around them. Using animation gave us the freedom and the ability to showcase our customers in a bigger, bolder way than we ever have before and it also sets the stage for a whole world of content around the characters we’ve created.”

The Hauleverse.com website, meanwhile, opens with a Star Wars-inspired scrolling message that reads: “The year is 2020. Frills are invading the grocery bills of innocent shoppers everywhere. The only hope is a team of elite grocery shopping experts. They call themselves: Haulers.”

What does success for this campaign look like? “Success would be our customers seeing themselves in these characters, to follow along with their adventures and relive the joy and exhilaration they feel when they shop with us through these characters,” said McGill.

And we quote: “There are no limits for No Frills [when it comes to its marketing approach]. People have come to expect the unexpected from us, and we’re committed to giving our Haulers what they want.” —Ashley McGill, director of brand marketing, No Frills

Chris Powell