A bananas idea to promote No Frills’ new Haulers video game

Who: Loblaw Companies Limited’s No Frills brand, with John St. for strategy and creative, wonderMakr for game controller design/fabrication, and Relish Interactive for videogame production.

What: “No Frills Aisles of Glory: Legends of the Haul,” a new version of the 8-bit side-scroller video game that rewards players with PC Optimum points. It is being promoted with limited-edition video game controllers made from real bananas.

When & Where: The game is online now through Sept. 16, and is being promoted on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok, as well as through influencer outreach (thanks to those bananas controllers).

Why: Since launching the “Haulers” platform in 2018, John St. has found a number of playful and creative ways to bring it to life, including a PSA music video early in the pandemic; a 13-track album; breakthrough advertising and, in 2019, a video game. “Every major sport has a video game franchise, so why should hauling be any different?” said Loblaw’s top marketer, Uwe Stueckmann, at the time. A second version of the game released last year registered more than 500,000 players, and No Frills and John St. needed a fresh way to make this year’s version “a-peeling” to players.

How: This year’s game offers a grand prize of 10 million PC Optimum points, 24 secondary prizes of 1 million PC Optimum points, and new character modes that can be unlocked via No Frills receipt codes.

The real stand-out idea this year, though, is the video game controller, which uses actual bananas.

“We’ve made some legendary changes to the game itself, so we needed a legendary way to play it,” said Jess Willis, creative director at John St. in a release. “And as a brand that lives in the cultural zeitgeist, why not launch this year’s Aisles of Glory expansion in a way that stays true to gaming with a controller all our own.”

How bananas is this? The video game navigation is relatively simple, consisting of three key commands: arrow keys to move the character up or down, and the space bar to jump. WonderMakr, the creative technology studio based in Oakville, Ont., used capacitive touch technology, connecting three bananas to a circuit board and turning them into the three command buttons.

“The technology essentially uses the same principles as the hardware and software in your phone that senses finger traces on its touchscreen,” explained wonderMakr’s president and chief innovation officer, Mark Stewart. “The technology we created combined a micro controller and breakout board that acted as the device’s buttons, in addition to a capacitive touch sensor chip that detected the user inputs for game control through the bananas.”

Only five of the controllers were made and sent to gaming influencers on TikTok and Twitch (along with two more to be given away in a social contest). The influencers, of course, have significant reach to spread the word about the game. Anson Wong (@ansonwng) shared an unboxing video about the controller with his 1.3 million followers on Aug. 31, and the video—in which he promotes the new points rewards of the game—has been viewed more than 11 million times.

And we quote: “From Haulin’ State of Mind, the #1 discount album, co-created with some of Canada’s best artists, to Haulerverse, which saw us pay homage to the world of anime, being authentic to the spaces we’re playing in is important. It’s what gives us that Hauler swagger.” —Randi Casey, director of marketing, Loblaw Companies Limited


#ad If you think you can get a higher score than me then check it out at aislesofglory.nofrills.ca

♬ original sound – Anson Wong

David Brown