Uwe Stueckmann leaving Loblaw

Uwe Stueckmann, who industry observers and former agency partners have described as one of the country’s marketing “rockstars” and among its “most decisive and courageous” marketers, is moving on from Loblaw Companies Limited after 13 years with the country’s largest grocer.

Stueckmann, who was named the company’s executive vice-president, chief customer officer in 2020, announced his departure via LinkedIn on Thursday.

“After 13 amazing years with Loblaw, it’s time for new adventures,” he wrote, adding, “It’s been a pleasure and an honour to work with such a talented group of driven and motivated people. I wish you nothing but the best as you continue to help Canadians Live Life Well.” Stueckmann declined to be interviewed for this story.

Stueckmann joined LCL in 2009, and spent much of his time with the company in a marketing capacity—including holding the title of SVP of marketing between 2011 and 2020. During that time, the company introduced several high-profile marketing campaigns for both its flagship Loblaws brand and banners such as No Frills and Real Canadian Superstore, as well as product lines including President’s Choice.

Ron Tite, founder and chief creative officer at Church+State, said that Stueckmann is among the upper echelon of brand marketers in Canada. “I don’t know him but I’ve always considered him one of the most complete marketers in the country,” said Tite, who said he’s among a very few marketing “rockstars” in Canada.

Stueckmann’s tenure with Loblaw Companies Limited is characterized by a series of marketing campaigns that stood out for their frequently stark departure from conventional grocery marketing.

Angus Tucker, a former creative leader with Loblaw’s longtime agency partner John St., called Stueckmann one of the most “decisive and courageous” marketers he has worked with. “Like many marketers, he asked for big game changing ideas. But when he got them, he didn’t then say ‘Oh, I didn’t mean that big,'” said Tucker.

John St. helped Loblaw revive its flagging discount banner No Frills with the decidedly unconventional “Haulers” platform, a name bestowed upon its shoppers. The banner has continued to build on the platform in unexpected ways since its introduction, from 8-bit video games to comic books to hip-hop songs (and albums) celebrating humble grocery items like bananas.

The agency also introduced the cheeky “Shop Like a Mother” campaign for the Real Canadian Superstore banner, as well as the “Eat Together” platform for its private label brand President’s Choice, and first master-branding campaign for its non-discount “market” brands, including Loblaws, Zehrs, Provigo and City Market.

“These were all massive, cross-platform ideas that built the business of every one of their brands,” said Tucker. “If he loved something, he went all in on it—social, experiential, video, in store, etc. And as an agency, you can’t ask for more than that. He was demanding, sure, but give me that over ‘Let’s take it to research and see what our target thinks’ all day every day.”

In 2019, Stueckmann was one of the champions of a Loblaw plan to use the first party data collected through the PC Optimum program to sell advertising “In our business, what you bought yesterday is the best predictor of what you’re going to buy tomorrow,” said Stueckmann at the time.

Stueckmann is a veteran of Canada’s retail industry, having previously held marketing roles with both hardware retailer Lowes and Shoppers Drug Mart prior to its acquisition by LCL. He also briefly spent some time in an agency role with Cossette, serving as SVP and GM with Blitz Direct in the mid-2000s.

“It’s with genuine appreciation for the more than 12 years he has spent with Loblaw that today we announce Uwe Stueckmann will be retiring as chief customer officer,” said LCL in a brief internal announcement shared with The Message.

“From launching PC Plus in 2013, to its combination with Optimum in 2018, Uwe has led PC Optimum to become Canada’s largest and best loved loyalty program. He has shaped the voice of Canada’s top brands in PC, No Name, and Life Brand through a reimagining of the iconic Insider’s Report, the launch of the PC Insider’s Project, and some of our company’s most memorable marketing moments.

“And, most recently, he has helped guide Loblaw Digital through the toughest days of the pandemic when Canadians counted on us more than ever to bring them the essentials they needed.” Loblaw declined to provide any further details about Stueckmann’s departure or his successor.

Loblaw was the only company to be listed in the “gainers” category for the second straight year in Ipsos’s annual “Most Influential Brands in Canada” report last week. It followed a seven-spot jump in the previous year’s rankings by moving up 15 spots to 31st overall.

The country’s largest grocer derives nearly half (46%) of its influence from the perception that it is trustworthy, said the report. Ipsos’s chief operating officer Steve Levy noted that it has also achieved “generational harmony,” appealing to consumers of all ages.

—With files from David Brown

Chris Powell