Why Loblaw combined two famous brands in one spot

Who: Loblaw Companies Ltd., with its in-house agency for creative, Merchant for production. Media by Dentsu and Loblaw’s in-house digital team.

What: “Save with PC,” a new campaign that takes the unusual step of combining the grocery retailer’s President’s Choice and No Name brands.

When & Where: The campaign launched in mid-August and runs until the middle of September. It includes TV, online video and social.

Why: One of the key business stories of 2022 has been the inflationary pressures that have been felt across the consumer economy, particularly grocery. The idea for this campaign came as a response to consumers looking to get more from their grocery shopping experience, said Meghan Nameth, senior vice-president, marketing, Loblaw Companies Limited (now officially Loblaw’s top marketer since the departure of Uwe Stueckmann earlier this year).

“We felt Canadians really needed to hear a message around value,” she said. They planned on focusing on PC Optimum points, the PC MasterCard, and the price, quality and innovation associated with PC food products, but something was missing. “When we were building out that strategy, the conversation felt incomplete if we didn’t include No Name,” said Nameth.

Once Loblaw decided it would take this unusual step—”We’ve never put these two brands together,” said Nameth. ”We weren’t sure if Canadians would love it”—the challenge was how to do it when both brands have such strong and distinct voices. “How could we do that together, but be authentic with both brand voices?”

How: The solution was to have one voice effectively talk to the other, with No Name interrupting PC and other Loblaw communications to remind shoppers of its low prices.

The anchor TV spot opens with the same look and feel of the “#HeyPC” advertising launched earlier this year, with Loblaw chair Galen Weston surrounded by PC products and talking directly to camera about some of the benefits of shopping PC, such as innovation, quality, and great prices.

He pauses when he hears someone clearing their throat off screen. The camera does a hard pan to reveal Weston surrounded by No Name products on the now familiar yellow-and-black set.

While No Name Weston doesn’t speak, he holds up cards to deliver the message that No Name has low prices. “Fair point,” says President’s Choice Weston off-camera. The spot ends with the two logos sharing a split screen.

“The strategy behind the spot was No Name interrupting PC programming to remind Canadians that they also have great products and low prices,” said Nameth. “It was connecting the two [brands] where we felt like keeping Galen as a unifier, but having this alter-ego scenario gave us the best of both worlds.”

A similar approach was used on social, employing No Name’s simple approach of on-the-nose but tongue-in-cheek headlines in black Helvetica on yellow backgrounds. In this case, the posts literally said “Social Media Interruption,” with an explanation in the caption.

“All channels experienced that pop-up to make it have a more integrated experience, and it got great traction across social media,” said Nameth.

Any concern about combining brands? “Mostly, brand marketers would stay away from combining brands,” said Nameth. But Loblaw has long positioned President’s Choice as a product innovator and a marketing rule breaker. “We felt that this disruption was just something PC could do because it has been such an innovator in the marketing space.”

How’s that going? “We’re getting longer watch times on online video, more engagement with the spot, better view-through rates and click-through, so all of that is playing out,” she said. The literally disruptive approach is clearly breaking through with consumers, and proving effective, she said. “[Consumers are] also getting the message because we’re getting back the recall on all the core messages across both No Name and PC and PC Financial.”

David Brown