Key Challenge Requiring a Creative Solution

The problem that I confronted was how to strategically reposition the brand so it had a clear, well-defined identity that matched buyer perception and reality, and that found consumers who were real “true believers” in the unique store concept—that of limited assortment, deeply discounted grocer.

Though it was the fifth largest grocer in the nation, with over 1300 locations, sales were flat and the chain was not competing successfully in the face of ever-growing competition. The company had no real, distinctive brand image or position. The typical consumer, looking at Save-A-Lot’s marketing and advertising at the time, would consider the store to be just like a regular grocery store but with prices that were somewhat lower. This was simply not enough to distinguish the brand and drive a high volume of growth.

As is often the case in companies with brand image problems, there was a significant gap between perception and reality. The actual brand experience at Save-A-Lot was far different from the opaque image it projected. Save-A-Lot stores are different from the typical grocery store. Their merchandise is 80 percent private label, the assortment and selection of goods is limited and the stores are much smaller than the superstores operated by mainstream grocers.

Our Research and Analysis

Not surprisingly, the company’s research found that three out of four consumers simply rejected the store model—after one visit, they never came back again. Many of them simply did not believe, or did not understand, how Save-A-Lot could save them 40 percent on their groceries. My job was to bring perception into line with reality.

Our Strategic Branding Insight

I happened upon the key insight during my Branding process with Save-A-Lot. It was here I found just how wide the gap was between the perception of the Save-A-Lot brand and the reality want nicer quality brands.

That was the only way they would fully embrace the store concept, and accept the no-frills environment. The insight was in showing the proof, and the proof was found in one place: “Just look at the receipt.”

Our Strategic Creative Solution

I needed to convince the target market that Save-A-Lot would, indeed, save them 40 percent on their groceries, and that they could do that because they were simply “a different kind of grocery store,” one with no frills and no nonsense (like high-price Cappuccino bars or lobster tanks).

And that’s exactly how I presented the brand. And, I proved the case. The Big Idea was embodied in the concept, “Just Look at the Receipt.” I created crisp, hard-hitting :15 second spots, bought as bookends, told a simple story: The “no frills” at Save-A-Lot would consistently save you 40 percent on groceries.

Actionable Ideas That Enhance Results

In less than three weeks from the launch of the “Just Look at the Receipt” campaign, Save-A-Lot’s sales were setting records. The campaign had completely redefined the company and was building store traffic. When the client tested their new ads with an independent research firm specializing in day-after-recall tests, the results were astounding: Save-A-Lot’s spots had the single highest recall ratings ever tested—out of 14,000 commercials.

The Wall Street Journal ran a front-page, double-column, above-the-fold story on Save-A-Lot and their success. A phrase in the headline is directly from the advertising we created for them: “No Frills.” Simply telling the story, with clarity and conviction, has transformed this once sleepy brand.

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