Liquor Stores North America

The Timing of the Campaign

Before the campaign: we became the AOR for Canadian-based Liquor Stores N.A. Ltd. (LSNA) in the summer of 2013. LSNA controls five major brands across multiple markets throughout Western Canada and the US states Kentucky and Alaska. Positioning for the Liquor Depot brand began in fall 2013. The Party Pete radio campaign launched in April 2014 and continues to experience success presently (summer 2014).

The Challenge

LSNA is the largest publicly traded liquor retailer in Western Canada. Their largest market is Edmonton, home to near 85 Liquor Depot stores. In recent years, increased competition from grocers, big box retailers, specialty chains and independents have eroded market share and impacted profits.

The Insight & Strategy

We looked at the existing Liquor Depot marketing plan for Edmonton and found that there was a significant focus on flyers (much like their competitors), which took up almost 90% of Liquor Depot's advertising budget. However, flyers were not moving the sales needle and we needed to understand why.

Our research team took a deep-dive so we could better understand the core Liquor Depot customer. To conduct proprietary consumer research, we commissioned Corby Spirit and Wine Limited (a Pernod Ricard S.A. company and one of LSNA's major vendors). We found that over 50% of Liquor Depot customers fell into categories that Corby called "party people" and "aspiring socials." Both groups were young (19-34 years old), single, lower-middle income "free spirits." Our research team deduced that these consumers were not likely to read flyers, nor likely to be shopping by price. Their number one concern was how to get their parties started. Our media team uncovered insights that showed that people in this demographic in Edmonton over indexed as radio listeners, so we developed a media plan to reach these young consumers with our new message over the air waves.

The Execution

We developed a new brand position for Liquor Depot that focused on the promise that shopping at Liquor Depot is "the fastest from zero to party." Enter a character (brand mentor) we call Party Pete. Party Pete is the quintessential party wingman — someone who gives you permission to party when you want to party. We developed a multitude of spots that were timely, topical and fun. Each spot spoke to getting ready to party for a key event, like watching The Bachelorette, a big game night or the simple joy that it would soon be Friday (TGIF-ing Friday)! Each spot also featured a female announcer with an offer. Our target would be trained to recognize Party Pete's voice and listen for the special offer to be made by the likable female voice toward the end of each spot. Further, our creative and media teams worked together to even more effectively reach our target by designing placement for all of the radio spots to garner the highest Gross Rating Points: for the TGIF-themed spots, Party Pete would only be heard during the Thursday afternoon drive and evening, and Friday breakfast, day and afternoon drive slots.

For the first time in this client's history, a significant amount of the budget was allocated to radio instead of flyers — and it paid off.

The Results

For the first time in five years, Liquor Depot stores in the Edmonton area experienced a significant sales lift, posting an average 4.5% increase in same store sales during the campaign period — which represents a nine-fold increase in rate of same store sales growth since 2010. Astounding numbers came from specific product sales increases. The April 27th spot featuring Kokanee beer saw a 387% increase in Kokanee sales vs. the week prior. What most impressed the client was a 294% increase vs. the year prior with no flyers in market this year. Another spot offering a Corona beer deal boasted a 226% sales increase vs. the week prior.

With the advertising focus on brand vs. strictly promoting what products are "on sale," the sales increase has not come at the expense of margin. The Party Pete campaign was such a success that plans are in place to roll out to other LSNA markets in both Canada and the US.

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