Spokes-puppets + Social Media + The Thrill Of The Hunt = Award-Winning Campaign For Grocery Retailer


How much do you really know about your best customers and what motivates them to buy again and again? Read on to discover how with help from Grocery Outlet Bargain Market and its spokes-puppets, Zenzi increased the brand’s Instagram followers by 400% in six months and won a 2015 Edward L. Bernays Award of Merit for this engaging campaign.

Grocery Outlet Bargain Market is an extreme discount grocery retailer whose customers are motivated by getting WOW deals of 50-70% off on name-brand products. One might think their customers are driven to save money and gain greater financial security for their families. Advertising, public relations, and social media efforts might be conservative in nature and focus on the security of the chain in providing value if this were the case.

But through implementing Zenzi’s values-based research, we found the chain’s top customers are inspired by something completely different. Grocery Outlet’s biggest, most loyal fans love the pleasure of the hunt, and the joy in finding name-brand products at half the price of retail. And they come back time and again for the thrill.

Zenzi had been working with Grocery Outlet to quickly and successfully ramp up customer engagement on social media and drive store traffic when the retailer presented a new challenge: bring to life its WOW deals; increase awareness of the Natural, Healthy, Organic and Specialty products at unbelievably low prices, and provide education about the concept of its locally owned and operated stores focused on the community in a fun, new way with a limited budget over a six-month period.

To achieve this goal, Zenzi brought together its creative minds to launch a “puppet takeover” and contest on Instagram. The campaign would present the brand personality in an unexpected, relatable way, to get people excited about its great values and help take it viral. An intensely personal platform, Instagram was selected as the best channel, as it capitalizes on great imagery and is free from newsfeed algorithms that limit reach.

Zenzi leveraged the fun, quirky personality of Grocery Outlet spokes-puppet, Lois Prices, “Low Price and Happiness Ambassador”, who lives for the deal, to “take over” the Grocery Outlet Instagram account. Zenzi used humor to weave brand messaging into a stream of follow-worthy updates from Lois’ unique view and fun antics to generate excitement.

First, Zenzi coordinated an all-day photo shoot with a professional puppeteer. Images focused on “candid” snapshots of Lois at home and at work as a Grocery Outlet employee, including some of her orange hand holding an object in the edge of the frame and even a few selfies. Then, when posting to Instagram, Zenzi channeled Lois’ fun, light- hearted, approachable tone to invite engagement and interaction from followers.

The takeover was then leveraged in two phases. The first called for photos of Grocery Outlet moments that make the entrant say “WOW”. By asking entrants to post their photos from their own Instagram accounts, tag Grocery Outlet and use the hashtag #MakesMeSayWOW, this first phase spread awareness of the quality and variety of products available at Grocery Outlet to entrants’ follower networks.

In the second phase, Zenzi selected five finalists and reposted their photos and descriptions of their “WOW moments” from the Grocery Outlet account using the Repost App. The winner was determined by votes in the form of likes from the Instagram community. Zenzi believed finalists would reach out to their networks for votes and drive traffic to the Grocery Outlet Instagram account, increasing awareness and exposure at a time when the most visible posts were strong visual testimonials for Grocery Outlet. It worked, and the finalists each posted 1-5 more times about the Grocery Outlet contest resulting in 600 votes (likes) over three days.

The Grocery Outlet takeover and contest resulted in a 400% increase in Instagram followers from 304 to over 2,300 – more than two times what was anticipated, in six months. The photo contest resulted in:

  • 260 entries, a 20% participation rate that was almost three times the objective of 7%
  • Average daily user generated content increased from just 2.7 average posts per day as measured in December 2014 to 8.6 average posts per day as measured in June 2015, while maintaining a 90% positive or neutral sentiment with user generated content overwhelmingly reinforcing Grocery Outlet brand pillars of quality products at deep discounts, and its focus on family and natural, healthy, organic and specialty products.

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