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By Joel M. Albrizio, President

The Stop & Shop Branding Mystery...Please Explain The "My"

Lets take a look at Stop & Shop and how they have branded themselves, or perhaps have not branded themselves. Have they fallen short in branding correctly or perhaps branded and branded until they no longer have a definable brand identity.

When we define branding we look for a finished product that is easy to recognize and believe in within the retail space we are looking to become a consumer. A company branded correctly brings positive thoughts to mind with any marketing touch.

When we then add an attractive price point to the positive emotion we have created a call to action which is likely to be successful. Now based on this philosophy is Stop & Shop who they believe they are?

Understanding what you have just read does anyone understand the "My" now the latest branding piece? So this company who we have known for so many years is who? In the branding mission it is important once successful to just tweak the brand and be proud to tell what after 101 years should be a great story.

Stop & Shop has a gas program, a printed circular requiring four arms to read while shopping. A quick review of the Stop & Shop circular will find pop ups, gate folds and more pages with more items than any dozen family members could ever use.

So now we add the "My" to the mix.

A great first question might look like "My" and why?

Absent from all of this Disneyland of vendor driven marketing is any sense of identity. Stop & Shop has become a big box with thousands of items, some perishable, some center store or general merchandise. Stop & Shop seems unsure how to tell the customer why they might want or need to shop there.

The one thing every retailer agrees upon is price alone won't get it done. Is this an oversight, or is this an obvious obstacle in the branding mission for Stop & Shop and perhaps Ahold in general. Retailers and wholesalers alike will explain away year over year same store sales declines with statements like "well today everyone sells food" or "everyone has had a bad third quarter" OK, we get that but don't we choose the store to shop for so many other reasons other than just product availability?

Gas savings is great, lots of items reduced is always welcomed but where is the,

"We Are Special" and why?

So if a customer chooses to shop any supermarket other than Stop & Shop for any number of reasons on any given week, what will they miss? "What the customer misses is who the retailer is" and it's probably not "My"

What the customer misses when shopping elsewhere is an emotion that defines what and who any company is all about. When as retailers we create a definable emotion the customer recognizes and reacts to we have branded a sustainable retail entity and have created a sales driven retail team that will be unstoppable.

As Stop & Shop evolved as a company they  lost momentum. Ahold is now exploring different retail location sizes, formats and approaches to selling. The once dominant Stop & Shop build out seems to be on hold.

Is the planogram that worked for so long obsolete? We think not, but with all of the moving parts in retail this giant has lost the art of "Storytelling?

Storytelling is all about the aura or emotion of what any company is all about.

Stop & Shop is somewhat generic....nameless and faceless.

When as customers we review the offerings in the Stop & Shop circular the Ahold selling approach has an E-Bay feel. The circular is not a meal planning, fun, basket building vehicle that promotes the emotion of somewhere we hate to miss shopping.

Retail at its best is fun and we look forward to seeing how our favorite place to shop surprises us every week. We almost can't wait to get to the supermarket we love to shop.

Perhaps the prepared foods, the rotisserie chicken, the beautiful flowers or bakery. These are the intangibles like great customer service when properly addressed that make this store like being at home.

 When as retailers we begin to search for the right sized retail location and theme and toss out "My" as the new Stop & Shop slogan with little explanation, retail success is likely to be slow in coming.

We have so many retail food customers that are successful by keeping it simple.

Our suggestion to almost every client is to look past all of the vendor driven funds as a profit center and look at the right items and only advertise the right items. Use the marketing budget to sell product. This budget was never intended to be a vendor driven entity to solely reduce advertising costs.

This marketing budget was allocated to move cases.

Whether in print or digital always use advertising space wisely and sparingly. 

 "Retail Food Success Has Been And  Will Be All About Growing"

 Create an advertising program that is a simple call to action. Include the right price points but not everything in the store and tell the real story.

After 101 years in business we should know who and what Stop & Shop is or isn't.