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Family is at the forefront of Sobeys' Christmas campaign

Grocer acknowledges this holiday season will be different and encourages Canadians to donate to families in need

The Sobey’s marketing team started planning its Christmas campaign back in March, just days after much of Canada went into lockdown because of the coronavirus.

“We didn't know what Christmas would look like this year, but we knew that it would be different,” said Guylaine Lessard, VP of brand strategy at Sobeys.

The team decided then they wanted a marketing campaign built around an emotionally driven story of some sort that would support the brand’s positioning as Canada’s family grocery store and bringing families together through food.

By mid-summer the team nailed down that story: a mother and daughter leaving a Sobeys with bags of groceries. We then see them in front of a house unloading everything but it’s not their home—they’re gifting the groceries to a family in need. “The greatest gift is family,” reads the onscreen copy.

The heart-warming ad started airing on TV and online a couple of weeks ago, though an update sees another line added to the end of the ad asking people to donate to families in need starting Dec. 3. “It’s really connecting the dots,” she said. “It's really about how food brings people together.” Though in this case, it’s one family sharing a special moment by helping another family through the gift of food.

Sobeys' corporate purpose is about nurturing family, she said. In April, Sobeys released an ad called “One Big Family” (narrated by Peter Mansbridge) showing how the Canadian “family” could unite to fight the COVID crisis and how Sobeys was eager to help. “What we are doing now is really the second chapter to the same narrative,” she said.

While the TV ad is about making an emotional connection with consumers, other marketing will focus on product and promotions to drive purchase, said Lessard. “So we win their hearts, and their baskets.”

Product advertising is being pushed through online video, social media and digital display.

Meanwhile, Sobeys sister grocery brand IGA also used a storytelling approach for its Christmas ad in Quebec, released last week. And like Sobeys, the advertising is being used to support a good cause, in this case it’s pediatric oncology research for the Fondation Charles-Bruneau.

The IGA ad shows how a teenage girl’s baking leads to a special new friendship with a young boy in hospital fighting cancer. The girl's mother, who works at the hospital, gives the young boy one of her daughter’s cookies. In return, he thanks the girl with a thank you note written on a piece of paper carefully folded into a reindeer.

The rest of the ad shows a back-and-forth between the two youths: her baked goods in exchange for his origami, and concludes with the young boy being discharged from the hospital and going home for Christmas.

The origami theme is carried over into the fundraising effort, with IGA customers able to buy three different folded-up origamis in-store for $3: Snackin’ Santa, Carole’s Carols, and the Ping-Pong Penguin.

“IGA has been proudly supporting the Fondation Charles-Bruneau for over 14 years,” said Caroline Duhamel, marketing director at IGA and Rachelle Béry, in a release about the new campaign. “Given the current situation, it’s much harder for non-profit organizations to maintain their financing. That’s why we used our holiday movie to support a cause that’s near and dear to our hearts.”

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