Farm Boy looks beyond radio to target Torontonians

Ottawa grocer turns to influencer marketing to promote its 25th location

As Farm Boy continues to expand across Ontario, its co-CEO Jeff York is discovering that a one size fits all marketing approach isn't effective across different markets.

For instance, a heavy focus on radio in its hometown of Ottawa is an affordable way to communicate with customers. But this isn't the case in Toronto, where Farm Boy recently opened a 20,000-sq.-ft. store. The fresh food grocer advertises across rock and sports stations at around $50 a spot in Ottawa, while the price tag in Toronto is 10 times that, he said.

So, Farm Boy employed an influencer marketing program 18 months before opening the doors to its Toronto location."On social when you’re tweeting I don’t think kids care about corporate messaging, but when your future customers are telling others it’s more powerful," said York during the Retail Council of Canada's Retail Marketing Conference in Toronto last week.

One advertising tactic that is successful across all markets, however, is the flyer. York said in-store traffic would decrease if Farm Boy stopped using flyers to advertise its weekly deals. "People eat every day and you have to get their attention and Canadians are the most voracious flyer readers in the world."

York said Farm Boy is exploring grocery delivery and click and collect for the Toronto market, and is in the midst of a big digital transformation that includes website redesign (led by a "cool millennial company that is going to gamify it") and piloting a mobile version of its salad bar card.

"I think what retailers are doing right now is boring with point loyalty clubs," he said. "Millennials don’t want that, they want to attach to a brand they believe in."

York has talked about the challenges of reaching "kids" or millennials before, addressing the subject in a panel discussion at Restaurants Canada's annual trade show and conference in Toronto last month. He said relying too much on paid social media marketing was like throwing money away, for example.

Though he also cautioned against spending too much time and money attracting millennials. “Baby boomers control life,” he said. “If you think you’re going to get a business based on millennials, good luck to you. Good luck to everyone chasing them.”


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