Pep’s rebranding success
How a mass-market retailer improved its image
Astory in the country’s most popular soapie, Generations.
Viewers saw a fictional ad agency working on the new campaign and developing a new valuebased positioning statement (“Best prices and more”) to replace the pricebased proposition “lowest prices for everyone”. It was fiction that became real – a kind of reverse reality show.
But what did it do for the Pep brand in real life? Research shows the exercise has been a clear success, though the task isn’t complete. Thanks to the reflected glamour from association with the trendy business of advertising in a TV programme, the apparently superficial positioning change seems to have shifted attitudes markedly. Of the postGenerations generation of consumers, 71% say they’re now proud to shop at Pep. More than 80% noticed product quality and style improvements and 73% said they were now YEAR AFTER Pep Stores repositioned itself through television-branded entertainment, how strong is the brand? Pretty good, it seems. The mass-market clothing retailer won a Roger Garlick gold award earlier this year for its groundbreaking on-screen marketing programme, in which Pep’s entire rebranding and repositioning exercise became the centrepiece of a more likely to shop at Pep than previously.
“The results were much better than we expected,” says Pep marketing director Marcus Banga, who concedes there was a considerable legacy of negativity to overcome. “We were losing market share to Jet and Ackermans. We were seen as cheap and nasty – in spite of the fact that we’d done much to improve quality. Sales per customer weren’t good.
“People were shopping at Pep but didn’t acknowledge that. They’d put Pep purchases in another bag. That’s changed. People are no longer ashamed to be seen in a Pep store. We’ve consistently grown market share for 18 months. Sales per customer have grown from R22 to R35 per basket.”
There’s still some way to go. “Overall perceptions of quality, style and value are going to require a more sustained effort to drive attitudinal change – and must be substantiated by brand experience and delivery,” says a research report.
The branded entertainment (or product placement) concept was dreamed up by Pep agency Zoom Advertising. It was totally in keeping with the original philosophy behind Pep, which was started in the early Fifties by Renier van Rooyen as a small discount store servicing the very poor in Upington. Respect for its customers was part of its DNA, as Van Rooyen refused to participate in the apartheid conventions of racially separated changing rooms and points of sale.
Currently, Pep is a chain of 1 400 stores throughout southern Africa, servicing the needs of a market in the LSM2-6 range.
However, the social revolution following the 1994 election took Pep by surprise as its customer base began migrating to more trendy and stylish options at higher prices. It’s that drift it’s now trying to reverse.
It remains embedded in the mass market, but with greater style that provides aspirational and inspirational overtones. The strong association with Generations character Queen Moroka brings an element of stylishness to the perceptions, but that hasn’t necessarily been transferred to the brand.
“The link with Generations is continuing,” says Banga. “The cost of branded entertainment is low for the exposure you get. But we don’t want to swamp them and make Generations look like one big advertisement.”
Off the programme, the advertising isn’t fancy. “Customers believe gimmicky advertising demeans them. You can be creative and stylish but you must make the deal obvious.”