Pep’s re­brand­ing suc­cess

How a mass-mar­ket re­tailer im­proved its im­age

Finweek English Edition - - Advertising & Marketing -

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.”

Mar­cus Banga

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