Real Canadian Superstore gets fresh in new ad campaign

Loblaw-owned discount banner looks to stand out in a competitive crowd

After a seven-year long break from mass advertising in Western Canada, Loblaw put the Real Canadian Superstore brand back on TV last month in a new advertising campaign that emphasizes fresh produce and low prices.

The centrepiece minute-long commercial opens in a Superstore produce department with an employee extolling the chain’s quality and low prices. He then heads out on the road to showcase Superstore’s “freshest” food alongside some of the rest of the best of Canada: the longest swinging bridge, tallest tree, fastest man and strongest woman. “We’re not just a store, we’re Superstore. And we don’t do average,” he says.

Aside from the TV ad, the campaign includes radio, and cinema as well as digital executions on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Spotify and Google Play.

“Canadians are more focused than ever on seeking value and savings, so they can spend money in other areas,” said Mary MacIsaac, vice-president of marketing for Loblaw’s discount division, in an email to Canadian Grocer. “We call these ‘smart shoppers’ and this campaign celebrates these shoppers and all the great things Western Canada has to offer.”

The heavy emphasis on fresh in a mass advertising campaign is Loblaw’s attempt to help Superstore stand out in the already competitive discount category, which is getting more crowded with incursions from Costco and Walmart, according to industry experts who spoke with Canadian Grocer.

“These guys have to differentiate themselves from everyone else and it is extraordinarily difficult to do,” said Kevin Grier of Kevin Grier Market Analysis and Consulting. That’s particularly true with middle of the store offerings—Heinz ketchup is Heinz ketchup whether you’re buying it at Superstore, FreshCo, Metro or Costco—so Loblaw is trying to position Superstore as the store to go to for fresh produce, he said.

“It might also be a response to Sobeys getting its act together,” he said. Industry experts said Empire badly fumbled its acquisition of Safeway in Western Canada, but in recent months there are signs that things are improving in the region. On top of that, Empire CEO Michael Medline hinted the company may be looking to introduce the company’s discount banner FreshCo beyond Ontario.

The low prices and fresh produce messaging seems like a direct response to Loblaw’s primary discount competitor in Western Canada, said Stewart Samuel, program director with IGD. “Price competition has really intensified in the market and a lot of that has been driven by Walmart,” he said, adding he believes Walmart has also made an effort to improve its fresh produce offering at the same time it’s been driving down prices.

However, he said Loblaw has also updated many of its Superstore locations in the past couple of years and the ad seems like a “well-executed” effort to entice shoppers to pay a visit.

“Most of the stores have been remodelled here, they are in good condition and running well…. From a timing point of view it is good in that respect,” he said.

Even if Empire is eyeing the west for FreshCo expansion, Samuel figured it’s unlikely to happen any time soon. “Launching a discount format is not an easy thing to do,” he said.

Strategically, and in terms of operational efficiency, they would most likely want to do it with some scale rather than isolated outposts and the challenges of converting existing stores (and Medline was clear that was his preference rather than a greenfield approach) means it would still be some time before the FreshCo banner appears anywhere west of Ontario.