Kelly Kirkham

Content Specialist, dentsu

The following article originates in a joint dentsu/Kroger presentation “Using Social to Build Your Brand During A Pandemic’ aired during Advertising Week 2020.

When the lockdown hit, retailers were forced to react quickly and creatively. The Kroger Co. Partnered with 360i to develop and implement social strategies in record time. In this post, we dive into key strategies, what Kroger learned and how you can adopt these strategies to succeed in uncertain times.

As we approach the end of a hectic year, many of us may be taking a step back from the whirlwind to analyze the year’s events. Life as we knew it was upended and many of us looked to social media for comfort, guidance and critical information. Social became a perfect arena for high-performing brands to meet customer needs.

Kroger instantly became a main player in the lockdown first, as an essential business with in-person retail traffic and second, as an established brand with a reputation as a knowledgeable company. Like most businesses, Kroger was facing a host of new problems, including:

  • Budget changes
  • Studios shut down
  • Obsolete media plans
  • Major events canceled

These pain points became instant concern for Kroger leading to the need to pivot. Quick thinking by all involved allowed Kroger to answer the call faster.

360i and Kroger established a 3-pronged plan to accommodate the changing role of the grocer in communities struggling with the lockdown. Metrics showed that customers with a wide range of skills were now in the kitchen. To accommodate this drastic shift, Kroger activated a campaign with the following three pillars:

  1. Listening to Kroger customers, social community and general social conversation.
  2. Pivoting towards social and influencer content to adjust to the ‘new normal’.
  3. Adapting and learning from new processes and communication to be effectively reactive.

1.  Listen

Kroger and 360i were able to listen and implement changes and act. Consumer apertures widened to include associates as well. They became the front-line force, and it was crucial to listen and answer.

Building an authentic experience became an internal Kroger focus achieved by following a long-lived tradition to uplift in every way supported by marketing, business and corporate affairs. It was critical that customers knew safety measures, store hours and other information, but also, that Kroger injected joy in the everyday.

Listening Insight #1: Consumer requests for Senior Hours in-stores located by listening in on owned social channels. The ask was elevated to division operations and Senior Hours were implemented within weeks of first request.

Listening Insight #2: Conversation around providing hazard pay to front-line workers was found by listening in on both competitor social and owned social. Millions of dollars in Associate Hero Bonuses were announced and presented throughout the pandemic

2. Pivot

360i and Kroger pivoted towards social and influencer content to adjust to the ‘new normal’ by utilizing established content pillars and keeping customers informed, supported and uplifted.

Pillar #1. Educate by communicating essential information for customers and direct messages from leadership.

360i launched a successful social campaign focused on simple creative to emphasize the importance of the information.

Pillar #2. Provide helpful content like useful recipes, tips and projects to make our customers’ lives easier during the crisis.

Once the immediacy died down, Kroger shifted into help mode featuring useful recipes, tips and projects for parents while continuing to educate.

Pillar #3. Uplift with feel-good stories to raise customers’ spirits and share in a sense of community

Kroger launched timely and contextual uplifting content with a focus on associates helping customers and supporting the community. Uplifting content performed 3x higher than other published content across social and other channels because it resonated as authentic and represented Kroger as a brand.

3. Adapt and Learn

Kroger and 360i streamlined and simplified processes and an established connection with the Kroger teams led to quick approvals, innovation and turnaround. Action items were implemented almost instantly due to a trust between 360i, Kroger senior leadership and teams.

Be Community-Minded

Kroger felt it was their duty to share the things they learned from their successful collaboration. Their valuable insights, if released quickly, are effective for market re-entry -- a sentiment that echoes the Kroger endeavor to feed the human spirit.

You can see more about Kroger and 360i’s success during a difficult time at Kroger Blueprint.

Learn more from our knowledgeable experts and become a prepared CMO in uncertain times. Get the full global industry scope from the dentsu CMO survey 2020.