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Conveying Eckerd's message.

LARGO, Fla. -- One of the reasons that Julie Gardner decided to join Eckerd Corp. eight years ago was the high quality of its advertising. Now, as director of advertising and sales promotion, it's her job to enhance the effectiveness of the chain drug store operator's marketing programs.

"We've been a very sophisticated user of the different elements of advertising," she notes. "Our balance between print and broadcast has remained pretty constant."

Print advertising is the backbone of Eckerd's marketing efforts, bringing in store traffic and building sales. Radio and television spots, on the other hand, are used to shape the drug chain's image as a health care provider.

"This past February we switched our broadcast advertising account to TelePrograms Marketing Inc.," says Gardner. "The purpose was to build relationships with the top radio and TV stations in each of our markets. We did this through an initiative called the 'Win-Win Club.'"

Under the program, Eckerd inserted brochures in local newspapers offering prizes and discounts and promoted them via partnerships with local radio and TV stations. "Consumers keep the win-win cards in their wallets, so they have the opportunity to win prizes on a weekly basis," says Gardner.

When their cards' numbers correspond to those posted in Eckerd stores, consumers can call an 800 number to collect such prizes as tickets to sports events or concerts -- or dinner at a local restaurant. "The cards keep people coming back into our stores," Gardner notes.

They also give customers an opportunity to benefit from discounts on items in Eckerd circulars. "If people aren't attracted by the prizes they like the discounts -- and vice versa," says Gardner. "The radio and TV stations are looking to market themselves better, and for us it's a solid partnership."

The retailer's key promotional tool remains its weekly tab inserts in newspapers that offer a combination of coupon and noncoupon values. Another important vehicle is the chain's in-store flyers, which provide consumers with additional savings. A program launched in June is the "All in One" rebate program.

Under this program, launched in May, all rebates available in Eckerd stores are advertised in four-color catalogs, which show pictures of the products and list redemption requirements. The system includes posting product-specific rebate billboards adjacent to the shelves on which the items are positioned.

Early feedback on the rebate program has been very positive. "Frankly, rebates have traditionally been nothing but a hassle for store associates as well as customers," Gardner explains.

The value of the Eckerd program is that it puts all of the rebates available in the store that month into one publication and makes it possible for customers to mail them all in to one place and receive a single check in return.

"Ask any retailer; rebates are a mess," Gardner says. "In the past nobody could keep track of all those little pads. The old way caused a lot of complaints. That's why we're so excited about this program.

"Each customer who collects all 50 rebates in the current monthly book will receive a check for $80. So the incentive is definitely there."

Eckerd tries to see things from the point of view of individual consumers, and practices target marketing where appropriate. For example, the best way to communicate with the Hispanic community is in its own language.

"However, there is a lot of cross-over," Gardner explains. "For instance, in Miami most Hispanics watch Anglo television plus a percentage of Hispanic television. So we advertise on Hispanic TV as a way to reach out to that community. We've been committed to that for several years."

As a means of promoting store openings, Eckerd uses direct-mail pieces with enter-to-win sweepstakes and enclosed coupons. "In addition, we take over tab schedules for that week and create a wrap that is distributed only in the newspaper that affects a particular store," Gardner explains.

The retailer also does radio advertising to support grand openings which often culminates in remote broadcasts from the stores themselves. "Chances are, we're already in that market, and the customers are already shopping at Eckerd," says Gardner. "We're just making it more convenient for them."
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Title Annotation:Eckerd Corporation: A Drug Chain for the 21st Century
Publication:Chain Drug Review
Article Type:Company Profile
Date:Sep 12, 1994
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