Finance Consumer Coles’ Little Shop returns with an educational spin
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Coles’ Little Shop returns with an educational spin

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Coles has launched a revamped version of its popular ‘Little’ collectables campaign, with a clever tactic that could see it gain the upper hand in the two-horse race to be Australia’s favourite supermarket.

The company announced this week it’s launching the third reincarnation of the Little Shop series: Coles Little Treehouse.

It’s roped in Australian author-illustrator duo Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton to harness the star power of their Little Treehouse series, to create 24 miniature books for young readers.

The campaign, which rolls out from Wednesday, shows Coles has read the room after last year’s Stikeez debacle, where it was slammed for promoting unsustainable and environmentally unfriendly tactics to turn a profit.

This time around it is playing smarter, not harder, promoting itself as having a feel-good role in educating children.

Macquarie University marketing associate professor Jana Bowden said Coles had cleverly pitched the campaign towards enhancing literacy through inspiring children to read.

“This taps in to our deep, underlying and shared values – every parent wants their child to learn and to love reading,” Professor Bowden told The New Daily.

Australian author Andy Griffiths has helped create 24 ‘little’ Treehouse stories for the Coles promotion. Photo: Coles

“In doing so it moves Coles away from ‘gimmicky and unsustainable’ promotions and, from a brand perspective, it builds their corporate social responsibility narrative.”

What’s more, it puts it a nose in front of Woolworths.

But don’t expect the fresh food people to be quiet for long.

“These promotional events are always aimed at gaining the competitive edge (and) there is no doubt that Woolworths will follow suit,” Professor Bowden added.

“Coles is bringing in its Treehouse promotion to capitalise at a time where grocery sales are at a peak because of COVID.

“For Coles it is about continuing to grow a share of wallet, increase sales and keep the brand top of mind when the consumer plans their next shop.”

Little things turn big profits

For some shoppers, the supermarkets’ bids to get more of our bucks goes mostly unnoticed.

But it doesn’t go unnoticed by their bottom lines.

Coles has openly attributed its financial successes to campaigns like this – and Woolworths has, too.

Lion King Ooshies
The Ooshies range didn’t hit the same note as the Little Shop campaign. Photo: Woolworths

“Sales have been impacted by customers adjusting to … a competitor continuity program,” Woolworths group chief executive Brad Banducci said in 2019, blaming the Little Shop campaign for his company’s poor start to the 2018-19 financial year.

Woolies fell foul of public favour last year when it launched its Lion King-inspired Ooshies range, instead bending to demand and relaunching with a greener alternative.

Supermarkets employ a tactic called ‘gamification’ to turn a mundane task like the weekly grocery shopping into something that excites consumers, Professor Bowden explained.

“(It) prompts families to engage intensely, and very often obsessively, with the promotional event,” she said.

“Completed sets of past Little Shop campaigns sold for hundreds on eBay and spawned a host of buy swap sell sites.”

There’s data to back up the effort, Professor Bowden added, pointing to research that showed consumers were more likely to shop more frequently and buy above their normal shop so they can take advantage of promotions and deals like these.