At the beginning of 2019, Kroger began searching for its first-ever creative agency of record (AOR) to unify messaging across its core grocery brand and the several other chains it owns across the country. In July, the nation’s second-largest retailer with more than $120 billion in sales chose DDB New York.
Today, the creative AOR finally got to unveil its work, when Kroger launched a wide-reaching brand refresh that includes a new version of its logo and positioning statement, and a substantial overhaul of the brand’s look and feel.
The logo, in existence for over 100 years, retains a great deal of the original’s heritage, but has more contemporary lines. But the most substantial change at the center of the rebrand is a new tagline, “Fresh for Everyone,” which seeks to position Kroger as a leader in selling fresh, more affordable food. It also serves as an infusion of new excitement for its close to 500,000 employees across the country.
What’s crucial in the approach, according to Mady Rassi, Kroger’s vice president of marketing, is that the new positioning will not replace the banners of brands the company owns, like Ralph’s in California, Fred Meyer and QFC in the Pacific Northwest, King Soopers in the Rocky Mountain region and Mariano’s in Chicago. Instead, “Fresh for Everyone” will complement the long-standing equity built in those brands.
“[Local equity] is a competitive advantage for us,” she said. “We found in testing that there wasn’t as much equity in the tagline as there is in the name of the banners. Those names are where the emotion [for customers] is.”
Creatively, according to DDB New York co-CCO Lisa Topol, the tagline came from a sense of democratization in how the brand approaches its product. But, more importantly, it is meant to imbue a sense of friendliness and optimism.
“It feels like the tone of Kroger,” she noted. “Freshness was incredibly important, but it’s not just fresh in and of itself. It’s fresh for everyone.”
Internally, the company preaches the “trifecta of quality, value and convenience, and we felt like ‘Fresh for Everyone’ encapsulated that.”
Another critical component of the new position for the brand is how it shows up in the world creatively through its marketing. To that end, the agency made it a point to get away from the traditional hero shots of food and move into animation and brighter color palettes that are meant to signify more fun and a sense of inclusion. A launch TV spot and outdoor takes on this new style, which is designed to break away from what the brand and agency termed a “sea of sameness.”
“When we looked at the whole [grocery] segment, everything looks the same,” Topol said. “To us, Kroger stood apart. [The work] doesn’t just talk about what Kroger is, it’s about what Kroger does.”
The brand work will cascade down to the store level as well, with DDB New York assisting where needed—including help with things like internal communications and what employees at the store level will wear—and also providing elements that internal teams in the brand’s Cincinnati headquarters and its Portland operation can customize for local markets and banners.
Additionally, Kroger’s two operations in those markets are tasked with executing the plans, including the holiday packages being rolled out nationwide.
“It’s not just a marketing campaign,” Rassi said. “It has to [cross] the entire experience, whether that’s with an associate in-store, going to the website, engaging in social” or anywhere customers interact with the brand.
Though it seems as though the sheer scale of output happened in a short period, DDB New York and Kroger have essentially been working with the core ideas that were pitched earlier in the brand’s agency search, making the process more efficient.
“[The agency] was well-versed in our brand strategy and history, and we were able to jump into the creative transformation,” Rassi said.
“It’s been a dream come true because we have that chemistry,” added Audrey Melofchik, president of DDB New York. “We’ve accomplished a lot because of the fluid communication and relationships that we’ve built quickly with everyone at Kroger.”
Moving forward, both Kroger and DDB New York acknowledge that there is still much to accomplish, but feel the foundation for success is being built from this new brand refresh.
“It’s a very matrixed approach,” noted Rassi, referring to the scale of stakeholders involved in the brand’s evolution. “We have the right people galvanized around and passionate about it. There’s room for feedback, and a lot of people [at Kroger] feel a sense of ownership.”