Sales Promotion is Dead, Long Live Sales Promotion!

Thu, 19 Jul 2018

Is sales promotion a dying art? Can it survive in the modern world of whizzy technology and gadgetry? Can innovation and creativity at the coal-face still drive sales? You betcha it can!

Often overlooked and known universally as the arse-end of marketing, sales promotion has historically been pretty unsexy. Multi-saves, shelf wobblers, ‘you’ve got to be in it to win it’ on pack competitions, and if you’re lucky a ‘would you like to try?’ serving of cold soup in your local supermarket aisle. Are you feeling motivated to buy yet? Although I feel like an attendee at an AA meeting when I say this, I have spent several years in the murky underworld that is sales promotion, and I have to admit I’m a bit of a fan. When it’s done well. 

Since moving to New Zealand in 2007, my love affair with sales promotion has been all but over. I trawl the supermarket aisles looking for inspiration, a great gift with purchase, a fabulous instant win, a prize that doesn’t involve meeting an All Black or Silver Fern. It’s been slim pickings over the years. BUT (do you like my big but?) everything has changed. My Kiwi sales promotion bashing days are over. Someone, somewhere in this country came up with something approaching the dog’s danglies of a sales promotion idea.  One that has raised the bar, brought creativity back to the sector and one that will have done its job – increasing brand awareness, driving foot traffic in-store, encouraging loyalty, upping basket spend and ultimately making the promoter loads of additional cash. Step forward New World’s Little Shop Collectables.

Little shop of dollars

New World is a supermarket chain here on Middle Earth. Each of the 138 stores is independently owned and operated, and the company is part of one of Foodstuffs’ co-operatives. From August until late October last year – to celebrate New World’s 50th anniversary - customers who spent more than $40 in-store received one of 44 free mini grocery items, which were recreated in detail, right down to the nutritional information.

A quick bit of research tells me that the collectables concept was launched after Foodstuffs met with a Dutch toy design studio that had run a similar campaign for a Dutch supermarket chain. The bigwigs at New World worked closely with .99 (who according to .99 website is NZ’s leading retail strategy, creative and production shop. Note the overuse of the word ‘shop’ in this paragraph) to develop the Little Shop identity, including the look and feel, in-store presence and the advertising and promotional plan. 

The beauty of this clever promotion? Each of the brands involved had to pay for the privilege to have category exclusivity. Brilliant!


The popularity of the retail promotion led to swaps at stores, schools and offices across the country, with many New World stores setting up permanent swap desks to assist customers wanting to trade items with other customers and more than a few trading hubs set up online.

“The promotion was a first for our supermarkets and in many ways a first for New Zealand," says Foodstuffs NZ group general manager marketing Steve Bayliss. "People of all ages were gripped by Little Shop fever. We heard of customers driving from one side of Auckland to another to hunt out their last few collectables. We were contacted by schools wanting sets of collectables to use as part of their curriculum and a psychologist wanted a set to assist kids with eating disorders. Businesses set up their own swaps for staff and Trade Me was a flurry with collectables being traded for hundreds of dollars. We’re aware overseas companies have since monitored our success with the intention of replicating it in other markets, which is flattering. We also know that our promotion was more successful than the original campaign in Holland, which is in itself an amazing achievement.”

New World was happy to spread the love with the brands they stock in-store. Energizer, Purina and Fonterra all publicly sung the promotion's praises in various press releases. 

“We were the only general merchandise supplier as all the other products were groceries and we were really impressed that you could even scan the barcode," says Energizer's national key account manager Stephanie Hyndman. "We thought it would be popular but it definitely exceeded expectations and sales of our products proved this with an increase across the entire range.”

Purina had its Tux dog food and Fancy Feast cat food shrunken and head of marketing Jennifer Chappel says the value in having its miniature products in so many Kiwi households "cannot be underestimated."

"The promotion resonated strongly with our pet consumers, many of whom have young families, and the positive feedback via our website and pet care line was overwhelming. It was great for brand awareness and we received a lovely email from one consumer, saying her young daughter made her switch brands to Tux on a shopping trip as it was part of Little Shop and it was the only brand they were to buy from now on,” she says.

Vive la sales promotion revolution 

You may wonder why I’m talking about this promotion some months after it took place. Well there are a couple of reasons. Firstly, by changing the face of sales promotion as New Zealand knows it, New World has started something of a sales promotion revolution. Check out their competitor Countdown’s excellent DreamWorks Heroes collectable cards which have created the same hype as the Little Shop collectables. I have gone out of my way to go to that supermarket chain to ensure my children get the full set of cards. Secondly, word on the street is that New World will be running the promotion again, with an increased range of products (apparently everyone is jumping on the brand wagon wanting to have their product replicated in miniature and they’re willing to pay for the privilege). 

One can only hope they don’t extend the offering and create mini Tena Lady pads and tiny Durex condoms – I suppose post-menopausal Barbie and ‘night-time’ Ken might have a use for them.