Take it From Here: Cool Marketing Implements for 2010

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These tips, tools, sites and strategies were all shared at this year’s Marketing Matters. NCGA members may log in to the NCGA website for details. Take it from here to help your co-op make more of an impact in the upcoming year.

1. Learn what your customers are saying:
NCGA developed a survey tool in 2008 with Cooperative Development Services and Survey Research Center at the University of Wisconsin. In 2009, 11 co-ops fielded NCGA’s shopper survey; a results report can be found at the NCGA website. The survey and accompanying manual are available for use and customization in both paper and electronic formats. As more co-ops make use of this tool, we will learn more about our individual stores in relation to a national average.

2. Pay attention to the trends: Writing a business plan? Check out NCGA’s “Trends Report” for a compilation of consumer and industry trends.

3. We are Co+op, stronger together:
Sometimes referred to as “Co Plus” (Co+), the new national brand has its own online brand guide. An access point for transitioning to the Co+op, stronger together brand, the brand guide will be updated as new tools and information are available. Current customizable assets include posters, a 30-second radio spot, print ads, a television spot, direct mail pieces, shelf talkers, a color palette, a photo library, and information about typefaces (hint: Gills Sans rules). Many of these new templates can be customized through the On Demand system, which can be accessed free of charge during 2010.

The transition to Co+op, stronger together food brochures, gift cards, and packaging will take place in phases as existing inventory is depleted.

But wait, there’s more! Charli Mills of Valley Natural Foods (Burnsville, Minn.) gave a presentation on co-branding that underscored the way the Co+op, stronger together resources can help create marketing efficiencies in our stores. To encourage implementation of the new national brand, NCGA is sponsoring both a T-shirt design contest and a brand implementation contest.

4. Coming soon, a consumer website: Hand in hand with the new brand will be the launch of a consumer website: www.strongertogether.coop. Filled with information about food as well as individual co-ops (including listings of local growers associated with particular stores), the developed content is educational and informational in tone, with interactive features that allow for persuasion and engagement around hot-button food issues. Communities will be able to form at the site, encouraging co-op interaction across the country.

5. Co-op Deals appeal: NCGA’s new promotions program, Co+op Deals, will launch later this year. The flyer will transition to the new brand and more frequent publication in September. The national coupon book will transition with the September/October book and new member coupons with Q4 sheets.

6. Eat Local, America! Based on feedback from participating co-ops, the challenge language has been removed from the national Eat Local America! campaign, which co-ops are encouraged to promote during the peak harvest season of June through September. New NCGA Marketing Program Specialist Jeanne Lakso is the lead on this project. NCGA will be updating the website (www.eatlocalamerica.coop) and providing promotional templates and public ­relations material.

7. My Co-op Rocks contest: Offering passion, creativity, and a chance to shout out the best about your co-op, the My Co-op Rocks video contest will be held again this year, with a video submission deadline in September and voting continuing through mid-October. Check out the archive of 2009’s two-minute videos to get ideas for this year’s contest at www.mycooprocks.coop .

8. Focus on Fresh: Also available at the NCGA site, in the Prepared Foods section, are seasonal recipes and quarterly Fresh Focus newsletters, offering many suggestions for promotions that can effectively showcase the fresh departments in our stores.

9. Light a fire under demos, and develop ­programs to connect with kids: Allie Mentzer (Linden Hills Co-op, Minneapolis) discussed her “Recipe for a Successful Demo Program,” complete with insider advice about best practices. Especially helpful is her in-store demo request form, which facilitates ­communication with vendors about setup and publicity.

Meg Klepack (City Market, Burlington, Vt.) and Mariah Rose-Dahl (Honest Weight Food Co-op, Albany, N.Y.) offered presentations on kids’ programs, emphasizing the importance of early nutrition education and demonstrating how co-ops can reach young people in fun and engaging ways.

10. Building a Team: Successful marketing initiatives begin with convincing others to work on a common project. Three diverse presentations took a look at team building and leadership.

Monica Cuneo described the experience of working at People’s Food Co-op in Portland, Ore., where there is a collective management structure. Lisa Smith (Neighborhood Food Co-op, Carbondale, Illinois) offered strategies for presenting clear and compelling trip reports and project proposals. Joe Romano (GreenStar Cooperative Market, Ithaca, N.Y.) described his co-op’s ambitious rebranding project and the challenges involved in moving ahead with aesthetic changes. How do we honor our history while remaining relevant and open to the future? That question is a perennial one for our organizations.

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