Canadian Social Media Case Study: Loblaw

According to the Toronto Star, Loblaw’s President Choice Financial unit has decided to become more aggressive with its marketing by rolling out TV ads featuring executive chairman Galen Weston that promote its no-fee checking accounts. The move is seen as a way to counter a similar product from ING Canada.

My first react was “That’s interesting.”, followed by “I wonder if President’s Choice Financial is using social media in any way to differentiate itself”. The short answer is “no”, which did not come as a surprise given Loblaw’s cautious overall approach to social media.

At a time when social media is all the rage, it’s a head-scratcher as to why Loblaw hasn’t embraced it given the company’s status as one of Canada’s leading retailers. A PC Financial blog, for example, that would provide consumers with personal finance information and insight – as well as putting the spotlight on its services and products – seems like a no-brainer, particularly in the competitive banking market. A blog or other social media services would offer PC Financial some new and different ways to engage with consumers, especially given PC Financial is mostly an online operation.

It would be easy to make the same arguments for Loblaw’s grocery business, which has relationships with millions of Canadian consumers on a regular basis. This should create an excellent opportunity for Loblaw to leverage social media. For example, a President’s Choice blog would be a great way to highlight new products, as well as offer consumers information about shopping for and preparing food. In many respects, it could do what the popular President’s Choice “Insider’s Report” did in the 1980s.

But, for some reason, Loblaw is dropping the ball when it comes to social media. For all the new opportunities that social media provides, Loblaw is taking a half-hearted approach. Of course, you could make the same argument for many Canadian retailers, who are significantly behind their peers in the U.S.

In terms of Loblaw’s social media portfolio, it consists of:

- A gardening blog that appears to have one post/week, although it is difficult to tell given the way the blog is structured. Most of the posts haven’t generated any comments.

- A Twitter account (@worthswitching4) with 562 followers that was very active in June and July but has only had three tweets since July 27.

- A Facebook Page with 9,097 “Likes”. Of the limited things that Loblaw is doing with social media, the Facebook Page is the most active with regular updates and engagement with users. That said, it’s pretty obvious there is a lot more that Loblaw could do with the Facebook Page, including the use of customized tabs beyond “Weekly Deals”.

- A Facebook Page for Joe Fresh, its clothing retail business, which has just over 9,000 “Likes”

- A Facebook Page promoting Loblaw’s sustainable seafood policy with 1,439 “Likes”. Given the company’s tepid overall approach to social media, it’s interesting to see something so specific.

If I were providing social media strategy to Loblaw, I’d suggest jump-starting its current activities, as well as:

- A President’s Choice blog, led by Galen Weston, who has become the face of the company through his involvement in TV ads. Weston doesn’t necessarily have to write any of the posts but a blog could be a great vehicle to extend his profile and role as Loblaw’s lead salesman.

- A Facebook Page that featured more interactive content such as polls, surveys and contests. I’d also suggest embracing video, not only featuring Loblaw’s TV ads but videos that provide information about Loblaw’s different products and services.

- A Twitter account (@loblaw and/or @pcfinancial) that provided a regular flow of information and insight.

- A President’s Choice Financial blog focused on the online banking, personal finance and small business markets.

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  • Drew

    I’m surprised to see a blog post about Loblaws and social media that doesn’t mention their response to the Bathurst Crash Lawsuit earlier this year.

    The company sued the driver of a van, a teacher, who crashed the van into a tractor trailer during bad road conditions killing the High School Basketball team and his wife in the accident. It was a story that was front page news in New Brunswick for months.

    Then Loblaws sued him to recover the damage to their transport truck. As soon as the story broke on Twitter/Facebook there was an avalanche of Loblaws backlash and they abandoned the lawsuit after about 4 hours of getting hammered via social media.

    The story penetrated so far that Loblaws sales are probably still down in the region.

  • Kelly

    Interesting and insightful Mark – as always.


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  • Michael Graves

    It’s curious to see the company name online after not hearing about them for so long. I lived in Toronto most of the 1990s. From 1990 to 1993 I worked at AD-X Communications, the in-house ad agency run by the Weston empire. During that period I actually edited all of the President’s Choice TV commercial featuring then President Dave Nichols.

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