Southeastern Grocers’ Star Wars promotion generated excitement, sales

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Southeastern Grocers’ Star Wars promotion generated excitement, sales

By Carolyn Schierhorn - 01/31/2018
At a Black Friday kick-off event at a Winn-Dixie store for the Star Wars promotional campaign, a young girl appears to levitate a Stormtrooper who had just leaped in the air. (Photo courtesy of Southeastern Grocers)

Its Kid Connoisseur Contest honored last fall by Store Brands as the “Best Store Brand Shopper Marketing Campaign,” Jacksonville, Fla-based Southeastern Grocers has long recognized the power of creative promotional campaigns and customer engagement. But the parent company of Winn-Dixie, BI-LO, Harveys and Fresco y Más felt it needed to do something that would have an even greater impact.

“We’d tried different things, including back-to-school and football programs, but we wanted something that was bigger,” Adam Kirk, Southeastern Grocers’ senior vice president – trade planning, told Store Brands. “We wanted something that would have longevity and really resonate across a broad cross-section of our customer base.”

In early May 2017, the company was approached with the ideal opportunity: a partnership with Walt Disney Co.’s Lucasfilm and a merchandising company to launch a mega-promotional campaign at Winn-Dixie and BI-LO stores in conjunction with the Dec. 15 international release of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”

The Star Wars promotion, which ran from Black Friday through Jan. 16 and was exclusive to Southeastern Grocers in the United States, featured several components that worked synergistically to build excitement and sales, Kirk noted.

First, the campaign centered on the collection of 72 Cosmic Shells, each an octagon-shaped trading card with a picture of and information about a character from the new Star Wars film. With a $20 purchase, a customer would receive a pack containing two Cosmic Shells. By spending $100, a shopper would get five packs of shells. In addition, purchasing five specific items from participating vendors would earn customers another pack. To encourage people to trade their Cosmic Shells and complete their collections, Winn-Dixie and BI-LO sold Cosmic Shell Collectors’ Albums for $3.99 each.

Second, the Cosmic Shells triggered the activation of virtual reality (VR) never-before-seen Star Wars movie clips, 12 in all, Kirk explained. Customers could view these clips with a $3.99 pair of special VR goggles and download the clips via Southeastern Grocers’ VRgoggles smart phone app. The goggles and app also enabled customers to experience the sensation of flying a Millennium Falcon as well as call up augmented reality (AR) Star Wars characters and vehicles in the store.

“You would download the app, hold your phone over a sticker that’s on the floor, and have a 6-foot Stormtrooper right in front of you,” Kirk said. “You could then take selfies with the Stormtrooper.” Other popular AR images included the TIE Fighter, R2-D2 and C-3PO.

Elaborate kick-off events in several stores on Black Friday and at two key college football games the following weekend helped spur interest in both “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” and the Southeastern Grocers promotion. Encouraged to wear their own Star Wars costumes, customers at the stores could interact with well-trained Stormtroopers and had the chance to win prizes.

“This created a huge amount of excitement in our stores,” Kirk said. “Star Wars is a huge property. ‘The Force Awakens’ [released in December 2015] was the highest-grossing movie of all time in the United States. In fact, Star Wars has four of the top 11 movies of all time.”

The challenges of such a complex promotion were many, Kirk acknowledged. “The thing I’m most proud of with our teams,” he stressed, “is that we were able to take this from the start of the collaboration in May to a launch on Nov. 24 and execute it flawlessly.”


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