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Inside Walmart Canada's Multi-Channel Pub Strategy

  |  July 22, 2013   |  Comments

Walmart Canada turned to Rogers Media to create a multi-faceted content strategy that showcases products and emphasizes quality.

Walmart Canada wanted to make a warmer connection with consumers and build a brand message beyond low prices. It turned to Rogers Media to create a multi-faceted content strategy that showcases products and emphasizes quality.

"Walmart in Canada holds a functional place in our customers' hearts. They also give us credit for price and breadth of offer, but on a very functional basis. We needed a channel to ramp up loyalty and showcase a quality story, especially within in food," says Toni Fanson, director of advertising for Walmart Canada.

The solution is a multi-channel consumer lifestyle publication, Walmart Live Better, that comprises a bimonthly print magazine, an iPad version, and a website with constantly refreshed content. The print publication is available free in stores, with a print run of one million - making this the largest circulation lifestyle magazine in Canada.

Already, Walmart has 80 percent penetration among its target consumers, according to Fanson. The goal of the content strategy is "getting them to shop us more often and especially to consider us for their weekly grocery shopping."

The mega-chain now operates many Walmart Supercenters that offer a full array of groceries, including fresh meat and vegetables, with an increasing amount of private-label products. Therefore, among the four content pillars - food, home and life, health and beauty, and fashion - food gets central placement, including on the cover of the print magazine.

Walmart partnered with Rogers Media to create and publish the print and digital editions of Walmart Live Better; Rogers also handles all advertising sales.

Because the Walmart.ca site is undergoing a transformation that won't be completed until 2014, the project includes a publication-specific site, WalmartLiveBetter.ca, produced by Rogers in collaboration with JWT Canada, Walmart's agency that handles the brand stewardship and makes sure the project maps to Walmart's marketing objectives over the course of the year.

"We've thrown the whole weight of Rogers Media behind it and treated it the same way as a launch of our own consumer brands," says Jacqueline Loch, vice-president of content solutions for Rogers. Rogers operates TV and radio stations, newspapers, and magazines including Chatelaine. It's also the Canadian ad sales partner for InStyle.com, RealSimple.com, and other sites.

In addition to devising the content strategy, it is also implementing a year-round public relations and communication strategy to promote the publication across all channels. When the print magazine drops, Rogers promotes it across its own brands.

At the same time, Rogers called on its own relationships with advertisers to bring them into Live Better: L'Oreal, Kraft, Unilever, and Johnson & Johnson are among the marketers participating in the program. The site offers rectangular ad units above or within copy, as well as product placements, some of which let consumers click through to find out more about the product.

At this point, digital ad buys are channel-specific and run-of-network. "As we develop the brand and grow our digital audience, we will be able to evolve to more sophisticated ad placements," Loch says. "The quickest uptake and easiest for manufacturers to buy is the print magazine. That was an easy one for agencies to say yes. Our focus now is to grow our digital audience. We're all about ramping up those eyeballs so we can do great digital campaigns."

Eventually the website will include e-commerce, so that, for example, if a cosmetic product is featured in a makeover, consumers can click through to purchase.

The first print edition of Walmart Live Better was released in April, and the second dropped in June. Walmart Canada uses Ipsos ASI to measure the impact of the magazine via in-store sales, including recall on magazine messages, brand awareness, purchase consideration, and the likelihood of recommending Walmart. Loch says there was as much as a 30 percent lift in sales of some items the week the June issue appeared.

"Ad revenue is important, and we've been extremely pleased with how advertisers have responded," Fanson says. "Our first three issues sold out, and we're adding 40 more pages in the holiday issue."

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Susan Kuchinskas

Susan Kuchinskas has covered interactive advertising since its invention. The former staff writer for Adweek, Business 2.0, and M-Business covers technology, business and culture from Berkeley, CA.

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