The question of advertising efficiency is a question of the degree of correspondence of a certain advertising object to the idea created about it. The main task is to create an effective advertising message that will increase the demand for a product or service, or create the necessary image. There is no single (applicable in all situations) model of the advertising impact. There are more than fifty models of consumer perception of advertising and more than ten methods for assessing its effectiveness (Ahmed et al., 2019). However, the number of theories continues to grow, as there is no consensus on this issue. However, in any case, planning a particular advertising campaign is an integral part of the development and implementation of advertising strategy for a company. It means achieving structuredness and internal orderliness, as well as consistency, while evaluating the effectiveness of a campaign.
An interesting example of an unusual and rather bold advertising campaign is the campaign launched by Coop, one of Sweden’s largest grocery chains. As part of the campaign, Coop offered perfumes with the smell of sour milk, trying, in an engaging way, to raise people awareness regarding approaches to food waste ‑ “to remind people to smell and taste the food before throwing it away” (Coop Old Milk, 2019, para. 5). Thus, Coop successfully implemented PR and advertising campaign created in the framework of today’s most popular concept of sustainable development.
The Context, Target Audience, and Effectiveness of Campaign
The Context of Campaign
The modern marketing concept redefines the processes of market relations. Evolution from a simple exchange process based on individual episodes of interaction or transactions goes towards understanding the importance of establishing and maintaining long-term relationships not only in the format of supplier-producer, producer-buyer dyads, but also in the format of network interaction between various market entities (Quancard and Zimmerman, 2017). With the progress, information technology, growing consumer awareness, geographic fragmentation and other factors, the marketing theory is being transformed. The concept of value co-creation appears, based on the idea of participation of all economic actors in this process, including the consumer himself, which determines the necessity to take into account the social values of consumers in the process of creating and promoting a product.
In the process of changing the external environment under the influence of macro- and microfactors, the marketing concept also changed. Today, there is an increase in the significance and influence of the environmental factor. It is considered by different enterprises not only from the point of view of environmental protection, but also a broader concept – the sustainable development of a company, region, country and the role of marketing in supporting sustainable development (Kemper, Hall and Ballantine, 2019). Sustainability involves meeting the needs of current generations and pursuing the goal that future generations of people will be able to meet their needs at the same or higher level (Ianuzzi, 2016; Pantelic, Sakalb and Zehetner, 2016). Thus, under the influence of increasing the need to take into account the environmental factor, the macroenvironment of market subjects undergoes serious changes.
Accordingly, advertising in the field of sustainable development represents communication aimed at promoting the social, economic and environmental benefits of products, services or activities. It is made through advertising in the media in order to promote responsible consumer behaviour. The combination of sustainability marketing includes 4C (Customer solution, Communication, Customer cost, Convenience) and makes sustainability advertising part of the sustainability concept (Lim, 2016). Sustainability advertising is used in relation to sustainable products, services, and activities. It focuses not only on environmental issues and the product or service itself, but also includes information about the entire product life cycle (Noo-urai and Jaroenwisan, 2016). Moreover, it informs about the sustainability of the manufacturing company and reports on the desired lifestyle changes for consumers.
Target Audience of the Campaign Under Consideration: Responsible Consumers
The Coop campaign, given its eccentricity, was aimed mainly at responsible and close to them consumers. Responsible consumers are aware of sustainable development issues, being adhere to the principles of sustainability. Responsible consumers can be seen as “optimistic realists” encouraging society to continue sustainable development (Lanzini, 2017, p. 17). They are critical to their own behaviour regarding the environmental impact of the products or services they consume. Responsible consumers are sensitive to corporate behaviour and try to trust companies that implement their social or environmental obligations.
The speed and scale with which a message spreads represent significant benefits of sustainability advertising. Advertising is capable of repeatedly entering a large or scattered market with convincing and informative messages and is considered one of “the most powerful sources of symbolic meaning” (Pantelic, Sakalb and Zehetner, 2016, p. 40). Sustainability advertising is a key communication tool, serving as a source of baseline information for consumers regarding the social and environmental status of the product and the company. Based on the initial impression, the consumer decides whether the product and the company deserve a further assessment as a potential purchase choice. Therefore, sustainability advertising “helps inform consumers and makes it easier for consumers to choose” (Adlard, Bausor and Steinman, 2019, p. 22). Initially, advertising was one of the factors that created the culture of consumption, thereby playing an important role in consumer preferences formation and occurrence of the social and environmental consequences that they create. However, sustainability advertising is responsible for lifestyle changes in society, from the materialistic to the more sustainable.
A variety of marketing communication tools offer manufacturers a wide range of opportunities for building relationships with consumers. Due to format limitations, sustainability advertising often does not provide comprehensive product information. Nevertheless, it serves as a link to more significant sources of information (for example, on the company’s web page), where the consumer finds more details about the environmental and social ‘sides’ of the product. This connection allows continuing the development of the communication process between the company and the consumer (Ahmad, 2015). Thus, under favourable conditions and a related communication strategy developed in a competent way, it can be turned into a long-term mutually beneficial relationship between them. Coop, due to the chosen format of advertising, as well as the sequence of the campaign, achieved very significant successes, receiving a result many times higher than planned one.
The Effectiveness of the Campaign
Today, many companies conduct their advertising and PR campaigns in a “green” way, as part of the concept of sustainable development. However, Coop used an approach not previously used in sustainable marketing and PR communications. This approach – an element of shock approach – is now widely used in the modern environment of karaoke capitalism. According to practicing advertisers, shock advertising is one that “makes you forget about everything and switch – even beyond your will – to the perception of the information that is embedded” (Skorupa, 2014, p. 72-73). Such advertising appeal, naturally, has this effect, since the shock creates a “white sheet” in the mind and this white sheet is easy to fill with anything. A person for a moment loses stereotypes and gets the opportunity to look at the world with a fresh look (Pérez-Sobrino, 2016). Coop used this technique for the first time in a “sustainable” PR campaign, making the audience think about the food waste problem, calling them not throwing away products after best-before dates but without smelling or tasting them first.
First, advertising was launched among agents of influence – journalists and opinion leaders, who, along with the key message, received a sample of perfume. This was a very effective step, as influencers generate content about the brand, recommend it to their subscribers, and immerse them in the discussion of this brand. With the help of such opinion leaders, one can get a targeted “explosion” in target audience, among those who have an interest in the product, which has been achieved by Coop. At the same time, the company released a video to launch a discussion on the problem of food waste on social networks. Subsequently, the effect on the audience was enhanced with the help of printed publications with a smell, advertising on billboards, and interactive street events. Among the most paradigmatic results obtained by Coop as a result of the implementation of their PR campaign, the following can be noted (Coop Old Milk, 2019):
- 250 million media impressions (while the planned compared objective was only five million)
- 213 media articles published in different format in 25 countries
- “More than 50,00 visitors to the campaign microsite” in the first week (Coop Old Milk, 2019, para. 14)
Samples of the unique perfume were requested not only from European countries but also from USA, Australia, India and even China. Due to the campaign under consideration, Coop was named the most sustainable brand among Swedish retailers (Business Sweden, 2018). Thus, the effectiveness of the campaign can be considered to exceed preliminary set expectations.
The analysis of campaign allows concluding that the company became a pioneer in the field of a new direction of “sustainable” advertising and PR, which can be called shock sustainable PR. Such a “disruptive innovation” in PR brought Coop worldwide fame, while also providing a significant cross-border social effect, raising global awareness of people regarding food waste. The Coop campaign can be called an excellent example of the modern implementation of the corporate social responsibility principle, implemented with benefits for both the company and the community – in this case global one.
Adlard, C., Bausor D., and Steinman, D. (2019) The customer catalyst: how to drive sustainable business growth in the customer economy. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Ahmad, J. (2015) ‘Public relations vs advertising’, Malaysian Journal of Communication, 2(31), pp. 117-130.
Ahmed, R.R. et al. (2019) ‘Effectiveness of online digital media advertising as a strategic tool for building brand sustainability: evidence from FMCGs and services sectors of Pakistan’, Sustainability, 11, pp. 1-40.
Business Sweden. Sustainability report 2018. Web.
Coop Old Milk (2019) Web.
Ianuzzi, A. (2016) Greener products: the making and marketing of sustainable brands. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.
Kemper, J., Hall, C. and Ballantine, P. (2019) ‘Marketing and sustainability: business as usual or changing worldviews?’, Sustainability, 11, pp. 41-57.
Lanzini, P. (2017) Responsible citizens and sustainable consumer behavior: new interpretive frameworks. Abingdon: Routledge.
Lim, W.M. (2016) ‘A blueprint for sustainability marketing: defining its conceptual boundaries for progress’, Marketing Theory, 16(2), pp. 232-249.
Noo-urai, N. and Jaroenwisan, K. (2016) ‘Sustainability marketing: a changing of marketing concept lead to sustainable business’, International Journal of Business and Social Science, 7(4), pp. 114-119.
Pantelic, D., Sakalb, M. and Zehetner, A. (2016) ‘Marketing and sustainability from the perspective of future decision makers’, South African Journal of Business Management, 47(1), pp. 37-48.
Pérez-Sobrino, P. (2016) ‘Shockvertising: conceptual interaction patterns as constraints on advertising creativity’, Círculo de Lingüística Aplicada a la Comunicación, 65, pp. 257-290.
Quancard, B. and Zimmerman, N. (2017) Customer value co-creation: powering the future through strategic relationship management. Rancho Cucamonga, CA: Wessex.
Skorupa, P (2014) ‘Shocking contents in social and commercial advertising’, Creativity Studies, 7(2), p. 69-81.
Interview questions for the campaign
- Do you believe that shocking advertisement violates ethical standards of business conduct towards customers and stakeholders?
Answer: Classic advertisement formats lose contact with the customer. People are so used to it that they don’t get emotions ‑ they don’t notice the classic advertisement. The fundamental distinctive feature of shock advertising is that it awakens strong emotions, often negative ones, so its use is unethical.
- Do you believe that consuming the food product after the expiration date specified by the manufacturer of this food product, despite the product seems still edible, can cause negative consequences for consumer’s health?
Answer: Expired food can not only cause poisoning, but also lead to serious and even incurable diseases. Perhaps, the person will not immediately get poisoned, but with regular use of expired products, the functioning of intestinal tract, liver, kidneys, and other internal organs are disrupted.
- Do you believe the initiative of Coop can become a start to wider initiatives of retailers in the field of conscious consumption and sustainability?
Answer: Undoubtedly, a conscious approach to everything that is bought, used and discarded, can improve the life of the modern city dweller and the state of the planet as a whole. In a consumer society, purchases are made under the influence of emotions. Advertising such as Coop Old Milk promotes responsible consumer consumption.
- Do you believe the example of Coop campaign (its very concept) can be used in other, non-food segments of market?
Answer: Responsible consumption and environmental awareness are important in all markets and in all sectors. The Coop campaign can be a guide for companies in other market segments.
- Do you believe that Coop Old Milk campaign can be considered among best practices of green marketing in retail food sector?
Answer: Judging by the results of the advertising campaign in question, it is obviously one of the best practices.