It’s been four years since Little Shop hit New World stores, and the collectible miniatures proved extremely popular with kids (and some parents).
For three years in a row it repeated its success, albeit as Little Kitchen in 2015, with the added layer of getting kids experimenting with food using self-titled food architects, Bompas and Parr from the UK.
But, this year it has gone in a different direction, launching 'Little Garden', a new campaign heroed by three teaser ads, via Colenso BBDO and a digital, social and big in-store presence courtesy of .99.
With every $40 spent, the shopper receives a little pot with one of 24 seed varieties, complete with a soil tablet that just needs a little water. Once seeds sprout, kids can plant their biodegradable Little Garden pot straight into a bigger pot or garden.
There are 24 seedling kits to collect, including 18 veggies and six herbs, plus shoppers will get the chance to buy a limited edition collector tray to keep them all in one place.
In addition to giveaways in store, over 1,000 Little Garden kits, with specifically designed lesson guides, are being made available to primary and intermediate classrooms around the country.
Last year, Foodstuffs New Zealand general manager Steve Bayliss told Stuff the Little Kitchens promotion had been great for customer engagement, however many parents were unhappy with what the promotion was teaching young children about brands and shopping, as evidenced by comments on social media.
Still, the promotion was hugely popular and it seems New World is taking a risk, but one which could have a great pay off in the end, as shoppers are becoming more environmentally and socially conscious.
Foodstuffs national retail marketing manager Stephanie Pyne says: “We love how this idea is useful, educational, sustainable, and even edible. Getting kids and their families outside involved in gardening, growing vegetables and hopefully eating more of them.”
Little Garden’s other major positive is that it is effectively zero-waste, she says. “All the materials are either compostable or recyclable. The pots are made of wood pulp and peat, the soil tablets are coconut husk, and the collector trays and packaging are recyclable. We’re really looking forward to people of all ages participating in the promotion and growing their own Little Garden.”
GoodSense managing director Kath Dewar says the shift to a more sustainable promotion shows New World is listening to what New Zealanders want.
“That they have heard the feedback about Little Shop but they are also looking at taking a smarter and more integrated approach to sustainability.”
She says New World has been making efforts around sustainability in other ways. “They have been making real efforts around packaging, for example, and some New World stores have led the field in terms of making better choices available for customers and bringing in Fair Trade.”
Dewar says a brand dissonance was beginning to surface, between the positive moves it was making and its marketing Little Shop “…filling homes with plastic waste”.
Dewar also told Stuff earlier the promotion of collectible toys feeds into “pester-power” marketing, where if you get kids excited about your product, they will use their powers of persuasion to pressure their parents to buy it.
But Dewar questioned whether it was ethical to have children interacting with advertising at such a young age. “The fun of playing with blueberries is not enhanced by it being Pams blueberries.”
Little Shop also had a very dubious sponsor partner range, she says. “[There were] lots of packaged goods and packaged foods when we need to be thinking about fresh foods. So good on them for taking a stand, and judging by how popular gardening is getting in schools I think it’ll work really well for them and it’s perfect timing for them to launch it.”
There is a wider lesson to teach children, about their connection to nature and what’s natural, she says. “And it’s much more in line with what most New Zealanders would want in a supermarket, rather than just buying a packaged product that is paying a big sponsorship fee.”
Little Shop was a double-edged sword, she says. “Whether it was actually driving preferred purchase or not, I don’t know. And there was quite a loud and growing backlash voiced in conversation but also social media and also unvoiced. And parents who were really at their tolerance point of wanting plastic stuff coming into the house.”
She says there is a difference between playing shop and “being spoon-fed or marketed high sugar-type products through what the kids were playing with”.
New World is wanting to innovate and they are innovating in a positive direction, which supports where it’s taking its brand, she says, but New Zealand supermarkets are way behind the curve compared to the UK, where they are making major strides in terms of educating about sustainability.
“Sainsbury's has beehives on its supermarket roofs as part of a campaign about bees. Supermarkets rely on their produce and we don’t have produce without bees. So these are important steps but we’ve got a long way to go before supermarkets are acting as responsible citizens.”
However, Dewar says we have definitely seen a shift in the past couple of years and even throughout the past six months after the Paris climate change agreement.
“Organisations are realising they have a responsibility and consumers are realising they want to buy from people who are sustainable as they become more savvy.”
It’s good for brands to be the good guys, she says. “The great thing about New World is they have some good actions behind the scenes, like what they do with waste. They’re not just doing a greenwash promo. They have some good strategies in place internally.”
Elsewhere in retail land, Countdown recently released a round of Star Wars collectibles, and Z Energy has also got in on the craze over the past with years with its DC Blokhedz.
And while these schemes aren’t new by any stretch of the imagination, it will be interesting to see if New World's move inspires some more innovation in this space.
What this certainly does show is that collectibles don't necessarily need to be dropped entirely (as Burger King did last year). You just need a good idea that resonates with the modern consumer.
This story was originally published on StopPress.