FCB's general manager of retail spills the story behind the stickman

  • Opinion
  • February 27, 2015
  • Kamran Kazalbash
FCB's general manager of retail spills the story behind the stickman

This is a question that has perplexed many a marketer and ad agency and is one that Pak’n Save were acutely aware of. Foodstuffs Group brand director Jules Lloyd wasn’t under any illusions; there are only so many ways to say “New Zealand’s lowest food prices” every week without boring our customers. She knew that if we were going to be on TV week in week out, we needed a differentiating device that would achieve cut-through, appeal to Kiwis, be single-minded and all without wearing out or simply becoming background noise.

We also needed to stay true to Pak’n Save’s roots of bringing New Zealand the lowest food prices, so our mechanic needed to reflect that philosophy, play off it, and even exaggerate it. So Stickman became our unlikely celebrity spokesperson.

And he’s become a legend. A stick figure immediately (both overtly and subliminally) communicates “no frills”, whilst still being able to drive the “get it now because it’s cheap” sales messages. We’ve managed to strike the balance that Peter Field and Les Binet found to be most effective in their extensive research into successful advertising campaigns.

But we knew that Stickman by himself wouldn’t have been enough. He needed to be a stick figure with an attitude, tongue firmly in cheek, ready to make us smile through his quintessentially Kiwi sense of humour – while still representing the brand values. Simplicity is tougher than it looks.

To turn a nice idea into practical reality we needed to develop a minimalist design treatment that could coexist with Pak’n Save’s distinctive yellow and black livery.

Promotional materials featuring Stickman had to be reduced to their most basic elements. Images became outlines, outlines were reduced to line drawings. And the humour? Carefully sharpened phrases, often chosen from hundreds of alternatives.

Stickman has now become a comfortable, familiar Kiwi brand presence, every element of his Spartan appearance communicating thriftiness as a mission statement. He really lives the Pak'n Save brand promise: "Everything we do, we do to save you money.”

We accomplish short-term sales spikes whilst staying true to the long-term brand vision. Stickman is a natural spokesperson to be on the front line talking about our sales events; Meat Week, Beer and Wine Week, $2 Week and the many other promotions that are an essential part of Pak’n Save’s marketing toolkit.

Admittedly, as even Stickman would agree, the Pak’n Save brand promise is massively supported by the reality that the chain delivers New Zealand's lowest food prices year after year. In November 2014, published their latest survey results, confirming that Pak’n Save yet again had the lowest prices in all seven NZ centres surveyed.

Stickman is an ideal expression of the Pak’n Save brand – but perhaps the reason we’ve been able to achieve such sterling success with him in both short-term and long-term roles is because Pak’n Save itself is totally consistent in both its long-term brand promise and its short-term sales initiatives.

Finally, to deal with one of the most commonly asked queries about Stickman, exactly how did he get the job? Jules Lloyd reveals the sad truth behind the legend: “A poorly paid acting gig beat the pants out of the other job offer he had – kindling!”

Given Pak’n Save’s brand positioning, we wouldn’t expect anything else.

​ ​

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