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Finding Ownable Micro-Occasions in Seasonal Events

11 Dec 2023

The holidays are a critical sales season that inspire retailers to conduct tentpole marketing events across all of their shopper engagement platforms.

At CVS Media Exchange (CMX), the retail media network for the nation’s second-largest drugstore chain, that involves creating seasonal tentpole events employing a “coalition-type strategy” to enlist multiple brand partners in the effort, according to Pamela Young, CMX’s Head of Ad Sales, while speaking this month at P2PI Live in St. Louis. These programs typically encompass seasonal landing pages and prominent merchandising in stores. “And the Holy Grail is being in the television campaign,” said Young (below, at right).

Tentpole programs like these are beneficial to participating brands because they provide an established “right to win” at the retailer, said Samantha Bohan, Customer Development Director-Small Format at The Mars Agency (at left), who took the stage with Young. “It’s a very reasonable investment for an 8-week asset,” she said, noting that content-rich program landing pages “expand the conversation” with shoppers beyond what can be communicated through display ads and other advertising.

With the holidays being one of the most critical annual sales windows for the candy category, working with CMX on a seasonal campaign in 2022 was a natural fit for Mars Wrigley, according to Bohan.  And by working closely to align their own consumer data with the retailer’s shopper insights, the brand marketer and The Mars Agency were able to uncover an ownable, actionable micro-occasion that would drive even stronger engagement with seasonal CVS shoppers and better results for both partners.

These micro-occasions dive deeper into shopper activity to identify unique seasonal behaviors at specific retailers, giving brands a stronger, more relevant “right to win,” Bohan said. “We’re not trying to make the occasion about Mars candy. We’re finding ways for Mars candy to elevate the occasion for these shoppers,” said Bohan.

At CVS, the holiday shopping trip doesn’t involve buying gifts or searching for baking needs. Rather, it’s a focused effort to pick up a few immediate — even emergency — needs,  Young explained. Thus, insights from ExtraCare purchase data — generated by 74 million ExtraCare loyalty members and 179 million monthly shopping trips to CVS properties — found that shoppers coming to buy greeting cards, wrapping paper and gift cards also over-indexed for candy purchases.

Meanwhile, brand insights found that 52% of shoppers kick off their seasonal shopping after watching a holiday movie, and 62% are involved in baking at home. These two insights, which have fueled Mars Wrigley’s holiday marketing in general, informed the creative and media strategies for the CVS effort, which included social outreach on Pinterest as well as programmatic ad buys.

Thematically, creative invited CVS shoppers to curl up with a holiday movie classic and share the moment with loved ones, using M&M’S® and DOVE® chocolate to sweeten the occasion. Conversion-minded calls to action drove traffic to, while Incremental merchandising in stores helped make sure that sell-through would be strong across all channels. Successfully developing the program involved bringing together CVS’ merchandising, front-of-store marketing and CMX teams, Young noted.

The campaign delivered overall category growth for CVS and strong sales results for Mars, including a substantial number of net-new buyers for the two brands.  It also was a great example of aligning brand and retailer strategies to mutual benefit, with the Mars activation serving as “a complement to what we’re doing at CVS” to drive convenience-focused seasonal trips, said Young.

“We want to grow the business” for both partners, rather than just “moving sand”  by shifting sales from one retailer to another, Bohan said.

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