Home Depot in Québec: 4 years of steady growth, c'est beau
Peg Hunter, Vice-President, Marketing & E-Commerce
Gaye Mandel, Director, Advertising
Russ Sunderji, Senior Manager, Advertising, Integration and Media
Sonia Draper, Senior Manager, Marketing Strategy
Elise Vaillancourt, Regional Marketing Manager
Pascal Chassé, Vice-President, Client Leader
Florence Girod, Vice President, Planning
Jean-Hugo Filion, Group Account Director
Sophie Couvrette, Account Director
Alexandra Hofmannear, Account Manager
Anne-Claude Chénier, Creative Director
Anik Ouellet, Creative Director
|Business Results Period (Consecutive Months):||January 2008 to December 2012|
|Start of Advertising/Communication Effort: ||March 2008|
|Base Period as a Benchmark: ||Calendar 2008 to 2012|
When Home Depot first entered the home improvement market in Quebec in 2000, the brand faced quite a few challenges.
Firstly, the competition was fierce: Rona, the market leader was already firmly established in the province with a 61-year head start (Rona’s first store opened in 1939), and they also had to contend with Réno-Dépôt, at that point in the number two position in home improvement chains, and they had already been around since 1993.
Secondly, the emotional share of heart that came with these two competitors being local success stories was not to be overlooked.
In the first few years after Home Depot’s arrival in Quebec (2000), it struggled to gain traction against the market leaders, Rona (#1) and Réno-Depôt (#2). In 2003, the acquisition of Réno-Dépôt by Rona didn’t help the situation. The combined forces of Rona and Réno-Dépôt made it even harder to gain a competitive edge.
From 2000 to 2007, Home Depot grew slowly through a variety of strategies and tactics. One of the main obstacles to growth was the fierce competition; however, the locations of Home Depot’s stores in Quebec were also a hindrance, since they were not optimal in most cases. Of course, this is not surprising since they were the most recent arrivals on the market and the competition had already nailed down the choice locations.
It wasn’t until 2007 that things started to change for Home Depot. Back then, Home Depot was still in third place in terms of market share, but once they decided to launch a Quebec-specific integrated campaign, the winds seemed to change for the better.
To increase market share, Home Depot had to appeal to Quebecers by using a new strategy that took into account the unique attributes and differences of Quebec consumers. After analyzing the data from primary and secondary research, and completing a first round of consumer ethnographic research, we launched a campaign with a Quebec-specific tone and manner. Contrary to all other countries where the tagline revolves around know-how, it was decided that in Quebec the tagline would be a frequently used expression: “C’est beau”. It literally means “it’s beautiful” but can also be used to say “it’s fine, it’s alright, everything is taken care of, it’s all good”. In Quebec, it was also decided to modify the logo and The Home Depot became Home Depot.
The integrated plan had two main objectives: (1) reinforce the consideration for the brand, and (2) increase in-store traffic.
Over the past five years, Home Depot’s Quebec-specific campaign has not only allowed Home Depot to surpass Réno-Dépôt in terms of market share and take the number two position in the market but has also led to a 23% increase in consideration levels and 43% rise in the number of in-store visits.
Over $5 million
In 2012, after five years of the “C’est beau” campaign, the initial strategy had to be re-assessed. The market had changed, the recession had left a mark on the industry, and Home Depot itself had evolved.
We thoroughly analyzed the quantitative data, which led us to conclude that selection was very important to consumers. We also saw an increase in Home Depot’s selection attributes in Quebec, such as great product selection, the latest new products on the market, as well as high quality products, especially when compared to our competitors.
Secondly, we had to examine our consumers and validate certain assumptions to try and reach new levels. In the fall of 2012, we carried out some targeted ethnographic research, which consisted of examining 30 participants in and around Montreal and Quebec City, including couples and singles, during which we studied their behaviour throughout the renovation process: at home, during the renovation itself, in Home Depot and at our competitors.
Three game-changing findings emerged from this research:
- Women have always played a very important role in the decision-making process when it comes to renovating and shopping. What is clearer now is that they actively participate in all steps of the renovation process including the actual “doing”, much more than we saw a few years back.
In the initial planning stage, women are more likely to begin talking about starting up a project. Women want a nice home for their family, plus renovating is a way to express their creativity. Women can see the potential of a finished project even in the early stages.
During phase two, the shopping phase, women are in their comfort zone. For female consumers, the shopping phase is a fun activity; they do research online and at the store level, look for inspiration in magazines, and look to increase their knowledge, so they can feel more confident about the choices they would like to make. This phase is particularly important in terms of the notion of selection. No one wants to have what everyone else has, yet it is important to be stylish and on trend as much as possible.
In phase three, or the “buying phase”, women ask the right questions. They are prepared because they don’t want to make a wrong decision given it is something they have to live with for a long time. We observed how much knowledge about home renovation has increased in just a few years, due in part to specialized TV programs and changes in shopping behaviour. Women are much more involved in the renovation process; however, the final decision remains a decision that is most often made by the couple together.
In the last phase, during the execution component of the project, women are more connected and do not shy away. They want to be involved and help in the execution as much as possible. Women have become more independent as far as renovations are concerned. In the end, they want to be proud of the work that has been accomplished and they love to share this success with their friends and family. Even if men may be a little more involved in the execution/doing phase, women participate more overall in renovation projects than ever before. Single women are also very autonomous, and enjoy learning how to do some home improvement projects themselves.
- The second important finding was that selection (“choix”) was of utmost importance in the shopping phase of a project. Women like to be inspired and look for ideas in magazines, online and in-store. They are looking for an original, innovative range that stands out from the pack. Fortunately, Home Depot was perceived as offering a different choice from their competitors. What is interesting here is that our female target is willing to shop around more, take more time and even go one step further to find exactly what she wants for her home.
- Lastly, there was still this strong sense of an “American feel” to the brand that just doesn’t sit well with Quebec consumers. Even after seven years of integrating step-by-step into Quebec culture, there was still something missing to make Home Depot feel like an authentic part of Quebec. Although this is not a major barrier to purchasing for consumers, it was still an issue we had to keep in mind and address in our mass communications. It would help us to be more “real” and more “authentic”.
Therefore, Home Depot decided to focus overall efforts on showcasing their range of product selection to Quebec consumers. The biggest leap of faith was to place more emphasis on the target audience that is the crucial decision-maker in all renovation projects: women. The big question was how to accomplish this without alienating the male target. It had to be done carefully and with lots of planning and creativity.
Competition within the Quebec market continued to be strong not only because of the two other major players, but also because of many other smaller players (Canac, BMR, Patrick Morin, etc.), all of which were founded in the province and had strong visibility outside the greater Montreal area. Given Quebec’s cultural identity, which favours locally based businesses and products, Home Depot could not approach the Quebec market by relying solely on the reputation it had built in the rest of Canada.
As a result of our market research, we decided to focus on three important points:
1. Key message: a greater selection of product offerings as the major point of differentiation.
We had to identify key elements that would motivate consumers to consider Home Depot as a primary option for their renovation needs. The research revealed that a wider product offering (or selection) was the most important attribute to help increase brand consideration. These findings were of significant interest because Home Depot does, in fact, offer different brands and products from its main competitors, especially considering that Rona and Réno-Dépôt are sister companies and have a very similar product offering.
In order to communicate this particular attribute that differentiates Home Depot from their main competitors, we developed a message architecture that focused on exclusivity and innovative products within key categories carefully chosen for Quebec consumers. For example, a focus on Behr paint and Ryobi tools proved successful as they are exclusive brands to Home Depot. In addition, we focused on Weber BBQ’s since Home Depot has the best selection. The various communications messages invited consumers to visit Home Depot and discover the original offerings and the unique solutions for their renovation needs. Our vision: change consumers’ habits and inspire them to give them a reason to go the extra mile to shop at our stores.
2. Focusing our marketing efforts on our new target: women
The appeal to our core target had to be felt throughout all our communication pieces. The tone and manner had to reflect our female target. The environment had to be even more inspirational than before. The featured products also had to be chosen with care. The creative art direction also had to go one step further as women tend to appreciate more a developed aesthetic feel. The challenge was to achieve all of this without alienating our male consumers.
3. Increasing the Quebec feel
After examining the research that revealed that Quebec consumers still felt Home Depot had an American feel to it, we felt it important to emphasize everything related to Quebec in our communications. We introduced Valérie Blais, a well-known Quebec celebrity, as our main talent. We increased the integration to include all things local (such as “made in Quebec” signs and promoting “made in Quebec” kitchen cabinets, etc.). Of course, the C’est beau tagline also helped with reinforcing the Quebec feel in our communications.
5. Web banners
7. In-store signage
8. Promotional efforts
9. Community program
10. Company website
In 2012, after a few years of successfully using the C’est beau strategy in the Quebec market, we established a new storyline: our communications would be a sequence of integrated initiatives that would guide a “smart shopper” through an unexpected world of choice. The new creative approach injected more humour and entertainment while at the same time having a strong focus on overall product selection (choix).
Valérie Blais was deemed the perfect choice to play the role as the smart shopper: she is a member of the Quebec star system, beloved by her fans and the definition of the average girl next door. Home Depot wanted to make sure that the person they were going to be associated with fit their DNA and Valérie was perfect for the part. Valérie’s strong point is that she appeals to the female consumer but our male target also appreciates her no-nonsense attitude. She also brought the Quebec feel to Home Depot and raised it to a whole new level just by this positive association.
Valérie is featured in all communications as a smart shopper who goes to Home Depot to solve her renovation projects. Valérie is credible in her role and in her association with Home Depot because she is not a traditional spokesperson. She also goes a long way to giving a Quebec face to Home Depot. She interacts with the store associates, the customers and the community in a series of interesting and unique situations and with a variety of products and projects.
In the end, each initiative and every channel was strategically developed to be part of an integrated campaign, to engage Quebec consumers and to showcase the vast selection and exclusive products offered by Home Depot.
Since the launch of the new campaign, 11 television ads and over 50 radio commercials were used to increase awareness through the use of humour and entertainment, all while keeping the products front and centre. Also, 30 online banners have been produced featuring Valérie as the smart shopper and the focus here was conversion. The goal was to illustrate the large selection that Home Depot carries and the fact that in many categories, they offer a different selection of products compared to their main competitors. Out-of-Home executions were also used at Christmas time to promote Home Depot’s diverse selection. For 45 days, digital boards in and around Montreal featured a different product each day to get shoppers ready for the holidays and show them the type of gifts they could buy at Home Depot. From decor and tools, to outdoor winter preparation, it was a great way to demonstrate the wide array of products offered.
Home Depot assets were also implemented in order to reach our goal of demonstrating the range of choice, appealing to women and increasing our Quebec feel. Integrating this into weekly flyers, the homedepot.ca website, in-store communications, as well as at the grassroots level and in PR events was also an important part of the puzzle to reach as many Quebec consumers as possible.
Year after year, the campaign outperformed our objectives in terms of brand consideration and store visits. There has been steady annual growth in store visits with a peak in 2011 that resulted in a 43% increase compared to the previous year. By taking over second position in the market and increasing store traffic, we achieved our objective of making Home Depot a viable and credible option for home renovation products and projects in Quebec.
This has resulted in achieving a major business milestone in 2011: Home Depot surpassed Réno Dépôt to take over second spot in terms of market share in Quebec and has maintained this number two position to this day. Home Depot used to struggle in Quebec, but now it has become its fastest growing market.
In terms of brand consideration results, it has increased steadily over the past four years with a peak in 2011 when a 23% increase was measured compared to 2010.
Other important attributes also contributed to the success of the campaign. Ad tracking has been consistently over the norm with an average +8% in awareness and +6% in brand identification. The C’est beau signature awareness and identification has steadily increased and surpassed Rona’s during the same period, even though Rona has been around for much longer. As it turns out, Valérie’s appreciation and association with the Home Depot brand has been even greater than expected. The most significant point is that in just a little over a year as the face of Home Depot in Quebec, she has managed to achieve the same levels of appreciation as Normand Braithwaite, who has been associated with Réno-Dépôt for more than 15 years.
It’s important to mention here that the home renovation industry is very sensitive in Quebec because of multiple major competitors. Each competitor guards its business results very carefully but it is very exciting to see Home Depot’s success growing steadily, as measured by numerous attributes and even in market share to the point of finally surpassing a level that was once thought unreachable.
All the above-mentioned results were achieved without any significant changes: Home Depot maintained the same number of locations, the same overall product lines, same or better customer service, the same pricing strategy, a stable media mix, and a budget that remained similar to previous years. Yet at the same time, our competitors were increasing their numbers of stores operating in the Quebec market, with Réno-Depôt adding two stores, and Rona opening up three more.
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