Behind the Brand: Zellers

It’s one thing to “Like” a store on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.

It’s quite another to learn about how Zellers uses social media while in Liquidation mode.

Name: Jennifer Zedic  

Position: Director of Marketing – In Store and Social Media

Employer: Zellers

Education: Fashion Marketing and Merchandising, Ryerson University

Favourite Zellers purchase: Pure by Alfred Sung knit scarf (I liked it so much I bought 5 different colours!)

Professional role model: Heather Reisman – Indigo: I love how she has taken the book store and made it a shopping experience and how she did not back away from technology when it threatens the business, but instead embraced it. She has built a strong and reliable brand and owns the market in Canada.

What makes Zellers a uniquely Canadian store?

History and memories only found in Canada make Zellers a uniquely Canadian store.  The fans’ comments from our Facebook page talk about their experience with Zellers growing up in Canadian communities and how the great Canadians who work at those stores made a difference in a lot of their lives.

How has the marketing department’s role and responsibilities changed since learning that Zellers stores will close?

The marketing team is focused on continuing to build great flyer deals that our customers are expecting. We have pulled away from other forms of marketing, such as TV, radio and specialty print but maintained our flyer program and invested heavily in social media. For our Liquidation stores, we are using an extensive amount of ROP’s in local markets to highlight the weekly deals to the customer.

How does Zellers decide which social media channels are worth the investment?

Social media strategy for us is to provide information to the community on what they want to hear about as it relates to Zellers.  We chose to invest in Facebook since it is the best way for us to communicate to our customer on a more personalized level and to the largest audience.

What’s the strategy behind your recent Everything Must Go Facebook campaign?

We are in a situation like no other retailer, where we will have had almost 2 years to transition our stores for closing. This meant we needed to take care of 2 sets of stores at any given time, our Liquidation Stores and our regular operating Zellers.

Our Everything Must Go campaign was timed so that when the majority of our Zellers locations were in liquidation, we would be getting that message out to the community.  The prize giveaways are a way for us to thank our customers for their years of loyalty.

In the Adopt Zeddy portion of the campaign, we wanted to recognize that Zeddy has been giving to Canadian communities since the mid 80’s. While Zellers stores may be eventually closing, Zeddy’s charitable legacy will live on.

How has Zeddy proven to be an asset to Zellers since 1986? Should more retailers have a mascot?

Zeddy has provided love and well wishes for hundreds of thousands of people across Canada. He has helped raise millions of dollars in fund raising for various charities and is always up for a good gag or two at the company Christmas party. He will be greatly missed by all.

I am a big advocate for the use of corporate mascots or official spokespersons. Any company that doesn’t sign up for one is missing out on connecting with their customers on a whole other level.

Canadians are going to miss Zellers. In 140 characters or less, why should consumers go to Zellers, aside from nostalgic reasons?

This requires 2 explanations, as we are in a unique situation:

Regular Zellers stores will have some fantastic new fashion and seasonal products for this Fall. We have great flyer deals that will save your family money.

Zellers is operating in Liquidation mode in a number of stores. As they progress in their sell down, you can get some exceptional deals that you will not find anywhere else.

What are the benefits of working for Zellers?

For me, the benefits of working for Zellers during this time is being part of creating some very innovative Facebook campaigns. I enjoy social media marketing as it provides instant feedback on how you are performing and the evolution of your marketing strategy is in real time. The best laid plans are a must to live by, but social media forces you to adapt plans as needed.

I can’t speak for all employees, but I will miss the great people I have come to know well and see everyday.

How do you think Zellers’ absence will most affect Canadian consumers?

I think in the short term, Canadian consumers will find their options very limited for finding great deals on the things they need everyday.

The long term is a little more of an emotional effect. When we ran our Zellers Showcase Memories campaign on Facebook, customers were asked to submit their memories for a chance to have it re-enacted and the video played on the page for all to see. We had a massive outpouring of great stories that were shared and the number one theme that we heard was that our loyal customers would miss those potential memories that they could have created at Zellers stores in the future. There would be no more breakfast with the grandparents at the Zellers Diner, no more kids meeting Zeddy at the Toyland launch, no more connecting with friends for coffee before a weekly shopping outing at Zellers. It will be sad to see the end of the Zellers legacy and for our loyal fans, I think that will affect them most.

How do you predict Canadian retailers will evolve in the next 5-10 years?

Retail in Canada is going to get exciting! Retailers will strive to differentiate themselves from one another so that key markets will be owned by 1 or maybe 2 big players. You can already see companies like Canadian Tire focusing on their strength in automotive and Loblaws with their dominance in private brand grocery items.

We have some major players stepping into the country that will make all existing retailers stand up and take notice. Hopefully everyone decides to rise to this challenge and make changes to all the things that they fall short on. It will raise the level of competition amongst the big retailers so that in the end, the customer will benefit with better retail environments, customer service, in store technological advancements and value.

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