At the start of 2020’s global pandemic, many brands faced challenges in how to adapt to shifting consumer behaviors. COVID-19 raised lots of questions among marketers about how to quickly adjust marketing strategies, get new creative in-market, and strike the right tone with consumers. Big Lots, a neighborhood discount retailer operating 1400 stores in 48 states, was one of the many brands that faced this challenge. The company’s product assortment is focused on home essentials: Furniture, Seasonal, Soft Home, Food, Consumables, Hard Home, Electronics and Toys & Accessories. Big Lots’ mission is to help people Live BIG and Save Lots.
The big question shared by many marketers at the time – including Big Lots – was: how do brands strike the right tone with consumers while continuing to provide essential goods and services through extraordinary business operations?
Through partnering with Pandora, Big Lots was able to gain valuable insights and creative support that contributed to its success.
Pandora’s Soundboard panel of 50K listeners allows it to access real-time consumer feedback. In March, Pandora posed pandemic-related questions to its panel to assess how they wanted to be spoken to by advertisers – specifically, what they were looking for and what they expected from brands.
The study found that 84% of consumers were feeling concerned about COVID-19 and the majority wanted brands to provide uplifting and informative content to help them get through this anxiety. Big Lots was able to take these insights and create a new campaign that focused on positive messaging, how they were helping the communities they serve, and information about the measures they were taking to keep everyone safe.
Audio spots are by nature more agile than visual formats – and with the help of Pandora’s creative consultancy, Studio Resonate, Big Lots was able to create messaging adjustments within a 24 hour period. In this case, they were able to thank the heroes on the front line with a 15% discount – a timely and focused message that resonated with all consumers.
Studio Resonate and Big Lots’ in-house creative team partnered together to create a spot that was uplifting, conversational in tone, and was able to inform the Big Lots audience that stores were going to remain open during this time while thanking front line workers with a discount. Additionally, the spot used some of our known best practices, such as mentioning the brand within the first few seconds of the ad to capture consumer attention and having a clear CTA to drive consumers to action. Thanks to this agility, Big Lots was able to quickly pivot and keep their brand top-of-mind.
It should be noted that part of Big Lots’ success has to do with their long-term, customer-driven marketing strategy. Big Lots maintains a deep understanding of their who their customer is in order to make sure they continue delivering extraordinary value to them. As part of that, Big Lots has consistently included Programmatic Audio in their marketing strategy for over three years. This enables them to reach a variety of different consumer segments and provides the opportunity to implement real-time message optimization at the drop of a hat.
The combination of consumer insights and audio’s agility contributed to Big Lots’ success in the early months of the pandemic. To gain insight into the campaign’s effectiveness, Pandora enlisted Placed to measure foot traffic and sales incrementality. The Big Lots campaign resulted in a whopping 7.75x ROAS and saw a 19.69% standard lift, which is 34% higher than Pandora’s Mass Retail benchmark.
Big Lots’ persistent presence in-market laid the foundation to drive this accomplishment. And by leveraging Pandora’s data-backed recommendations, they were able to drive success and pivot quickly despite the unforeseen challenges of the pandemic.