Sharpie launches new marketing campaign
OAK BROOK, Ill. Sharpie is kicking off a new multichannel, multimedia campaign to showcase the iconic marker brand as the advocate for self-expression. Taglined “Uncap What’s Inside,” the campaign launches on June 1 with national print advertising and a new interactive community website, and national TV advertising rolling out June 15.
The goal is to empower people to connect with one another and express themselves by uncapping their creativity with Sharpie.
“The personalization trend is gaining even more momentum as the economy continues to struggle. The new Sharpie campaign challenges people to re-imagine, re-invent and re-create the mundane, everyday items in their lives as a way to express their creativity and embrace value in these tougher times,” said Sally Grimes, global VP marketing for Sharpie.
At the centerpiece of the integrated campaign is new advertising featuring budget-savvy ways Sharpie markers can transform everyday items into colorful, distinctive statements. One print ad features Sharpie Twin Tip Marker as a hero for self-expression by showing how the marker can add color and conviction to a pair of ordinary sneakers.
As part of the new campaign, Sharpie is also unveiling the Sharpie Squad, a group of some of the brand’s most passionate fans. The Squad consists of savvy bloggers and creative artists who find inspiration through Sharpie. These Sharpie ambassadors will reveal the many ways to get creative with Sharpie while sharing tips on how to use that creativity in affordable ways. From thrifty trendsetting decorating ideas to frugal fashion tips, the Sharpie Squad will offer advice on how to uncap creativity on a budget. The Sharpie Squad will be featured on sharpieuncapped.com for a continual flow of ideas, inspirations and cost-saving tips.
The “Uncap What’s Inside” campaign highlights several core products in the Sharpie portfolio, including the Sharpie Twin Tip, Sharpie Metallic for holiday and new Sharpie Pen colors (orange and purple joining black, red, blue and green, all with no-bleed ink). Sharpie’s “Uncap What’s Inside” campaign will also include print advertising around the 2009 holidays. More more information, visit sharpieuncapped.com.
Fred’s exceeds analysts’ expectations
MEMPHIS, Tenn. Discounter Fred’s continued to exceed expectations in light of — and perhaps because of — the recession economy when it announced its first-quarter results Thursday. That’s on account of the increased number of consumers walking through Fred’s 666 doors (traffic grew 1.6%) and the larger market baskets customers ringing at the cash register (on average $19.42, up 1.2%).
But it’s also because of Fred’s growing presence in the pharmacy business.
Fred’s is seeing a little more traction across its 284 pharmacy operations. The chain generated $152.6 million in pharmacy sales for the first quarter ended May 2, up 3.3% compared with last year’s first-quarter pharmacy sales. Pharmacy is also increasingly becoming a bigger piece of Fred’s mix — pharmacy sales accounted for 33.3% of sales for the most recent quarter, compared with a 31.8% sales share in the chain’s first quarter results last year.
“Pharmacy scripts improved with the expansion of our Prescription Plus program, which was rolled out to all of our pharmacies in the first quarter,” Fred’s CEO Bruce Efird told analysts Thursday. The chain plans to begin advertising the Prescription Plus program more extensively in September.
“Our pharmacies represent a clear differentiating competitive advantage versus our small-box discount competitors,” Efird said, despite the market challenges involved in fielding a profitable pharmacy, such as the impact on top-line sales from an increase in generic utilization. “Given this [competitive advantage], we are accelerating pharmacy growth to leverage this … as well as leverage the benefits our pharmacies bring to the front-end of our stores,” he said.
“When we have a pharmacy with a store, the general merchandise departments still run in the 11% to 12 % higher range,” added Jerry Shore, Fred’s EVP, CAO and CFO. “It is still our plan to open pharmacies when we do open our [new] stores and be more aggressive with acquisitions.”
And it’s not just small-box discounters against which Fred’s is now competing; it’s also bigger box pharmacy.
“When we get into those rural markets [with our pharmacy operations], based on our footprint and presence in those markets, we tend to compete very strongly,” Efird said, noting that in those markets Fred’s is able to hold its own against its three biggest, more traditional pharmacy competitors — Walmart, Walgreens and CVS/pharmacy.
Walgreens’ ‘Power’ initiative expands, centralizing workload in Florida, Arizona
NEW YORK Walgreens is serious about cutting its operating costs — nowhere more so than in its pharmacies. It’s no secret that professional salaries are one of the biggest single expense lines in any chain drug store operating budget, and Walgreens brass have made it clear they’re looking to the company’s “Power” initiative to restore some of the profitability to retail pharmacy that PBMs and shrinking prescription dispensing margins have bled out of the industry over the past two decades.
Power is a workload-balancing project that offloads dispensing duties from individual Walgreens pharmacists to centralized processing centers. Company leaders predict the project will free pharmacists and even pharmacy technicians from some of the mundane dispensing tasks so they can migrate to a broader role in patient oversight, clinical care and integrated health care alongside physicians, PBMs and corporate health plan sponsors.
Walgreens president and CEO Greg Wasson has high hopes for the Power project, even calling it transformative to the practice of pharmacy.
“We are… removing as many administrative tasks from our stores as we can and moving these to a more efficient, centralized location,” Wasson said earlier this year. “And we are also using our existing mail service facilities to centrally fill prescriptions.
“With our government and employers… looking to control rising health care costs, we are seeing continued pressure on pharmacy reimbursement,” Wasson added. “As a result, we must lower our pharmacy operating costs while improving service levels. This also allows our pharmacists to play a pivotal role in this nation’s health care reform.”
In any state where Walgreens centralizes dispensing activities, it will have to first obtain a waiver from state pharmacy regulators to clear away restrictions on the use of remote data entry for prescription filling, Washington confirmed.
Tellingly, some patient advocates are raising concerns about the impact the central-fill initiative will have on the level of pharmacy care available in the future at Walgreens pharmacies, according to local news reports from Arizona. A story that ran in the Arizona Daily Star, in particular, cites concerns among local pharmacy workers and about possible job losses and leaner staffing levels in local pharmacies.
A source at Walgreens indicated those fears are overblown and misplaced but acknowledged that some pharmacy staff in Florida, where the company first rolled out its Power central-fill initiative, have chosen not to relocate to the centralized administration and dispensing center in Orlando.
Nevertheless, fears about fewer pharmacists and lower customer service levels at Walgreens pharmacies in Florida and Arizona seem to miss the mark. They’re an ironic counterpoint to what Walgreens says will be one of the benefits beyond cost-savings that flow from Power: the reducing of administrative burdens on pharmacists so they can spend more of their time serving patients with face-to-face counseling, medication therapy management and other services.
If it achieves its goals, Power could be a win for both Walgreens and its customers. There will be fewer pharmacists in the stores, but patients may find them more accessible, less stressed — and more willing and able to talk to them about their health questions and other concerns.