Wakefern picks Huge for digital brand strategy account

Getty Images
Getty Images

The food cooperative owns brands including ShopRite, Price Rite, The Fresh Grocer, Fairway and Gourmet Garage.

Wakefern Food Corp, a cooperative of grocery stores including brands such as ShopRite, Price Rite, The Fresh Grocer, Fairway and Gourmet Garage, has selected Huge as its digital branding agency of record.

Huge will help Wakefern evolve its omnichannel customer experience and build out its digital branding as more grocery shopping goes online. The agency, which beat out seven agencies for the account, declined to comment on the account size.

The review came following Wakefern expanding its portfolio with the acquisitions of Gourmet Garage in 2019 and five Fairway stores in New York and New Jersey in March 2020. Laura Kind, who joined Wakefern about two years ago to head up the group’s new brand strategy team, aims to ensure that, as the portfolio grows, Wakefern’s branding and customer experience is consistent both on and offline.

“How are we tying our brick-and-mortar experience back to our digital experience, whether it be on our website, app or social media?” she said. “How do we ensure our brand message comes through in digital experiences?”

For Huge, the account will involve a lot of “vision and baseline work” on how each Wakefern brand shows up digitally, and how that experience is personalized for the customer. “What does the experience look like, and where can we reduce friction and increase joy?” said Matt Weiss, president of Huge Brooklyn.

As the largest employer in the state of New Jersey and largest food co-op in the U.S., Wakefern comprises 51 independent member companies and operates 354 supermarkets across the country.

The company is structured so small, independent grocery stores can collectively buy large quantities of products to compete on price and offerings with large grocery chains.

Because of that mission and heritage, Wakefern does a lot of work in local communities, including opening up its ShopRite stores in New Jersey as vaccination sites during the pandemic.

“Wakefern’s mission around nurturing and sustaining healthy communities was exactly what we believe as an organization,” Weiss said. “They wanted to create an omnichannel user experience that was people-focused, so it was pretty simple to say, ‘we’re in.’”

While Wakefern has always been a procurement-driven organization, Kind’s team is focusing on making some of those community outreach efforts more prominent in its marketing. While some projects will be brand-specific, others will stretch across Wakefern’s brands based on their value prop and how they interact with customers.

“Because it is this co-op structure with member families of third-generation or fourth-generation owners, there is this love and pride for what they do for the community they serve,” Kind said. “It’s akin more to a mom and pop store.”

Wakefern chose Huge for the job not just because it had the hard skills to pull it off, but also because of the energy it brought to the pitch.

“The best work is where the people at the agency are excited by the opportunity, have the ability to see a vision that's not there and feel they are walking in lockstep with you,” Kind said.


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