Monday, May 5, 2008

Analysis: Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market Misses the Public Relations Marketing Boat With Timing of its Cinco De Mayo Press Release; Manana Amigos!

Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market issued this press release dated May 2, 2008 promoting Cinco De Mayo, which although it isn't celebrated in Mexico (they celebrate Mexican Independence Day in September) is a huge Mexican food and beverage promotional opportunity and day of feasting and partying in the U.S., on Friday afternoon, right before the weekend and only three days before today's celebration.

The Fresh & Easy press release promotes 11 fresh & easy store brand Mexican food items at low prices designed to "help you celebrate Cinco De Mayo."

Cinco De Mayo is an especially key promotional opportunity in California, Arizona and Nevada, where Tesco has its 61 Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market grocery stores, because these three states (especially California and Arizona) have among the highest per-capita Hispanic populations in the United States.

Supermarkets, restaurants, bars and other food and beverage venues go out all for Cinco De Mayo, creating promotions and special events designed to get consumers to spend their time and money at the stores and other venues.

Consumers of all ethnic backgrounds celebrate Cinco De Mayo in the Western U.S., primarily by either buying lots of Mexican foods and beverages at supermarkets and having parties at home or going out to Mexican restaurants to celebrate--or both. Similar to St Patrick's day last month, Cinco De mayo is more of an event than a holiday--and its an event in which food and drink take center stage.

Supermarket chains in California, Arizona and Nevada are holding major in-store and advertised Cinco De Mayo promotions, all of which started last Wednesday and run until today or tomorrow when the weekly promotional period ends.

We (and the consumer print and broadcast press) received press releases from Western USA food and grocery chains like Safeway Stores, Inc's Vons in Southern California and its Safeway division in Northern California and Nevada, SuperValu-owned Albertsons (Arizona and Southern California), Kroger-owned Ralph's, (Southern California), Bashas (Arizona) and Raley's and Save Mart (Northern California and Nevada) last week, at least a full week before Cinco De Mayo.

That's how it's supposed to be done in PR: you give the media enough time so they can write a story about what you are promoting for a holiday event like Cinco De Mayo.

Additionally, these chains timed their press released and related materials along with the breaking of their in-store and weekly advertising circular Cinco De Mayo promotions. The press releases were received two Fridays ago, or last Monday, and the print ads and in-store Cinco De Mayo promotions started last Tuesday or Wednesday for the traditional one-week sell-in before the May 5 event. Most consumers don't wait until May 5 to stock-up on Mexican foods and beverages for Cinco De Mayo, they do so days before.

However, by sending out its Cinco De Mayo promotional press release on Friday, right before the weekend, which are a dead two days in America's newsrooms, and only three days before the actual event--Cinco De Mayo which is today--Fresh & Easy assured itself of one thing: that it won't get any media coverage of its Cinco De Mayo, low-priced Mexican cuisine food and grocery items its offering and seeking to promote in its 61 stores.

In fact, in the PR biz, Fridays are the days corporations, politicians and other organizations reserve for sending out press releases which contain bad news, such as lower than expected earnings reports, mass layoffs, or in the case of politicians, responses to scandals and other less than favorable news.

The reason for doing this on Fridays, is because nothing much gets done in America's newsrooms over the weekends. Press releases for events that following Monday are likely to either get tossed in the circular file, in the case of hard copy, or sent to the computer trash bin in the case of electronic news releases.

Additionally, the majority of consumer food sections in America's newspapers come out on Wednesdays, both the paper and electronic versions. If a retailer wants coverage in those sections, where they should want mentions, the time to issue a press release is at least a week or sooner prior to the Wednesday before Cinco De Mayo, as the vast majority of food sections ran their Cinco De Mayo stories, recipes and the like last Wednesday.

Of course, we are assuming Fresh & Easy bothered to issue the Cinco De Mayo press release because its goal was to get some press coverage of the specially-selected Mexican food items for Cinco De Mayo. Many of the items have great prices by the way. That's an assumption most of you reading this probably agree with.

However, by sending the press release out on Friday, right before the weekend and just three days before Cinco De Mayo, the odds of generating such press coverage are rather unlikely. In our analysis, Fresh & Easy should have done itself a favor and not bothered to send the release out at all at that late date.

Not only has it resulted in the retailer missing the boat on getting any coverage for Cinco De Mayo, but it looks rather unprofessional as well. Like physicians, a marketer's first calling should be to "Do no Harm."

What's ironic about this poor timing, among other things, is that as we reported here on April 25, the keystone of Fresh & Easy's new marketing campaign for it fresh & easy store brand food products (which are all of the items in the Cinco De Mayo press release) and proprietary wines is to use marketing-oriented public relations to position and build the brands, as well as to generate publicity for the products and the grocery stores.

In other words, the goal is to gain consumer awareness for the brands, products and stores primarily by using press releases and other tools of public relations which result in placement of articles in consumer newspaper and magazine food sections and other similar print and electronic media venues.

The timing of the Cinco De Mayo press release is a right down the middle of home plate "strike one" in that regard. Timing is everything in PR and media placement. It's also part of building those media relationships with the consumer press.

Editors and reporters hate nothing more for example than to receive a news release just a couple days before a particular event--like Cinco De Mayo. They hate even more, getting a call from a PR person about that late press release, asking if the reporter or editor "just might" be planning on running something from the release in their publication.

In the case of consumer-oriented media coverage for Cinco De Mayo 2008, it looks like Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market will have to wait until next year. Or should we say...Manana Amigos!

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