4 awesome retail content marketing campaigns

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Content marketing is always difficult for retail brands that have to fight for visibility in a crowded space. However, the past couple of years have brought new challenges for brands and consumers alike during the most disruptive period in recent memory.

Consumer interests have shifted throughout each stage of the Covid-19 pandemic, making it even harder for brands to connect with them in meaningful ways. In this article, we look at the best retail content marketing campaigns from the past couple of years to see how some brands have managed to boost their profile during the most challenging of times.

1. Specsavers: It’s Coming Home

Specsavers has a history of tapping into major sporting events for its content marketing strategy – and Euro 2020 was no exception. After a year-long delay due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Euro 2020 finally kicked off in the summer of 2021. Specsavers adopted a reactive content marketing strategy, responding to results and excitement surrounding the competition.

Using social listening tools to track audience sentiment, they noticed the mood of the nation was changing ahead of England’s Last 16 tie against Germany.

Ahead of the match, they came up with two creatives, one of which would be published as soon as the final whistle was blown: one for a win, one for a loss.

“Ahead of the Last 16 match with Germany, social listening showed us that the mood of the nation was shifting, from ’England always lose’ to ’Could it actually come home?’, but it was still very much split… Luckily, we got to use the win option.

The creative reactive team made sure the billboard went out at the exact right moment, just as the nation realized it could be ’coming home’ and the results showed we’d got it right.”Specsavers’ social media agency on scoring big with Euro 2020 campaign; Drum

Thus, Specsavers’ “It’s Coming Home” campaign was live, complete with a branded billboard, which generated 2,400 engagements and 260,000 impressions on Twitter, as well as 61,000 reactions and 4.4m reach on Facebook.

Specsavers' "It's Coming Home' content  marketing campaign billboard

The campaign took off as England fought its way to the Euro Final and, while the national side missed out on the trophy, Specsavers’ “It’s Coming Home” campaign went on its own winning streak. It was named the winner of The Drum Awards for Content 2021 in the retail category and nominated for Retail Content Campaign Of The Year at the 2022 UK Content Awards.

The campaign reached 9.5 million people (a 21% increase) and generated a total of 127,000 engagements (+45%) – from a budget of £11,000 that would normally cost the brand £95,000 and £143,000 through paid channels.

If you want to read the full story on Specsavers’ excellent Euro 2020 reactive content marketing campaign, this summary from The Drum includes everything you need to know.

2. Tesco’s #FoodLoveStories

Tesco first launched its #FoodLoveStories campaign in 2017, showcasing emotive stories around the power of food in relationships. When the UK locked down in March 2020, Tesco adapted its campaign to reflect the concerns of the nation, the isolation felt by so many and the renewed appreciation for human contact – both in-person and digitally.

Tesco’s adapted #FoodLoveStories campaign made such an impact that it was featured on Twitter’s marketing hub by May 2020, as a case study into social and content marketing: How Tesco’s #FoodLoveStories connected during lockdown.

The supermarket giant launched a series of ads showing real people during lockdown, including family members video calling each other to cook and dedicate dishes to each other. The company’s research indicated that 40% of people in the country experienced an increased interest in food and cooking during lockdown and featured this trend heavily in its ads while always emphasising human connections.

Some ads showed youngsters contacting older family members for cooking tips but the real story was the importance of contact with the people we could no longer see.

By showcasing real stories that people across the nation could relate to, Tesco placed itself as the brand that truly understood what people were going through while also appreciating that the realities of lockdown were different for everyone.

The impact of the campaign was enhanced by the use of smartphone footage – a trend that would dominate advertising throughout the first year of the pandemic.

3. eBay’s Small Business Surprises with Jack Whitehall

While Specsavers’ “It’s Coming Home” campaign won the award itself, eBay’s Small Business Surprises with Jack Whitehall campaign received the Highly Commended accolade at the Drum Awards for Content 2021 retail category.

The video ad campaign was developed by SEEN Connects and you can read the agency’s account of the creative process in this summary article.

Ebay looked into what consumers were missing most during lockdown and one topic kept coming to their attention: travel. So, its creative team called in the celebrity pull of Jack Whitehall and his father Micheal, who both star in the popular travel TV series Travels with my Father.

“We needed to create funny and snappy content for paid so, taking editorial cues from Travels with my Father, we worked with Jack to create a scripted sketch, centred around a Zoom call while Michael opened travel related parcels sourced from eBay’s SMBs.”eBay’s Small Business Surprises with Jack Whitehall, Seen Connects

The campaign generated 28 million impressions across social platforms, reached 23% of the UK population and achieved an impressive 12% engagement rate.

4. Life on a Plate podcast by Waitrose & Partners

Podcasts are one of the biggest trends in content marketing, showing sustained growth over the past five years with almost 20 million people in the UK expected to be regular listeners by the end of 2024.

While there’s plenty of potential in podcast marketing (and advertising), it’s not always easy for corporate brands to jump in with conversational content in a way that’s authentic and genuinely engaging.

Waitrose & Partners has bucked this trend with its Life on a Plate podcast, featuring acclaimed food and cookbook writer Yasmin Khan and Waitrose food and drink editor Alison Oakervee who delve into the foodie secrets of celebrity guests and star chefs on each episode.

Cover of Waitrose's Life on a Plate podcast

The series was named the Bronze Winner of Best Branded Podcast at the 2021 International Content Marketing Awards – the highest award for a retail brand in this category – proving that brand names can build authentic connections through podcast marketing.

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic will be felt for decades to come and consumers face a range of other concerns – including economic stress, environmental crises and many more – which makes it increasingly difficult for brands to strike the right tone.

Consumers are quick to call brands out that hit the wrong tone during the early stages of the pandemic, as well as companies that greenwash environmental issues or make false claims about social issues. Brands have to be authentic, understand consumer concerns and deliver messages that truly speak to them.

All of the brands featured in this article show the power of responding to changing consumer concerns – whether they’re related to a global health crisis, a football tournament or some culinary escapism – and delivering messages that inspire, even during the most challenging of times.

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Michelle Hill profile picture
Michelle Hill

Michelle joined Vertical Leap's Portsmouth office in 2011 as Marketing Manager, having spent the previous 15 years of her marketing career in the recruitment, leisure and printing industries. Her passions include dogs, yoga, walking, the beach, mountains and nice food.

More articles by Michelle
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