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PAK’nSAVE: Unboxing a New Kind of Kiwi Partnership

January 2024

This is a self-funded case study using our ad testing solution.

Brand collaborations are becoming an increasingly popular marketing tactic. And while big name partnerships might be the first ones to come to mind (think: Nike and Apple, Go Pro and Red Bull, Jack Daniel’s and Coca-Cola), collaborations can come in a wide variety of forms. Enter New Zealand discount supermarket chain, PAK’nSAVE, who recently took the very left-of-center approach of ‘hijacking’ other brands’ ads.

With the continued message that PAK’nSAVE will go to any lengths to save people money, the marketing team (together with agency partners, FCB Aotearoa and PHD) came up with the “Borrow the Brands” idea. To sum it up:

  1. An ad from another yellow-themed brand (e.g. Mercury Energy, JB Hi-Fi, Nature’s Fresh) would air, ending on its customary yellow backdrop.
  2. As it concludes, the ad seamlessly transitions to PAK’nSAVE’s long-term mascot — Stickman — who enters the frame while lowering a “Super Deals” sign over the prior branding.
  3. Stickman would then explain that he scored a great deal on the yellow background so that he could pass on even more savings to PAK’nSAVE customers.

Taking a step back, while the campaign might feel fresh and original to us as marketers, would it make sense to the general public? Would they find it funny? Would it seed intended ideas in people’s minds? In short, the answer to all these questions was a resounding yes.

When reviewing the ad’s strengths, it would be remiss of us to not start with Stickman and the brand’s admirable consistency over the last decade or so. While the creative approach was certainly fraught with danger (for obvious reasons), Stickman’s widespread fame all-but-guaranteed the co-branded spot would be successfully attributed to PAK’nSAVE. Together with the customary yellow backdrop and reinforcement of single-minded messaging around value for money (executed in the brand’s typically tongue-in-cheek way), the majority were left in no doubt as to who was behind the campaign.

The idea of ‘hijacking’ a familiar ad and borrowing their color cues caught people off-guard, consequently earning the audience’s attention. While some of this engagement was from a place of annoyance (with Stickman’s voice throughout his reign as PAK’nSAVE’s frontman rubbing some people up the wrong way), the cleverness of the idea worked to positive effect overall.

However, there was naturally some confusion around the idea of PAK’nSAVE attaching itself to the coattails of other brands. As mentioned, this wasn’t because of misattribution, rather a handful being left puzzled by the partnership and whether they were missing something (i.e. did the hook-up between the two go beyond their colors being yellow?). This detracted from how clearly people took out the key message that PAK’nSAVE offers great value for money.

This aside, the campaign was a resounding success for PAK’nSAVE. Thinking outside the box is one thing, but doing so in a way that doesn’t sacrifice established branding properties is another. While a win for PAK’nSAVE, we have to ask — on balance — is the strategy in the partner brands’ best interests? Beyond potential free airtime, does playing second fiddle to PAK’nSAVE reflect positively on them? We can’t help but think of Tide’s 2018 Super Bowl spot and every ad being a Tide ad. Is the risk that every Kiwi brand using yellow as its primary color will soon become a PAK’nSAVE ad? Only time will tell…

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