THE MESSAGE: A ‘laser-like focus’ on consumers

Walgreens is ready for its closeup.


After a two-year, top-to-bottom makeover — and a relentless focus on its core customers and its broad mission as a health, wellness and convenient shopping destination — the company that wants to “own well” has honed its message to consumers: Walgreens is ready to be the nation’s top wellness destination.


“Our No. 1 goal as a marketing team is to drive demand and to make Walgreens a routine destination of choice,” VP and chief marketing officer Kim Feil told Drug Store News not long after she joined the company as its first chief marketing officer. That required “understanding our customers better,” she added, which “allows us to target them better.”


Under the rubric of its Customer Centric Retailing initiative, the company has drawn a bead on its customers via focus groups, internal and external sales and replenishment data, and other tools. Its goal, president and CEO Greg Wasson said, is to base its marketing and merchandising activities on a “laser-like focus” on its customers.


Early on in Walgreens’ companywide renewal effort, Feil helped drive a new, data-driven customer segmentation process aimed at aligning marketing and merchandising more closely with the needs of distinct customer groups. Along with her marketing team, VP merchandising Bryan Pugh, other Walgreens decision-makers and outside advertising consultants, Feil has worked to distill Walgreens’ image and its multichannel health and convenience offerings to a clearly defined message that resonates with the nearly 6 million Americans who walk through its doors every day.


Within its new image ads, Walgreens presents itself as America’s “first choice for health and daily living,” offering “innovative health services, exciting products, sound advice and thoughtful daily conveniences” that are “surprisingly easy to access across channels.” 


Walgreens now bills itself as the company that “sells well,” with “a trusted pharmacist” at the core of its retail offering, and a deep understanding of what its customers need “to manage well, get well, stay well and live well.”


In the stores, it means leveraging the company’s already strong reputation among consumers for convenience — and bringing all its resources to bear, including the health services at the pharmacy and all its front-end departments — to “reinvent the customer experience.”

“This is ‘Consumer Research 101,’ ... to find out more what consumers would value that convenience for,” Wasson said.


In all its marketing efforts, Walgreens will pursue a comprehensive message that integrates the entire package of goods and services in its stores. “We’re looking at the total basket, the total purchase, the total customer,” Wasson said. “You’ve got to have that front-store offering, and the front-store offering has to have the pharmacy at the back of the store as well.”


One major focus of the new marketing drive is the company’s first loyalty card pilot program. For that, Walgreens is drawing heavily on the expertise of Duane Reade, the New York-based chain it acquired last year.


“With loyalty, we’re going to make sure we ‘crawl, walk, run’ on that,” Wasson told reporters in January. “The good thing is that in addition to what Kim Feil is doing, and the pilots we have in place — combined with the talent, the expertise and the data we have — we think we have the best of both companies” to move the loyalty program forward.


Feil also is deeply involved with the effort to boost Walgreens’ private-label opportunities. “We brought in a talented team of Bryan Pugh and Kim Feil to begin to look at our entire private-brand strategy a year and a half ago, and we are indeed looking at the entire strategy — everything from our OTC offering to our beauty offerings to our fresh-food offerings,” Wasson explained.


According to Feil, one priority was integrating the store-brand message and strategy with the entire Walgreens image. The company had more than 40 private brands in its stores, “but we weren’t treating them as a whole ... or really organizing them around department categories, consumer needs, or around price tiers that would be relevant to them,” she said. “We’re still working through that strategy.”