by Carey Finn (@carey_finn) Michelle van Schalkwyk-Haley, Pick n Pay head of brand, shares insights into moving beyond functional advertising.

Pick n Pay logoQ5: You have spoken about the need to make products “sexy”. How has Pick n Pay done this?
Michelle van Schalkwyk-Haley: I can’t entirely remember the context in which I said this but I believe we can make product marketing “sexy” — in comparison to “here is product and this is the price” — if we really make the effort to understand our customers and their needs. For many customers, their shopping experience and the products they purchase mean more to them than we realise. As a retailer, it’s our responsibility to understand this very well. If we understand the reason behind a customer’s shopping behaviour, rather than the behaviour itself, we have the opportunity to understand our customers much better and talk to them more personally, instead of focusing solely on price and quality.

Q5: Could you walk us through the evolution of Fresh Living over the past few years — both in terms of purpose and content?
MSH: Fresh Living has evolved significantly since March 2016, when the magazine became free to our Smart Shopper customers. This saw the print run jump from just 60 000 copies per month to over 500 000. This meant that not only did our reach expand but also our audience. We knew that we needed to make sure our content remained something that our wider audience could relate to with strong appeal. To bring our everyday products in-store to life through Fresh Living’s pages, we believe we have found a great balance by sharing the best lifestyle inspiration, the latest food and drink news and accessible, everyday family recipes every month.

Q5: How are readers engaging with different content platforms (print vs digital, desktop vs mobile, for example)?
MSH: We are increasingly seeing digital and mobile as one, as the majority of our digital content is viewed from mobile devices. Our [Pick n Pay] website reported a 90% increase in visitors last year, of which over 50% were from a mobile device. Bucking the national trend of declining print readership, more and more customers are engaging with our print content through Fresh Living since it became free to Smart Shoppers. We also recently launched a monthly “Top Picks” supplement in-store — a new and improved version of your typical promotional leaflet. While informing customers of the latest promotions, it is extremely visual and adds value by including tips and ideas. This has been very well-received by customers in-store.

Part of the shift that we have made in generating content has been to tailor the content for the media, rather than using the exact same content across all media types. With digital viewership increasingly happening on mobile, we continue to see a decline in online attention spans. Customers are busy and from these platforms they want content that is short and visual, so we have delivered on that for them.

Q5: What content can we expect from PnP going into 2020 — anything fresh?
MSH: Always something fresh! We really listen to our customers and work hard on innovation so that we can engage with them according to their specific needs.

Q5: Based on your experience with PnP, how would you say brands can move beyond functional advertising?
MSH: It isn’t easy but it is possible. Often, when the economy tightens, marketing budgets are the first to be cut. In theory, this should lead to more creative solutions to reach and connect with consumers. But, in reality, many marketers opt for instant gratification for immediate sales, instead of marketing products to build a brand longer-term in the minds of consumers, and to make a brand future-fit.

But there is an element of balance that is required to do functional advertising successfully. If you are not driving sales now, you won’t be around in 10 years to reap the benefit of the long-term brand-building strategy.

What we do know, though, is that consumers are ready. Many brands that have moved beyond functional advertising are the brands that are remembered and loved by consumers. Consumers need to be connected at a human level. There is a massive opportunity for marketers to create advertising that is more enticing and really connects with consumers.

  • Connect with Van Schalkwyk-Haley on LinkedIn.


Carey FinnCarey Finn (@carey_finn) is a writer and editor with a decade and a half of industry experience, having covered everything from ethical sushi in Japan to the technicalities of roofing, agriculture, medical stuff and more. She’s also taught English and journalism, and dabbled in various other communications ventures along the way, including risk reporting. As a contributing writer to, her new regular column “Q5” aims to hone in on strategic insights, analysis and data through punchy interviews with experts in media, marketing and design.

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