« Back to Marketing

Grocery Store Promotional Campaign

Calgary Public Library
Go to Website

Problem Statement

It's relatively easy to market something completely new. It’s much harder to change people’s perceptions about something that they think they already know and understand. In promoting public libraries, the challenge is to overcome deeply ingrained – but incorrect – attitudes, beliefs, and opinions about libraries. These preconceived ideas often cause people to tune out library messages, since they think they have nothing new to learn.


To break through advertising clutter, and to address the issue outlined in the Problem Statement, the Calgary Public Library developed a campaign to deliver messages in unexpected and unconventional ways and locations, using surprise as a key guerilla marketing element. The first leg of the campaign involved promotional messages in grocery stores.

A partnership was developed with a major food chain whose brand attributes and customer base closely mirrored those the Library sought to target. Signs were created and placed throughout the meat and produce aisles of stores throughout the city, with the goal of beginning to change the staid perceptions of libraries through a surprise encounter with a Calgary Public Library message. The Library’s Everything You’re Into slogan was used.

The campaign linked together the Library, the product on offer (such as bananas, ham, carrots, chicken, etc.), and the range of interests the Library could help shoppers with (such as health, travel, cooking, etc.). The messages were deliberately a bit quirky, which encouraged people to talk about them even if they didn’t immediately “get” the references. Samples can be seen through the link below


Over 60 percent of Calgary’s 1 million citizens were exposed to the campaign over its month-long run. The promotion generated a significant number of positive comments from customers and non-users alike, such as, “It made me think, and then I realized that, yes, the library could really help me out!”

An unexpected result was the amount of media attention the campaign garnered, even though no coverage was sought. Newspapers, radio stations, and news websites covered the in-store promotions, always with very positive comments about how much the library has changed for the better. One online commentator originally responded negatively, but later wrote “(The campaign) made me go to a branch, and I couldn’t believe it. There’s great stuff to borrow, and it’s not oppressive like I remember from childhood. I’m a convert.”

The campaign has recently been nominated for the highest award offered by Calgary’s advertising and marketing community, the Anvil Award. Virtually every nominee in the award’s history has come from a professional advertising agency or marketing firm, making the Library’s nomination for in-house work a particular honor. The award winner will be announced in July.

The Calgary Public Library is currently planning a new wave of guerilla messaging for implementation in new venues and with new techniques later this spring.