Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

A big chain's likable face

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TORONTO -- Dave Nichol, the folksy pitchman for the popular President's Choice brand, didn't just change the face of grocery marketing in Canada, he became it.

Nichol appeared in TV ads and newsletters for the Loblaw's President's Choice and No Name brands in the '80s and '90s and was seen as an innovator who built the PC brand into one of the most recognized brands for the Loblaw grocery chain, and one of the country's top labels.

The native of Chatham, Ont., died Sunday at the age of 73.

Many of the Nichol's products are still on shelves, including the Decadent Chocolate Chip Cookie.

"He really started the idea in marketing of 'We're not talking at you, we're talking with you,' and the idea of starting a dialogue with consumers," said David Soberman, a marketing professor at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management.

Nichol's success was tied to two key elements, he said.

"He actually had a very sort of friendly and honest personality on television. He was just sort of a likable person... that's something that's sometimes hard to find in marketing."

"Also, he delivered. He was very sensitive to the consumers that would buy the products and wouldn't do marketing that didn't lead to the President's Choice promise of 'We're going to offer you quality.' "

Before Nichol, private-label brands at grocery stores were seen as cheaper, lower-quality alternative to behemoth brands, such as Heinz and Kraft. Not only was he able to change that attitude by creating an equivalent or better product, said Soberman, but he provided exclusivity by having them only available at Loblaw stores.

Nichol is also credited with introducing unique and, at the time, exotic food products to everyday shoppers. One of his most famous was a line of cooking sauces that came from Asia and Africa.

In addition to appearing on television, he was also in charge of the Insider's Report magazine, a flyer that highlighted specific brands Nichol had hand-picked and personally tested.

Loblaw described Nichol as "one of its most memorable colleagues," as well as a masterful marketer and was recognized both inside and outside Loblaw for his creativity and skill.

Nichol joined Loblaw in 1972 and held various roles with the company, including president of Loblaw Supermarkets and head of the product-development team.

"Dave's passion for food and his vision helped to transform the way Canadians eat, and he has left a tremendous legacy that endures in the company today," Galen G. Weston, executive chairman of Loblaw Companies Ltd., said in a statement.

Ken Hardy, a marketing professor emeritus at Western University's Richard Ivey Business School, said consumers bought President's Choice products largely because of Nichol.

"He was an articulate spokesperson who made it interesting," he said. "He was a self-promoter at the same time. He gave (products) a face, in this case, the President's face, and that was reassuring."

 

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 27, 2013 B6

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