by Scott Davidson, general manager buying and merchandise, Countdown

"If you’ve popped into a Countdown store recently you will have been greeted by a winking Moana, large letters and a lot of Disney characters. No, you haven’t taken a wrong turn and ended up in a toy shop - what you’re actually seeing is our latest collectable programme, Disney Words, coming to life. We haven’t engaged with a loyalty programme since Star Wars three years ago. That was an incredibly popular programme and a very tough act to follow! We did wonder whether customer sentiment might have waned for loyalty programmes, but the reaction so far from our customers, our team and our supporting suppliers has been incredibly positive.

What our loyalty programmes have proven time and time again is that when you combine education, learning opportunities, and imagination with the excitement of collectability and scarcity, you are able to engage kids, their parents, their extended family and schools. From there, the programmes start to take on a life of their own, well beyond just a supermarket promotion. The educational element of the Disney Words programme has already been warmly welcomed by parents. It’s also really resonating with teachers, particularly teacher aides and parents of children with special needs and sensory disorders as placing the tiles in order and playing with small objects helps to calm children when they are feeling overwhelmed.

The tiles also help to make activities such as spelling more exciting. Our 18,500-strong team are really passionate about contributing to the 180 communities we operate in, so we knew it was important that we found a way for as many Kiwi kids as possible (regardless of where their parents shop!) to experience the excitement of Disney Words.

To do this, we worked with an external organisation to design a special school kit to support the current New Zealand curriculum. With a focus on low decile schools, we gifted 250 of these kits to schools across Aotearoa reaching more than 9,500 Kiwi kids. Feedback from these schools has been overwhelmingly positive with the school communities also supporting the classes by giving extra tiles they had personally collected to enhance the classroom activities.

We were also determined to ensure the tiles were planet friendly. Each of the tiles are wrapped in paper and made out of recyclable tin, which makes them robust and ensures they can be enjoyed by generations for many years to come. We’ll also be giving the in-store Moana characters a new life in the children’s hospitals around the country at the end of the promotion. For suppliers, being involved with these programmes gives them a great opportunity to showcase their products in a new and different way, and potentially to new customers who are willing to forgo their usual brand to collect those extra tiles!"