The Breakfast Club: Learnings from AdClub’s CMO Breakfast Series with Staples


By Brigid Sweeney, Senior Associate, Global Marketing & Business Development

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Yesterday, a few colleagues and I attended the Ad Club’s CMO Breakfast Series, a thought leadership platform for CMO’s of top global brands to share insights and branding expertise. During this event, Staples’ Executive Vice President of Global Marketing for Staples, Frank Bifulco provided the audience with an in-depth overview on the history of the Staples’ marketing, its reinvention over the years and where Staples’ sees itself in the future.

From “Yeah We’ve Got That” to “That Was Easy” to “Make More Happen” 

Staples’ was founded in 1985 after founder Tom Stemberg had broken his typewriter ribbon during the Fourth of July weekend. With no local suppliers or stationary stores open that weekend, it was then that Stemberg realized that the world needed a supermarket for office products. Ten months later, the first Staples store opened in Brighton, Massachusetts.

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During Staples’ earlier days, the company’s key messaging was around the tagline, “Yeah, We’ve Got That.” Consumers could feel confident that whatever office supplies they needed, they could find it at Staples.

According to Frank, the iconic 1996 “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” back-to-school commercial was really a key differentiator for the brand and their marketing efforts. In fact, I vividly remember that commercial and my own parents dancing and singing every September to their own version of that tune while my siblings and I got ready to head back to school. I believe this musical spectacle was followed with tears and tantrums from the children, but it made a lasting impact on our family as a consumer and we annually went to Staples for our school supplies needs.

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In the early 2000s, Staples moved away from “Yeah We Got That” to “That Was Easy” – messaging that we all know and recognize today. These three simple words set Staples apart from the competition and signified that the company was focused on providing consumers with the easiest shopping experience possible.

Over the years, Staples taglines and messaging have been transformed and dictated by changing technology and consumer needs. From file cabinets to flash drives, paper and pens to keyboards and mouse’s, office supplies are in a secular decline and retail competition is increasing. From this learning, Staples’ messaging is now incredibly focused on expanding their offering beyond office supplies.

Staples understands that their consumers lead incredibly busy lifestyles and that they are always trying to do more. From this learning, Staples launched the ‘Make More Happen’ tagline in early 2014. The campaign focused on how Staples’ expanded product assortment helps businesses succeed.

With this new campaign, Staples has expanded their product assortment to appeal to businesses across a wide range of industries, from medical and restaurants to professional services and retail. Not only this, but the company is also focused on offering rewards and deals, their mobile app, price match guarantee and enhancing their online shopping experience (Fun Fact: Did you know Staples is the 3rd largest e-retailer behind Amazon and Apple?).

So far, the “Make More Happen” campaign has been a huge success and the goal is to sustain this momentum. Although easy is still a big part of who the brand is, Staples is dedicated to the notion that customers need more than just an easy experience and the usual office supplies to make their dreams a reality.

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