By Kenneth Hein | Editor

November 15, 2021 | 5 min read

Instacart is touting its grocery delivery and pick-up service as a key ingredient for good old-fashioned home cooking this holiday season. This marks the first campaign for a brand that is looking to fend off a flurry of competitors while luring new customers and advertisers as it gears up to go public.

There’s a lot cooking at Instacart. The popular grocery delivery and pick-up service is launching its first brand campaign in an effort to position itself as the primary place both customers and advertisers alike want to spend their dollars.

This holiday season, the nine-year-old company is looking to fend off the likes of Amazon, DoorDash, FreshDirect, Peapod, Shipt, Uber Eats and Walmart Grocery. To do so, it is dialing up its marketing by touting itself as ‘How homemade is made.’

The spot anchoring the campaign says, “no one can deliver your mom’s homemade short ribs.” It then shows a nightmarish sequence of what would happen if this special recipe was mass produced. “Luckily, no one can deliver your mom’s homemade short ribs. That’s why Instacart delivers the ingredients.” It closes on a mother and son enjoying the bespoke meal.

“We want to invite the world to share love through food ahead of the holidays and the most food- and family-centric time of the year,” says Laura Jones, vice-president of brand and marketing at Instacart. “With this campaign, we’re looking to make more consumers aware of the role Instacart can play in their lives to not only make grocery shopping more convenient, but also enable the meaningful moments that are created by cooking at home.”

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TV will run through January 2 accompanied by social and influencer marketing, as well as programmatic and digital outdoor activations. Dishes shown throughout the campaign will be shoppable via QR codes.

Instacart greases its wheels

Grocery delivery sales exploded during lockdown and have since cooled to a degree. At the same time, the competition has become fierce.

Overall, Instacart made up 45% of grocery delivery sales in the US as of June, per Bloomberg Second Measure. Yet Instacart monthly consumer sales have been down on average 7.5% during the last six months.

The service, which makes its money from commission, delivery fees, subscriptions and in-app advertising, currently has reported revenues of $1.5bn. Instacart is reportedly eager to go public soon and is currently valued at $39bn.

It has been making some bold moves of late. New chief exec Fidji Simo, who started in July, has already made a big splash by acquiring artificial intelligence-enabled shopping cart and checkout startup Caper AI and catering software company FoodStorm. Simo was joined by Carolyn Everson in August. After more than a decade, Everson left her role as Facebook global ads chief to become Instacart’s president. Now her remit, among other tasks, is to lure those advertisers over to Instacart.

Driving ad revenue is key as the company looks to go public. Forrester right now estimates retail media will be a $50bn dollar advertising business globally next year, says Jared Belsky, chief executive at Acadia. “It makes all the sense in the world that Instacart wants to plant its flag now and be known and gets its fair share. The space is already starting to crowd with Home Depot, Lowes, Dollar Tree and Best Buy all jumping into a space already dominated by Amazon, and Target.”

The timing of the holiday campaign makes sense from an advertising perspective because a large majority of consumer packaged goods’ companies are increasing their investment in retail media in their 2022 planning, says Belsky. “Instacart wants to be sure to rise about the noise and get its appropriate share ... Instacart is very smart to want to get its name out now and grab share while it can still be grabbed.”

Travis Johnson, global chief executive of marketplace consultancy Podean, agrees. “They’ve been able to gain significant share quickly against the likes of Amazon, Fresh Direct and other grocery delivery services, however the advertising success seen by Amazon and other marketplaces has also sparked the attention of grocery chains nationally, so Instacart will have to work hard to maintain those relationships and advertising spends.”

The good news for all of the players is online grocery deliveries are due for a spike in sales – regardless of whether or not there is a spike in Covid cases. “It’s going to get colder. It’s going to become flu season,” says Will Margaritis, head of e-commerce at Reprise Commerce. “People unwilling to, or incapable of, going out will definitely find Instacart there to help them.”

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