15 Dec P(L)ush Education
What started as a Biedronka campaign rapidly turned into a trigger for promoting education and citizenship values amongst children. Millions of toys later, this is its story.
A SWEET BEGINNING
There is always something magical about soft toys that allows for the grumpiest adult to become a child again. It only takes a blink of an eye, about the same amount of time a Biedronka’s soft toy campaign takes to sell out. In 2015, the market leader in food retail in Poland has set out on a mission to create a campaign based on the power of education through soft toys. The idea was to create the cutest trigger for raising awareness amongst children (and their parents) on relevant sustainability topics such as healthy eating, environment, climate change or education and literacy. And now it is considered one of the most impactful marketing initiatives ever in Poland, becoming “the subject of a serious academic analysis”, as Jacek Wasilewski, a media expert from Warsaw University explained on an interview to the Polish edition of “Newsweek” Magazine, on September 2020.
GOODIES CAUSE A STIR
It all started with the Goodies in 2015. In an effort to encourage children to eat healthier meals, Biedronka offered its customers fruit and veg shaped soft toys in exchange for stickers earned during shopping. Extra stickers were also given to the parents who purchased extra fruits and vegetables, becoming one step closer to a healthy meal and a cute soft toy. Fruit and veg mascots were such a hit that every Polish parent knew Rachel the Radish, Beverly the Blueberry or Peter the Pea. Over 13 million toys were handed out to customers during the two-stage campaign, flying out from store shelves like hot cakes. The soft toys were largely discussed in media and ended up eventually copied by other retailers.
ADVENTURES OF THE SWEETIES
The Goodies were followed by the Sweeties – 14.2 million of them filling Biedronka’s shelves, while children were gripped by their adventures described in the accompanying 2.9 million copies of the book published by Biedronka. The collection of toys representing forest life appeared in Biedronka stores in 2018 and soon beat its predecessors in popularity. This time, Biedronka focused on reading. All primary schools in Poland received free book sets entitled “What’s Going on in the Wood or Jolly Adventures of the Sweeties’ Gang” along with information packs and motivational materials for teachers, designed to encourage children to read.
Teachers were given access to online lesson plans created by early education experts and Biedronka invited year 1-2 primary school pupils to celebrate the National Read Aloud Day and to share accounts of their events with the store. Over 210,000 children from more than 14,800 schools participated in the “School Adventures of the Sweeties’ Gang” competition in 2018 and 2019. In 2019, the Sweeties took on the mission to educate children about the need to protect the environment and another competition was held, where children were asked to create a Magical Sweeties’ Tree using recyclable materials or to plant a tree.
THE COOL GANG TAKES CARE OF A ONE THOUSAND-YEAR-OLD OAK
In 2020 (or at least before the pandemic) climate change was at the top of the agenda across the world, so it’s no wonder that the Cool Gang promoted pro-environmental actions among children. Celline the Cloud, Sybil the Sun, Debbie the Rain Drop, Ted the Tree, Sally the Seal, Rosanne the Rowan, Doug the Dog, Ollie the Oak, Diane the Dragonfly, and not-so-environmentally friendly Steve the Smog helped Biedronka teach the younger generation that nature is precious and that it needs to be looked after. And the Cool Gang?
They demonstrated how Biedronka’s customers can, in simple ways, support the Polish economy – extra stickers were awarded to customers who bought products creating value for the Polish economy, for example new jobs. The result? By the end of November over 7.1 million toys and over 1.1 million books about adventures of the Cool Gang were present in Polish homes all over the country. In October 2020, following the collaboration between Biedronka and the Association for Clean Poland, the Cool Gang took care of Oak Bolko, the oldest pedunculate oak in Poland, which is roughly 1,000 years old. Biedronka financed the needed gardening work and maintenance operations.
FROM POLAND TO THE JERÓNIMO MARTINS’ WORLD
Promoting children’s literature habits has been one of the Group’s priorities within the scope of democratizing the access to knowledge and of promoting a critical spirit and creativity among younger generations. Biedronka’s soft toy campaigns have crossed borders, becoming a unique case of a global sustainability communication campaign for all food retail Companies of the Jerónimo Martins Group. In 2019, the Polish “Sweeties” have become the Portuguese “Forest Gang”. To promote the importance of reading habits and develop children’s cognitive and social skills, stamps gave the right to soft toys or to copies of the exclusive book launched by Pingo Doce in partnership with the Portuguese National Reading Plan.
Each book meant 0.50 euros for Portuguese projects aimed at consolidating reading practices in Pre-School and Primary School Education, reaching over 250 thousand children. Over 1.5 million soft toys were also offered. In Colombia, Ara also linked the 2019 “Amigos del Bosque” (Forest Gang) campaign to the promotion of reading habits among Colombian children, having offered over 15,500 books to deprived children from rural areas and schools with limited financial resources. For the end of the year and on the occasion of the Christmas season, the Ara Madrina programme allowed the donation of a Christmas present – a book and a soft toy from the Forest Gang – to hospitalised children in early heathcare units.