How We Launched A Store On Christmas Eve — In August

bfresh santa carriage.jpg

We helped launch bfresh, a brand new grocery store, with a street campaign to celebrate Allston Christmas, a cult local tradition that owes its name to the furniture left on the streets by students moving out on August 31.  Our group developed the strategy for the campaign. 

We needed to reach as many people as possible, but within a very specific and narrow geographic boundary.

To help plan and position the activities, we calculated population density on different streets within the campaign radius using high-resolution stitches of satellite pictures of the area.

Large, stationary signage assets were positioned to be visible from the neighborhood’s few high-rise buildings, and from the key traffic junctures. Mobile assets traveled around the neighborhood on a path that was optimized for maximum efficiency and accounted for the commuter traffic patterns and the times when people would’ve been most likely to be outside. 


Encouraged by the results of the Philadelphia “lab”,  Fresh Formats, a subsidiary of grocery retailer Ahold, announced that their next store called bfresh would open in Boston’s Allston neighborhood in the second half of 2015.  There, it would be surrounded by four national grocery chains, each within about a half-mile away: a Trader Joe’s,  a Whole Foods, a Stop & Shop, and a Star Market.

The new bfresh store was scheduled to open in the first week of September.  In Boston, September 1 is the day when over 80% of the city’s apartment leases end and begin, thanks to the sizable student population.

Because of its sizeable student population, Allston turns over a quarter of its residents each year.   A quarter of yesterday’s potential customers would disappear literally overnight to be replaced by people who are already well aware of the competing brands. Capturing residents new to Allston was a strategic opportunity bfresh could not afford to miss.

We needed people to know that there’s a new grocery store in their neighborhood, that it’s nearby, and that it’s called bfresh.



It turns out two things happen when thousands of students move in and out of their apartments all at once as they do in Allston on September 1 every year:  the roads are jammed with U-Haul trucks,  and the sidewalks are packed with abandoned furniture.   Because Allston’s grandiose move-in day has been happening with regularity for many years, and because the remaining residents get to scavenge the leftover furniture, September 1 has become popularly known as Allston Christmas. 

Allston Christmas is invariably covered by local media. The previous year, published a heat map of the best furniture-picking spots.  The year before, it wrote about an Allston Christmas song by a Boston University alum.  And the year before that, it published an Allston Christmas poem of its own.     

The Official Allston Christmas Heatmap  of discarded "gifts" by Bryon P. Wells.

The Official Allston Christmas Heatmap of discarded "gifts" by Bryon P. Wells.

Not everyone is in the mood to celebrate, however. Property owners are fined for violations, traffic jams make the commute impossible, thousands of parking tickets are issued, and “the whole ‘Allston Christmas’ thing is all fun and games until someone gets bedbugs and has to throw away all of their stuff.”   Overall, residents we polled rated their feelings toward Allston Christmas at a lukewarm average of 5.69 on a 1 [hate it] – 10 [love it] scale.

“Well, bfresh too is moving into Allston,” we thought.  “And the local tradition of Allston Christmas could use a fresh perspective.”

In Allston Christmas, we knew we had an idea that would be likely to get picked up by media and be on everyone’s mind and impossible to miss while having a uniquely local flavor. It would work perfectly with our timing. We were in business.



Awareness of the bfresh brand grew from 17% prior to the campaign to 65% following the campaign, surpassing the KPI target range of 40-45%. Over the same period, awareness of the bfresh store grew from 8% to 61%, surpassing both the target range of 30-35% and the store awareness levels of Whole Foods and Stop & Shop.  (Source: Agency research, Study 2, 9/9 to 9/12. In-person interviews, street sampling of local residents, three locations, n=184.)

While we had no specific benchmarks for levels of media and social uptake – “likes” and column inches wouldn’t have mattered if the effort hadn’t reached the target – the launch campaign around Allston Christmas was designed to draw attention in those channels. 

And it did. 

The campaign was widely shared by Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter users, with one particular video recorded and posted on Facebook by a local resident unaffiliated with the campaign reaching 140,000 views and over 1,500 shares on August 31.   On Twitter, @bfreshmarket became a local trending topic, with popularity comparable to #deflategate (an infamous football tampering scandal).   The total number of all social media impressions for the campaign and the brand between August 30 and September 2 was measured at 1 million. (Source: Twitter Analytics and Netbase, September 2015.) 

With Domenic Dion, Blair Ballard, Remy Lupica, Sean Condrick, Miles Marden, and Andres Hernandez