Marketing Strategy

Inside The Ace Hardware Marketing Strategy

At Ace Hardware, marketing strategy is driven by leveraging the attributes of community and small business. Consistently reinforcing the position of helpfulness has attracted more women, more younger buyers and more new home owners.

I recently asked Ace Hardware CMO Kim Lefko to fill us in.

Paul Talbot: When you step back and look at how your marketing has evolved over the past few years, what stands out?

Kim Lefko: Last year accentuated Ace’s brand purpose—we exist to help others.  

Our integrated marketing and promotional campaigns are focused on how Ace is the preferred destination for paint, grills, power equipment and home preservation. Our focus is simple; the high-quality brands in each of these categories that consumers want and only Ace carries, and trusted expert advice our neighbors expect. 

As a reference, this assortment of high-quality brands Ace carries nationally include Benjamin Moore, Magnolia, Weber, Traeger, Big Green Egg, Ego, Stihl, Toro and Milwaukee.

Last year we attracted younger shoppers, more new home buyers, and more women than ever before. Ace stores offer quality brands, expert advice and the ease of shopping right in the neighborhood. This distinction helped drive a new audience to Ace. We also worked at engaging and partnering with younger DIYers.

For example, during our recent paint campaign, we declared April 3 as ‘Someday.’  Based on survey findings, we knew people often put off painting for one reason or another. To help overcome paint procrastination we provided loads of offers to help our customers finally tackle that room they have wanted to paint ‘someday.’

To spread the word, we partnered with millennial DIYers on Instagram and TikTok to support their own creative paint project.  During the 6-week campaign window, we experienced a record number of customers for our paint category.

Talbot: Your organization is a retailer owned cooperative. How does this structure influence the development and execution of your marketing strategy?

Lefko: With over 4,500 stores in the U.S., 75% of the U.S. population is within 15 minutes of their local Ace store, and no two stores are alike. These locally owned stores are part of the community and you can feel that upon entering, each offer a unique assortment of products and their own special shopping experience.

The majority of Ace stores are local small businesses, often family-owned, with the autonomy to tailor their store offerings to their communities.  While we have a national advertising campaign strategy that drives overall awareness and affinity with Ace, we concentrate on always providing platforms and tools we enact for local customized marketing around every store to attract their local customer.

Talbot: Ace Hardware was in business for 47 years before the arrival of Home Depot. After 43 years of competing against Home Depot, to effectively communicate what you see as advantages, what core messages do you need your marketing to express?

Lefko: We differentiate ourselves by our local ownership, trusted advice, and award-winning customer service. We were honored again to receive the ‘Highest Customer Satisfaction Among Home Improvement and Retail Stores’ top ranking in the J.D. Power annual home improvement survey. 

Talbot: When you look at how technology and media platforms can support your marketing objectives, what opportunities strike you as the most exciting?

Lefko: The technology that excites us the most are the tactics that help to amplify and extend our humanity, our high-touch service experience delivered through local store execution. 

 E-commerce is a growing channel for us and during the pandemic, we saw digital revenues up 272%. Our Ace app and e-commerce site is the ‘front porch’ and extension of our local stores, providing the ease of online ordering. 

Our deliveries are handled by the associates in the local Ace.  It’s the synergy between each of these components that makes our service excellent and what consumers want; digital, local store proximity and the personal, human-connection of the local Ace associate. We are passionate about existing to serve and help our communities.