After being closed for a year for renovation, the Safeway located at Wisconsin Ave. and 34th St. NW is re-opening its doors to local Georgetown and DC residents on May 6.
Thank God. I’ve been living in DC for nearly 3 years, and Georgetown’s Safeway has been my local grocery store – with competitive prices, a convenient location, and a large parking lot, it was perfect. Its closing has forced me to shop less conveniently elsewhere, namely at Whole Foods and Giant. FairWinds’ headquarters is a stone’s-throw away from the store, and I look forward to having my grocery option back.
The store earned the affectionate nickname “Social Safeway” many years ago, because it has always been and will continue to be a place where locals are bound to run into someone they know. Going grocery shopping is a social outing.
If you have driven past the renovation site, you have noticed the domain name “socialsafeway.com” on the banners demarcating the construction zone. As a domain nerd, a smile immediately crossed my face the first time I saw it. What better way to market the Web site and information hub for the neighborhood landmark than what everyone calls it?!
I was able to connect with Craig Muckle, Safeway’s Manager of Public Affairs and Government Relations, on the phone recently to get the scoop on the domain name and the store’s grand opening. Having had local exposure to the store’s legacy, Muckle was among the brains behind “socialsafeway.com.” Not surprisingly, Craig experienced some push-back from corporate Safeway, which did not appear to understand the benefit of the name. This is because it bucked Safeway’s general naming convention, which would have yielded “georgetownsafeway.com” for this store’s domain. Muckle knew that calling the Web site “socialsafeway.com” would secure the neighborhood’s support and appreciation, after having been “gone” for over a year.
This is a valuable lesson in naming. Would local residents have direct navigated to “socialsafeway.com” without having been told to do so by the sign? Probably not. However, by offering “socialsafeway.com” and providing locals with a memorable, sentimental name, Safeway brilliantly and immediately connected with its shoppers. While domain policies and naming conventions are certainly needed for consistency, which is inherently valuable, there are exceptions where such “grassroots marketing” is smart, and appreciated by local residents.
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