The Challenge

Although Staples was the inventor of the office superstore category, it was rapidly becoming undifferentiated from competitors and even falling behind as customer complaints outpaced kudos eight to one. Staples feared it was not going to meet its aggressive growth goals if it did not explore new business and brand opportunities. The launch of a new brand positioning by Office Depot, a key competitor, and increasing competition from retailers like Walmart and Best Buy, which were expanding their assortment, had heightened its sense of urgency.

Our Solution

Quantitative research uncovered that despite having high awareness, there was significant room for Staples to drive penetration in key categories across target segments. Furthermore, no one was providing the truly “hassle-free” experience that customers desired, creating an opportunity for Staples to own this in customers' minds. Prophet used exploratory qualitative research to test and refine repositioning hypotheses, developed a new brand strategy, and helped identify key performance gaps that needed to be addressed in order to effectively deliver on this strategy. We also developed design strategies for new store layouts, clearly marked aisles, standard signage, and product directories.


Since beginning to implement this strategy as reflected in the "That Was Easy" tagline and many operational improvements, Staples has turned its business and brand around. Since 2005, Staples revenue has increased by 51 percent and its stock has increased 16 percent, outperforming the S&P 500 Retail Index by 200 percent. Staples overtook Office Depot as the #1 office supply superstore in the U.S. in 2005 and hasn’t looked back. Its “That was Easy” campaign became a viral phenomenon and its own category - with over 1 million actual buttons sold within the first two years of its launch. Staples’ commitment to customer service has been acknowledged: In the years following the launch of the strategy they received twice as many customer compliments as complaints. And customer care ranked 16th out of 260 companies in the Customer Service Board’s 2010 list.