Purpose: This study focuses on the marketing strategies of the two most successful discount department store chains in Australia between 1969 and the late 1980s when consumer acceptance of both brand and format were being determined. It examines how they approached marketing a new-format national retail chain to the Big Middle of the market and the ways in which brands were differentiated. Design/methodology/approach: Archival sources and oral histories provide evidence about the marketing strategies of each firm. These are integrated with press coverage, advertising and promotional activity to analyze marketing programs. Consumer research from the time offers insights into the effectiveness of campaigns. Findings: The Coles and Myer retailing firms pursued similar marketing strategies to encourage adoption of their Kmart and Target discount department store chains, educating consumers about the links between their operational efficiencies and lower prices. Both firms not only formulated national standardized marketing strategies but also differentiated their positioning to maximize their appeal to consumers. Originality/value: This article expands understandings of the ways in which new national retail chains are developed and marketed. It explores the intersection between public relations material and media coverage and the ways in which existing brands can be leveraged to legitimize new formats and encourage adoption. More broadly, it contributes to a literature on the “Big Middle”, a space occupied by dominant, volume-oriented retailers. In doing so, it demonstrates that foreign adopters can draw on Big Middle retail formats to quickly gain access to large population segments in their home markets.