Tesco wants to be known for serving people not running shops off the back of a brand reboot that will pivot on humour and chase pop-culture moments as it steps up efforts to revive waning sales.
Despite a lingering question mark over its continuation, Tesco’s long-running strapline ‘Every Little Helps’ has stayed following a comprehensive review of the retailer’s marketing strategy.
Speaking to The Drum, marketing boss Michelle McEttrick revealed the fruits of a year-long overhaul into how it communicates with customers as it begins to emerge from an 18-month nightmare which pushed the near 100-year old retailer to breaking point.
By no means is it out of the woods – loss of market share to the discounters and the threat of Amazon’s arrival to the grocery scene will ensure that – but McEttrick believes the renewed marketing plan will steer it through whatever may come.
“The foundation of the plan is built on the belief that we need to move Tesco away from running shops and to serving people,” she said.
The brand’s strategy is now a two pronged approach – establishing itself as “uniquely helpful” while also re-affirming a humorous tone of voice. The focus on the former meant keeping ‘Every Little Helps’ attached to the brand was a “no brainer”, said McEttrick.
“It’s an asset any brand marketer would kill for. It’s bound to what Tesco stands for at its best so bringing it into the future is absolutely the right strategy for the brand,” she said.
To achieve the latter, actress Ruth Jones, of Gavin and Stacey fame, and comedian Ben Miller have been enlisted as brand ambassadors.
Marking its return to TV, the first ads from BBH - set to air on Sunday ( 18 October) - see Jones and Miller chatting to check-out staff about the recently launched Brand Guarantee scheme and Tesco’s promise to open a new checkout if more than two people are queuing. In the run up to Christmas, similar festive-themed version will roll out nationwide.
Moving away from price
By McEttrick's own admission, price has been the focus in its marketing for too long. It was unavoidable as the supermarket’s boss Dave Lewis ploughed millions into lowering prices to stay competitive with Aldi and Lidl.
While price “will not be taken out of the equation”, Tesco will no longer spend media money to advertise prices that are the same as everywhere else. Moving forward, the bulk of the heavy lifting to woo price-conscious consumers will be done through its Brand Guarantee scheme, leaving TV ads free to talk about qualities that make the retailer unique.
“Now was the time to relaunch the brand ad make sure we’re bringing warmth and humour back to Tesco. If you look at the DNA and what’s made it successful in the past that’s been what’s important,” she said.
It has also seen the brand put more attention on attaching itself to pop-culture moments in order to capture the attention of shoppers. During the Great British Bake Off it worked with BBH to create online and print ads reflective of the baking challenge that week while for the Rugby World Cup it ran ads immediately after each game showing what the winning team would need for a hangover-curing breakfast.
Underpinning the new Tesco strategy remains the need to rebuild trust with consumers. Brand perceptions are on the rise according to CEO Dave Lewis but McEttrick is more than familiar with the long-term challenges of overcoming reputational damage. The marketer was pivotal in helping Barclays return from the damming Libor rigging scandal. Meanwhile, BBH has worked on both accounts.
“There are reputational challenges for many brands,” she said. “That’s a big reason for doing this now. Tesco didn’t launch a campaign a year ago as it needed to invest in service and ensure that people felt better served. But the thing I lean on most is getting great work out of BBH. You cannot fake an excited agency team in my presence and it’s buzzing with passion in the Tesco brand. It’s a great partnership.”