Iceland ditches celebs and turns to ‘mummy vloggers’ in marketing U-turn

Iceland has kicked its habit of using celebrities to front ad campaigns - for now at least - and is instead harnessing ‘real mums’ to talk up its brand through a deal with vlogger network Channel Mum.

The frozen food retailer has earned a reputation over the years for its tie-ups with pop-singers including Michael Buble, Kerry Katona, Peter Andre and X-Factor singer Stacey Solomon. Although it has proven to be a dangerous game.

The reported £250,000 deal with Katona ended sourly when pictures emerged of her allegedly snorting cocaine. Andre was then hired to repair some of the brand damage but that deal wasn’t renewed. Perhaps in light of the singer’s comments on popular ITV 2 show Celebrity Juice that it was embarrassing to feature in Iceland’s ads?

It is therefore telling that Nick Canning, joint managing director at Iceland, said the new campaign features real mums who are “refreshingly honest.”

"The way customers are shopping now, they want to hear from a credible source that they can trust and the best [source] is real mums and customers," he told The Drum.

Ditching the celebs, it has instead inked a deal with Channel Mum, a network of vlogging parents, who will post videos every Friday on the Channel Mum website and YouTube channel of meals they cook with its products.

The strategy has been described as “mum-to-mum horizontal marketing” and Iceland hopes it will “challenge perceptions” around frozen food – something it has been trying to do for the past year in its marketing activity.

"We have to be brave and honest now – we’ll give [the vlogging mums] the products and [they] can tell us if they like them. It’s a risk because they might not like it and we’ll have to react to that, but that grittiness is what we’re getting with Channel Mum," he added.

Offline, this will be backed with a TV campaign featuring three real-life families who are surprised with the news that they will be shopping from Iceland for two days before being followed as they cook with the products. This is all in aid of capturing the "penny-drop" moment as they realise what Iceland can offer.

Early results from the campaign’s testing phase are promising, with approval ratings for the store among mums jumping from 10 per cent to 80 per cent after viewing a video (the first of which shows a mum cooking a salmon meal for her family), Iceland has claimed.

It also builds on the retailer's year-long #PowerofFrozen campaign which Canning revealed has boosted brand perception and consideration of the retailer's brand from "cheap" to "value frozen food" that is good quality, less wasteful, plus healthy.

However, similar to mid-market supermarket brands, Iceland is also not immune to the Aldi and Lidl effect, both of which continue to woo cost-conscious consumers and eat into its share of the market.

According to the latest Kantar Worldpanel grocery figures (covering the 12 weeks to 24 April), Lidl was the fastest growing, with sales up by 15.4 per cent as shopper numbers increased by 648,000. Meanwhile Aldi saw sales rise by 12.5 per cent, thanks to an additional 732,000 shoppers coming through its doors.

Iceland, meanwhile, suffered a 2.2 per cent fall in sales year-on-year.

Canning played down their impact, admitting that they have changed what "value" means to the customer - which is why the effect on the likes of Asda is so noticeable - but that Iceland controls a larger share of the frozen food market and as a "specialist retailer" is better able to distinguish itself. Additionally, he claimed Iceland offers a better in-store experience and has a strong online offering.

It remains to be seen how Amazon's entry into the grocery sector will shake up the retail market. Canning commented: "It's great for the customer and is a very different shopping experience. I'm interested to see what they bring to the party."

The new campaign - managed by the7stars - will run throughout 2016.

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