Tesco believes ‘experience, discovery and expertise’ will strengthen its Finest range, as it eschews traditional sampling for a pop-up

Tesco hopes to capture the flag of premium supermarket ranges by adding an element of immersive experience to its Finest brand.

To realise this tactic, the grocer has opened a pop-up wine bar in London’s Soho. The activation is one that consumers may not necessarily expect from Tesco: it features a minimalist, subtly branded interior, black chalkboards, trendy metal furniture and a bar stocked with 48 Finest wines.

The pop-up is open until 13 August. It’s the first time Tesco has embarked on such a long term (and ultimately expensive) sampling exercise, explained Nick Jackman, who heads up the Finest brand.

“For us, it’s up there as something that’s fresh, new and exciting,” he said. “We’re really keen to see how it goes over the two weeks, and if the level positivity that we’ve already got continues, then there’s no reason why we couldn’t continue to do this."

The experience is miles away from serving up plastic shot glasses of plonk in an out-of-town superstore. This is sampling to the extreme, inviting guests to stay for “one or two hours” to try new flights of wine that may normally be well out of their comfort range.

“What we know from our research is that customers generally have four or five wines within their personal repertoire that they like to stick to,” explained Jackman. “So what we're trying to do here is give customers the opportunity to come out of the supermarket aisle and really immerse themselves in the product, so they get to experience it, taste it and discover it, and therefore find something new.”

But it’s not just about getting consumers to seek out different wine – this is clearly an exercise in brand for Tesco Finest too. It chose to go down the long-term pop-up route so guests can to spend more quality time with the premium label, and, as Jackson explained, this is something it wants to do more of through all aspects of its marketing.

“While customers are aware of the fact that Finest exists and they know it’s our best brand in terms of quality, innovation and provenance, we really need to amplify the experience of the brand for customers,” he said.

“We want it to really embody experience, discovery and expertise. And if we can try to deliver those - whether it's through a pop-up like this or through any other amplification - that's at the heart of what we're trying to communicate.”

In-store, this broad experience and expertise activation plan is a “work in progress at the moment,” however it is earmarked to go live around Christmas. Online, the wine bar pop-up is being amplified through a Twitter and Instagram social campaign, while geo-targeted digital advertising is reaching people with banners in a two-mile radius.

Jackman is hesitant to fully comment on what he makes of the lux offering of his discount rivals – namely Lidl and Aldi, which are steadily growing in popularity. Sales of the latter’s Specially Selected range have risen 15 per cent, while Lidl has reported a whopping 67 per cent upswing for its Deluxe line. It’s too soon to tell whether this has significantly altered Finest’s spot on the premium market scene, however Jackman is seeing the competition as an opportunity to, again, push the idea of experience.

“If you were to ask me how we would differentiate ourselves from our competitors with the Finest brand, I think the opportunity that we have is to really give customers the chance to experience that brand,” he said.

“So whether it's the quality of the products or whether it's through an event like this, [we want to] give customers the opportunity to experience it, consider it, and then hopefully act off the back of that.”

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