Lidl UK's marketing boss on why it’s not in a rush to ditch its ‘special’ discounter crown


Lidl’s top marketer in the UK tells The Drum that she’s “not offended” by the ‘German discounter’ label, despite the brand becoming firmly established in the mainstream British consciousness, as it launches the next phase of its ‘anti-advocate’ ad campaign.

Claire Farrant’s hesitance to disassociate from the ‘discounter’ term might come as a surprise given the seismic shift in the UK grocery market. Seemingly cementing its place in the sector, Lidl became the fastest growing supermarket in the most recent quarter, with sales up by 13.0% in the 12 weeks to 26 February. Its fellow 'discount' competitor Aldi also saw a substantial sales hike, which pushed it past the Co-op to become the nation’s fifth biggest grocer.

Lidl's growth is, in part, down to advertising that includes ‘Lidl Surprises’ and more recently ‘Big On Quality, Lidl On Price’, which have gradually worked to introduce UK shoppers to the brand and what it stands for.

Now, as it launches the next phase of marketing in arguably the strongest position it’s ever been in, Farrant insists it isn't trying to shed its cheap ties.

“I’m not offended by the word discounter,” she told The Drum. “It sets us apart and says we’re doing something special. For us, we’ve perhaps got more to say to the public because in the past we’ve not been known. We’re fairly new to the UK market and coming from Tesco I didn’t really ‘get’ Lidl until I joined.”

That every £1 in £8 spent is in a Lidl or Aldi is “tremendous,” Farrant added, attributing the foothold on “the hard effort of both Aldi and Lidl” in taking the market in the UK, setting things apart and being really clear on low price and communicating it – not delivering complicating promotions or disingenuous discounts.”

But conveying that it’s growing and a more ‘mainstream’ place to shop while still trying to maintain its stance as a pithy young upstart is tricky. It’s why it’s dubbed it’s shift from #LidlSuprises to instead feature an ‘anti-advocate’ in its adverts as an “evolution” rather than marketing revolution.

“The [first] non-advocate ad launched at the end of June last year. When I first joined we stress tested #LidlSurprises and after Christmas [2015] the ‘wow that’s from Lidl’ reaction was starting to diminish,” Farrant explained. “People knew we were selling lobster and champagne at a great price so we really felt like we needed to change it.”

Retaining the use of real-life people in the creative execution, it decided to communicate that its fresh food and meat is British and used social media posts from people doubting the provenance of those prodicts – the ‘anti-advocates’ – as a trigger for taking them through the process that got the food on to shelves.

“It’s a brave approach using the tweets but it’s become part of our DNA in how we talk to customers,” continued Farrant. “We have nothing to hide.”

The next iteration of this campaign launched today (22 March) in time for Mother’s Day and Easter, putting the focus on fresh flowers. The marketer believes that not bowing to the traditional lamb roast on a family dinner table will help it stand out from competitors at what is one of the key trading periods in the retail calendar.

It opens with a snapshot message from ‘anti-advocate’ Samantha, claiming “The daffs at Lidl always look as though they wouldn’t even last a couple of days”. Viewers are then shown Lidl’s daffodil supplier farm in Norfolk, run by Mark Eves. It details how he grows its daffodils to ensure the handpicked stems delivered to Lidl are the highest quality and can last up to ten days.

The anti-advocates push runs in tandem with the ‘Big On Quality, Lidl On Price’ work which reinforces the message that a stretched shopping budget will go further at the supermarket by highlighting a comparable basket of produce from one its larger rivals used in the preparation of popular meals.

It is also supported with the MyLidl loyalty programme, which has been running for a year. Farrant is now using things like product reviews and recommendations in marketing, particularly in-store where it’s attaching customer quotes and recipe tips to the shelves of certain products.

“We’ve now got over 28,000 members nationwide, which is really significant. They’ve done over 3,000 product reviews now and we have been able to use that in our communications. So, they’re really helping us mould how we communicate”

With an ambition this year to widen its store footprint by 60 more stores, Farrant said the months ahead will continue to be challenging.

“I’ve still got a job to do as there are some generations that still don’t know about Lidl and what we do,” she said.

“What I’ve learnt in this market is that you can’t sit still, you’ve got to be looking to the next opportunity, the next campaign and keeping on our toes. This market is so incredibly competitive and it’s in Lidl’s DNA to keep things simple and not overcomplicate and make sure we’re being honest, true, transparent and that’s keeping us ahead of the game. There is never any time to sit still in retail.”

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