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Brand Strategy Asda Retail

A TikTok series and taking on Harrods: inside Asda's marketing plan to win over foodies


By Hannah Bowler, Senior Reporter

July 11, 2023 | 6 min read

The British retailer is shaking up its marketing style to change the public’s deep-seated belief that it doesn’t sell quality produce.

Asda's major marketing push to be known for quality and price

Asda's major marketing push to be known for quality and price / Asda

Asda has been quietly investing millions in improving the quality of its products which has included bringing in a Michelin star chef, hiring food influencers, introducing its ‘Extra Special’ range and broadening its cooks’ ingredients offering. This is all in the quest to prove Asda - which for years has pushed its price-promise and budget ranges - can be a source for quality food. It wants to be mentioned in the same breath as Harrods, Fortnum and Mason and Harvey Nichols when it comes to dining occasions.

No small task when consumer research shows it is currently at the bottom of the ‘big five’ supermarkets in terms of quality perception. Despite efforts, consumers still associate the retailer with cheapness.

Stephi Brett-Lee, senior director for Asda’s brand communications, has been charged with leading the multi-year re-branding project to make Asda known for affordable quality. She was frank with The Drum that it could take years to see the results.

“It's really tough because you can’t change quality perceptions with one campaign, or even with two or three or four,” she says. “Quality perception is something that is a really deeply held belief, and something that changes over a long period of time.

“We know internally that we have been stepping on the quality of our products for years. There's been significant improvement exponentially every year, things are getting significantly better."

Asda’s first big marketing push to communicate its improved quality debuted earlier this month with a series of ads that pitched Asda food against premium department stores like Harrods, Fortnum and Mason and Harvey Nichols.

Havas is behind the 30-second ads which feature B&B owners testing sausages, hipsters testing sourdough and socialites trying olives. Along with TV, the taste test campaign is supported by print, social and radio.

“We felt like we had to shock people,” Brett-Lee says. “I don't think it would have been good enough for us to just go out there in a very traditional marketing style and show some beautiful food or tell the province story behind the food. People have this deep-seated opinion of Asda’s quality they would just hear that as noise.”

Having the name Asda in the same sentence as Fortnum and Mason has enough “ludicrousness” to people that they might take note, Brett-Lee said when explaining the strategy. “The strategy at its core is to shake people out of this idea that you can't have good quality at a low price which is something people have been conditioned to believe,” she says.

Brett-Lee adds that she doesn’t want her marketing to make customers feel like they’ve been wrong about Asda but instead, they should be aware that Asda is changing and improving.

The ads also double up as an early Christmas campaign, planting the seed now that Asda should be the go-to for special occassions. “I want people to feel like they can trust us at Christmas with their most important meals with their family and friends there,” Brett-Lee says.

The campaign is part of Asda’s newly launched brand platform ‘That’s more like it’. “What is more, ‘That's more like it’ than giving quality as good as or better than Harrods or one of these posh shops for obviously, a significantly reduced as the price,” Brett-Lee says.

TikTok chef house

@mealswithmax Comment your favourite BBQ food! @Asda @AsdaPRTeam #bbq #foodtok #AsdaFoodTokHouse #asdafoodrevolution #ad ♬ A Cup of Coffee - Muspace

As part of the taste test campaign, Asda has created a TikTok series is being described as ‘Big Brother meets Ready, Steady, Cook’. Called 'foodTok house' series puts five Gen Z chefs into a Yorkshire farmhouse and asks them to cook with Asda ingredients.

Asda has been increasing its social strategy over the past year hiring new talent and even bringing in a TikTok exec. Brett-Lee explains that the supermarket will do better by allowing its customers to tell its stories.

“We're never going to have the same media budgets as some of our competitors,” Brett-Lee says of the move.

“Quality is such a massive thing to tackle, and you can’t do it in one way. So, there's a whole different range of ways that we have to convince people they can buy great quality food at Asda and they previously may not have felt like they could.”

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