Creative Asda Retail

Asda’s rebrand is a hit with designers. Can it win over shoppers too?


By Amy Houston, Senior Reporter

May 29, 2024 | 10 min read

The UK supermarket chain has achieved that rarest of things – a major rebrand that hasn’t been torn apart by the creative commentariat. As part of The Drum’s retail focus, we examine its popularity and ask whether the most important critics – shoppers – will greet it just as warmly.

Asda totebag

Havas London's work for Asda / Havas London

Asda’s bold new look, courtesy of Havas London, is the latest example of change at one of British retail’s most familiar institutions.

No longer part of the American conglomerate Walmart, the UK’s third-largest supermarket chain was bought by Zuber and Mohsin Issa, two billionaire brothers from Blackburn, in 2021, with the help of private equity backing from TDR Capital. The acquisition marked the first time the grocer has been in predominantly UK ownership in two decades.

Like many of its competitors, Asda has felt the pressure from the cost of living crisis impacting consumers’ spending power and the squeeze from discount rivals Aldi and Lidl. Per the latest Kantar Worldpanel data, it is currently the third biggest supermarket chain in the UK with 13.1% market share, trailing Tesco (27.6%) and Sainsbury’s (15.15%). It has been in the spotlight for reasons of its own making, too, with the substantial debt leveraged to complete the takeover being scrutinized in parliament and reports circulating that Zuber Issa is looking to sell his £500m stake to TDR due to a rumored rift with his brother.

Nonetheless, the Leeds-based retailer has proceeded with remodeling itself. Last year Adam Zavalis joined from Aldi as vice-president of marketing. One of his first major projects has been driving the striking new look, introducing a darker shade of green to sit alongside the well-known lighter hue that Asda has come to be known for, along with a more playful tone in copy.

When the exec sat down with The Drum a couple of weeks ago, he was keen to convey across that the focus is on it being a “British institution” and that this new look signals its “getting back to its Northern roots.”

The move has been popular – at least among the creative community, with many industry observers stating that it was long overdue and that the accessibility angle was crucial. But why was it so well-received when so many well-intentioned rebrands aren’t, and what does it all mean for consumers? We asked experts to weigh in.

Wolff Olins’ global creative principal Wayne Deakin explains that Asda must continue to honor its heritage and customer expectations.

“The visual identity is just one aspect of achieving this; how will Asda’s strategy and experience come to life through the recent refresh?” he said. “Great brands resonate with both employees and external audiences, so it will also be interesting to see how the broader expression unfolds and reflects a deeper effort to distill and express its culture.”

Independent strategic marketing consultant Rob Sellers says that the language used in the rebrand is much more relatable.

“Asda has always wanted to be seen as a human business. Rather than something oblique like ‘That’s Asda price,’ ‘That’s More Like It’ is a real piece of language. It’s the sort of thing that people would say when they get home from the shops. There’s a humanity to it and it’s understandable.

“The design is less shiny and corporate, too. It feels less American and much softer. The use of the stickers feels like things that are associated with value. They feel like the kind of thing you would use on social, so they connect the modern and retail world. You need a design system that’s going to allow you to be as efficient as possible.

“They do need this to work and need to communicate value and if this can help convey the total experience of the shop through making the stores look smarter or a nicer tone of voice and gives people a reason to go to Asda then it’s worth doing.”

Asda rebrand

Emma Follett, chief creative Officer at Design Bridge and Partners adds that it feels like a natural step for the supermarket but it might have trouble standing out in the saturated sector.

“Brands need to pull people towards them and the Asda redesign starts to deliver on this. It takes the brand away from lower price promises and value commitments towards a playful identity that sparks engaging and informative conversation.

“It feels like a natural fit for Asda, but the honest, down-to-earth, playful style could also be Tesco. Asda needs to find in this redesign what makes its brand stand out distinctively.

“By stepping beyond the expected linguistic tools and codes of the grocery world and bringing some of that Northern humor that is seen in the ads through to the store, there’s an opportunity for differentiation. The stickers and playful tone are a perfect vehicle to have more engaging conversations, and bring the brand to life for consumers in-store.”

Asda rebrand

David Jenkinson, partner at Pearlfisher, who heads up design and experience, adds that there's a way to move forward and connect with new audiences without alienating core customers.

“It smartly stays true to Asda’s roots and familiarity, building on existing brand equity rather than reinventing the wheel with a complete overhaul. People can see that and respect it, which only builds further brand loyalty.”

“The rebrand is a safe but effective move for Asda. It feels inviting, fresh and cheerful – reflective of how a supermarket should make you feel when you’re browsing the aisles. Its new complementary, secondary brand color palette and playful typeface will open new doors for Asda and give room to play for its digital communications and brand world applications. It really does sum up its new look and feel perfectly with its tagline, simply but powerfully put, ‘That’s more like it’.

“Ask yourself, what makes my brand distinctive? What do people remember the most? And rather than pulling those things apart. Build on them. For large, established brands like Asda with a loyal following, successful rebrands evolve thoughtfully – modernize strategically, and innovate while respecting core brand values. Leading the way to connect with new audiences – without alienating the customers that got you to where you are in the first place.”

Asda rebrand

It’s all about nostalgia for CBX’s partner Mark Christou and approachable design assets that resonate with the British public.

“I have a deep affection for British supermarkets, a passion that has been with me since childhood. Alongside my love for design and football, these weekly trips to the supermarket after Sunday football with my parents are some of my fondest memories. This nostalgia fuels my ongoing fascination with English supermarkets. So, when I saw the new Havas brand world design work for Asda, it brought a big, big smile to my face.

“The work highlights value through playful use of holding shapes and violators, conveys freshness with its core and complementary color palette, and exudes approachability with its unique custom font combining upper and lowercase letters and smile details. It connects with the British public through its clever, mass market punny verbal identity – ‘Romanian Calm’ for Romain lettuce is brilliant. This is a project that many design aficionados will wish they had worked on.

“Asda’s new brand world captures the essence of what makes British supermarkets a beloved part of our culture, blending nostalgia with approachable design in a way that resonates deeply with the English public and beyond.”

Asda rebrand

Paz Martinez Capuz, design director at Household isn’t convinced that the sticker approach is distinctive enough.

“The updated color palette and clean ‘ingredients’ photography strike a balance between a low-budget/accessible approach and thoughtful design.

“The sticker approach screams supermarket style and has so far proven to be loved by many. However, we have seen a lot of the guerrilla sticker style in recent years and I can’t help but wonder how Asda could have diverged away from this familiar approach to create a more distinctive asset that while still recognizably Asda, breathes new life into the brand.

“On the other hand, the custom typography is very unique, inspiring playful and unique curves and organic shapes that are well integrated throughout the brand identity.”

Creative director and strategist Jose M. Sánchez has some concerns about the accessibility claims.

“The blend of lower and uppercase letters is fresh, but I’m concerned about readability, especially for neurodivergent and dyslexic people, similar to the issues KIA faced with their 2020 logo launch. The use of stickers feels too close to Deliveroo’s recent rebranding, making the retailer more contemporary but potentially less timeless.

“A rebrand isn’t just about visual updates; it’s about creating meaningful connections. The contemporary approach may intrigue people initially, but without distinctive brand assets for quick recognition, it risks becoming just more noise in the market. Its long-term effectiveness will reveal whether it truly resonates, but for now, it feels like an intriguing experiment rather than a definitive success.”

Creative and design director Iael Esther Brener quips that it’s a supermarket, not sneaker drop.

“The Asda rebrand is like switching from ‘Magnolia’ to ‘Ivory Mist’; not exactly earth-shattering, but hey, it’s a supermarket, not a sneaker drop! They’ve played it safe – which in branding isn’t always a bad move, it preserves brand equity.

“It’s not about reinventing the wheel every time, sometimes you just need to give it a bit of polish to meet digital requirements and some good ‘ol puns. Asda’s approach says, 'We know our audience, and they don’t need a VR experience to find the bread aisle'. In a world obsessed with flashy overhauls, there’s something refreshingly honest about a brand that sticks to what it knows best. So, cheers to Havas London for not falling into the trap of overthinking it, sometimes, simple and expected really is genius.”

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