Inspired vision that saved ASDA

Allan Leighton and Archie Norman were far too smart to want ASDA’s mould-breaking PR campaigns to be “just an outcrop of their personalities”. (MW, September 14).

Their great insight was that sustainable revolution in the moribund grocer would come about through maximising individual autonomy within a framework of clear corporate values – a true breakout culture. Of course, they had great personal discipline, energy and rigour, but they recognised that they couldn’t do it alone.

Jointly and individually, they had the imagination and nerve to back bold ideas from anywhere in the organisation. So, for example, there was a suggestion scheme, but it was “Tell Archie,” not “Ask Archie”, and there were “Value Crusaders” in stores who would phone in with competitor pricing information. Some campaigns, like the Net Book Agreement and Fair Shares, were generated across head office departments, and others, such as Love In Store, emerged from store initiatives. Successful implementation and a high media profile lay in a ferocious commitment to getting the ASDA message across, coupled with genuine collaboration between stores and ASDA House.

Obtaining this single-minded belief in what made ASDA different and giving colleagues the opportunity to implement relevant, new ideas at great pace was one of the legacies of the business recovery story. It is also the real piece of learning for any ailing retailers wanting to emulate them.

Alan Preece

Director of Communications

University of East Anglia

(ASDA’s General Manager Public Relations 1992-1996)

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