Tesco marketing: unclear, irrelevant and not very successful

Tesco has pledged to make its marketing “better, clearer and more relevant” as part of a turnaround strategy to reverse recent fortunes, but in the absence of any details all that the supermarket has proved is that over the past year its marketing has been unclear, irrelevant and not very successful.


Brand and marketing have been highlighted as one of six areas of focus for Group CEO Philip Clarke and his senior management team to right whatever has been going wrong for Tesco over the past 18 months.

With Tesco’s first review of its advertising account in more than 15 years and a new marketing director, David Wood, talking the helm in the UK, it’s clear that Philip Clarke wants something radical to change in terms of how Tesco talks to its consumers. What still isn’t clear is exactly how it will go about it.

At a press conference to announce the changes yesterday, Clarke was cagey on the future of the Big Price Drop, introduced in September, refusing to be drawn on whether it would continue to play a part in Tesco’s marketing and promotional strategy or whether it would be abandoned. There will be little surprise, however, if it is jettisoned in favour of a more holistic, brand led approach designed to engender more trust in the brand’s overall values.

Sainsbury’s has done well in recent months to promote both its values and a price message within the framework of its ‘Live Well for Less’ brand proposition. Tesco would do well to develop a strategy that combines the values it stands for, but that consumers have forgotten, at the same time as maintaining a strong price message.

Another of Clarke’s pledges is to return Clubcard developer Dunnhumby to the heart of the business. This is a worrying admission that Tesco ever relegated the insight and data gleaned from its Clubcard programme from the core of its marketing and decision making.

There are marketers that would kill for the kind of insight Tesco has access to thanks to Clubcard, so for Tesco to have sidelined such a wealth of data is senseless.

The fact that Tesco has been under using its Clubcard data, not just in terms of the loyalty programme, but in terms of decision making and strategic planning, goes some way to explain why its marketing became unclear, irrelevant and unappealing to shoppers.

Clarke outlined plans to better use the insights to create a more personal and localised business, more closely aligned to the kind of shoppers in the local area.

By better tailoring products and promotions in stores to the local shoppers, Tesco will go some way to shifting the perception that it is a giant faceless corporation.

The same can be said for the investment in more staff, “warmer” stores and better service that will go a long way to giving Tesco back some of the soul and human connection that it has lost in its relentless quest for growth and more stores.

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