Tesco’s ‘new conversation with Britain’ must be more than a slogan

This week, Tesco announced that it hopes to have ‘a new conversation with Britain’ and focus on customers, the people that work there and the communities its shops are in. Chief marketing officer Matt Atkinson is clear that the focus must be on ‘Every little helps the customer,’ rather than helping the supermarket, which was the original focus of the strapline.

Lucy Handley

But I wonder how this will be received by all of the people it works with – not just staff and communities, but suppliers and shareholders too.

Atkinson also states that he wants to do ‘good things with our size’. That is a tough nut to crack. Yes, Tesco can buy things in giant quantities and get good deals – and they can be passed on to shoppers. But it is known to be a very tough cookie when dealing with suppliers, which perhaps suggests that little things don’t really help all of the people it has a relationship with.

Shareholders might be pleased that there is going to be an increased focus on customers and more so that Tesco is now matching market growth for the first time since 2011 – and maintaining its market share of 30.4 per cent. Yet I think that getting more people to shop there – or to spend more – is a mammoth task, especially when economic times are tough.

Research to be published in the next issue of Marketing Week will show that 19 per cent of those that shop at Tesco are ‘strategic savers’, those who are canny about how they spend – and this is the same proportion as at Asda.

However, more people who shop at Sainsbury’s are seeking out quality – 17 per cent – than at Tesco, where 13 per cent are ‘quality crusaders’. This could be where the opportunity is for Tesco, because good quality is still high on the agenda for 4.5 million people, compared to price alone, which is key for 5 million, according to the data from TGI.

Tesco is still clearly a strong brand and a huge business force, but I don’t agree that it is all about killing the competition with brute force, as our columnist Mark Ritson suggests. As one commenter says of the media buying industry: “I know it was not the 1980s muscle power of big buying that built the sector, but the art of planning and insight.”

To borrow a phrase from another comment: conversation is a mentality, not a slogan, and it will be hard to get this to filter down to every person behind every till at the supermarket. Hopefully the insight that people are out of love with Tesco will help it build its reputation with shoppers and shareholders alike.

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