Asda’s dig at rivals isn’t in the spirit of Christmas

Asda is taking digs at its rivals on price this Christmas, lining up snowmen to deliver a less than subtle message for where customers can find the cheapest prices. 

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Sad snowmen sport blue, orange and yellow scarves clearly meant to represent Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons. Meanwhile a bigger, happy snowman is clad in Asda’s signature green. 

The point? Asda’s snowman is bigger because the supermarket opted for a low key “no gimmicks” campaign this year so that it can invest in bringing its customers prices that are 10 per cent cheaper than its rivals.

Using snowmen is a contentious decision in itself given that standard-bearer John Lewis used them last year. That’s not a comparison that Morrisons, or any other retailer, wants any consumer to be making.

It’s also an unusual move because Christmas is typically the season to be jolly. Consumers have been bombarded all year with ads that shove the latest deals, offers and price promise schemes down their throats.

Now they want aspiration. Retailers should be boosting the nation’s mood and making us feel good. Not reminding us that despite signs of an improvement in the economy, wages growth is still lagging and many people face a drop in their standard of living.

Asda’s focus on price also doesn’t bear out in the figures. People’s discretionary income may be getting squeezed, but they still want to spend at Christmas.

People are in the market for more luxurious foods, more expensive wines and are more easily tempted to spend a little extra for good quality products.

Figures from YouGov highlight that spend will rise this year compared to last. A typical household will fork out £820 on Christmas this year, an increase of £54 on last year.

Within that, food and drink is set to see the biggest increase, with spend up 11.6 per cent year on year to £180.

There’s no doubt competition in the grocery market is getting fiercer. Not only are the big four battling it out, they also face a growing threat at both ends of the market, from discounters such as Aldi and Lidl and high-end rivals including Waitrose and Marks & Spencer.

Nevertheless, going on the attack at Christmas is a risky strategy. Now more than ever its worth showcasing a brand’s strengths rather than picking on rivals’ weaknesses..

That’s not to say that Asda should have gone glitzy and glamorous. That’s increasingly seen as out of sync with consumers and wouldn’t match its wider brand message.

None of the other supermarkets are expected to do so. Waitrose is again highlighting its charitable credentials, while Aldi and Lidl are focusing on their more expensive own brand products and Tesco and Sainsbury’s will likely focus on Christmas moments.

By taking a pop at rivals, Asda risks being cast in the role of scrooge this Christmas. Bah, humbug!

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