Morrisons strips messaging back in search of value perception boost

Morrisons has suffered the most from the disruption caused by the rise of the discounters but is hoping to make up lost ground by focussing on a message that will be familiar to customers of its rivals: Everyday Low Prices. 

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Morrisons is getting rid of its “I’m Cheaper” marketing message launched with a fanfare just over three months ago and is following Asda by focusing on “everyday low prices”. Point of sale (PoS) now shows an arrow with a pound symbol pointing down and the phrase “everyday low prices”, and on TV.

Speaking to Marketing Week, Morrisons’ marketing director Rebecca Singleton says the change is aimed at improving ease of shop, reducing clutter and making its marketing more consistent. In a bid to improve its value proposition, Singleton says it will try and make its promotions clearer and more relevant

“Back in May we needed to launch our price cuts with a big bang. [I’m Cheaper] played its role and its now about making sure we are clear these are permanent price reductions. This sets our communications strategy going forward. We are being really clear and much more simple in our communications,” she adds.

Morrisons introduced the cheaper strapline in May to promote its “biggest ever” round of price cuts, which saw it lower the cost of more than 1,200 products. The move was in response to the rise of the discount grocers, which are attracting growing numbers of shoppers with their low prices and a marketing message that focuses on price and quality.

Morrisons has been hardest hit by their rise, with sales at stores open for more than a year slumping to 7.1 per cent for the quarter to 4 May. The latest figures from Kantar Worldpanel show Morrisons’ sales fell 3.8 per cent year on year in the 12 weeks to 20 July, while Aldi and Lidl experienced double-digit growth.

However the strapline has come in for some criticism, with analysts questioning the use of the word “cheap”. Clive Black, head of research at Shore Capital, says the word could imply that Morrisons used to be expensive and doesn’t distinguish whether the supermarket is cheaper than the competition or cheaper than it used to be.

“The word ‘cheap’ can have negative connotations so I can understand dropping it,” he adds.

The campaign also appears to have had limited impact on consumers’ value perceptions of Morrisons. Since 1 May, when it launched, Morrisons’ value score has dropped from 19.4 to 18.2 on 17 August, according to YouGov BrandIndex.

That drop was small enough to keep Morrisons ahead of Sainsbury’s, which saw its score drop 1.2 points to 17.1. Asda remains the best performing of the big four on 25.8, while Aldi and Lidl are way out in front with scores of 41.5 and 33.7 respectively.

The move towards an EDLP message follows Asda’s “Every day low price guarantee”, which promises the supermarket will be 10 per cent cheaper than its competitors. It moved first on price cuts, announcing a £500m investment last year. It is seeing the benefit last week reporting like-for-like sales up 0.5 per cent in the quarter to the end of June, while Tesco and Sainsbury’s have followed Morrisons in reporting falling quarterly sales drops.

Talking to Marketing Week following announcement of its quarterly results, Asda’s chief customer officer Stephen Smith put its relative success down to avoiding “pricing gimmicks”.

“Customers are exhausted by that and so these gimmicks have collapsed. They don’t trust the retailers and the gimmicks. We are simply investing in having the lowest prices week in week out.”

Singleton dismissed concerns that Morrisons’ new marketing message is too similar to Asda, saying it is “industry-standard language”.

However Black raises concerns that the new campaign will not stand out.

“’EDLP’ and ‘Everyday value’ are pretty generic terms in retail. ‘Everyday Low Prices’ is pretty unimaginative and is not likely to stand out in the crowd, although it is the real prices on show that will do the talking,” he adds.

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