Sainsbury’s sales slip as it focuses too heavily on ‘weak’ price message

Sainsbury’s marketing is failing to connect with consumers if the latest brand tracking data is anything to go by.

Its advertising awareness ranking, which is based on consumer perception of memorable ads, fell a significant 9.3 percentage points to 20.5 over the last 90 days according to data from YouGov BrandIndex.

This puts it seventh on a list of the 26 biggest UK grocery retailers and, crucially, below its three biggest rivals Tesco, Morrisons and Asda as well as Aldi, Lidl and M&S.

Sainsbury’s faltering ad perception comes as like-for-like sales fell for the sixth consecutive quarter, down 2.1% (excluding fuel) over the 12 weeks to 6 June. That follows negative numbers last month when Sainsbury’s reported a 14.7% fall in pre-tax profits to £681m for the year to 14 March.

Although CEO Mike Coupe today (June 10) blamed “strong levels of deflation” and a “highly competitive pricing backdrop” for the LFL sales slide, analysts believe it is suffering from a lack of compelling marketing.

“Sainsbury’s marketing is too forgettable,” was the damning verdict of Phil Dorrel of Retail Remedy.

He added: “With the exception of the Christmas WW1 chocolate bar advert, the marketing has done absolutely nothing to drive much needed footfall into stores.

“They still have that quality, they just don’t shout about it anymore.”

Kantar Retail’s analyst Bryan Roberts believes Sainsbury’s is placing too much emphasis on price – with a recent campaign talking up its price cuts on frozen food (pictured) – and lacks compelling messaging.

He says: “Price is becoming a weak message for Sainsbury’s when the whole market is price driven.

“Sainsbury’s has invested in improving the quality of 3,000 private label items so why isn’t it telling consumers? I struggle to remember any Sainsbury’s adverts and they need to look at Lidl for inspiration as it is communicating both its food quality and price with a consistent narrative.”

Big four ads are failing

Sainsbury’s isn’t alone in failing with its ads, according to YouGov BrandIndex.

Over the last 90 days, rivals Asda and Tesco have also seen their respective ad awareness scores drop at a rate deemed significant.

Asda has seen its score drop 2.9 points to 25.8 while Tesco’s has fallen 2.8 points to a score of 30. However, Tesco (first) and Asda (fifth) are still placed higher than Sainsbury’s on ad awareness.

Roberts added: “None of the big four are really advertising anything but price. There are no compelling campaigns right now.”

Latest from Marketing Week


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here