Russell Parsons: Differentiation is the next battleground for supermarkets

Following Lidl’s latest bid to emphasise its own-label’s quality, UK marketing director Arnd Pickhardt questioned the big four supermarkets’ advertising strategies for focusing too much on price.

Russell Parsons

“There seems to be a pattern of price-led communication,” he told Marketing Week. “I assume that consumers might find it difficult to differentiate when the focus seems to be on a very similar topic.”

This is an extraordinary turn of events within the supermarket sector. Lidl is the great disrupter. Along with Aldi, it has instigated a permanent change, forcing the big four into a price war while creating an expectation among consumers of permanently low prices. It is a sign of Lidl’s growing confidence that it feels it can accuse rivals of not meeting the needs of customers either on price or quality, and indicates that the supermarket has reached a level of maturity that commands a message beyond what kicked open the door.

Differentiation through quality, service or experience is the next battleground in the supermarket sector – Asda and Morrisons have also recently made noises about meeting the needs of customers rather than shouting loudly about low prices.

Differentiation is a theme in this issue of Marketing Week. In our latest column from our Vision 100 inductees, Post Office CMO Pete Markey reveals how to stand out in highly competitive markets through a combination of emotional and logical messages. Describing the thinking behind the Post Office’s latest campaign, Markey calls on marketers to employ what is known in academia as ‘System 1’ and ‘System 2’ thinking.

Elsewhere, our Cannes Lions preview picks out some of the key themes that will dominate the festival, which takes place next week. It describes how the creative process is being looked at through different lenses – technology, data, sustainability and diversity – to create differentiation.

Marketing Week will be out in force at Cannes. For the majority of you that will not be in the South of France, we have created a dedicated content hub, which will host news, insight and analysis on the issues that matter to you. There or not, you will find the key takeaways at and on Twitter @marketingweeked

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