Russell Parsons: Asda must work hard to beat “horrible and cheap” perception

My partner hates Asda. A recent suggestion that we go in to pick up some much-needed household items as we were passing was met with a determined refusal. “It’s horrible and cheap” was her blunt conclusion.

Russell Parsons

She might never be an Asda customer, but her – and many others’ – perception of Asda is one of the key challenges chief customer officer Andy Murray will face as he takes over from Barry Williams and aims to reverse a sixth consecutive quarter of sales decline.

Murray’s credentials are impressive. Currently senior VP of creative and customer experience at Walmart, he has earned his retail marketing spurs as founder of shopper marketing agency Saatchi & Saatchi X.

He is a more natural choice for the task of marrying on- and offline customer experience and brand marketing than Williams, who was a merchandiser by trade, but his challenge is no less considerable. Asda’s sales fell by a considerable 3.8% in the three months to 31 January, according to Kantar – the worst performer in the sector and the latest in a year-long run of quarterly slumps.

It could be argued that this is just Asda’s time to fall. The discounter juggernaut derailed Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons in turn before they saw tiny green shoots of recovery. For Asda and Murray, however, the problems run a little deeper.

Its relentless price focus might have played well in the short term against Aldi and Lidl, but it is not in itself a marketing strategy. From a business and brand perspective, it is not sustainable. There are only so many operational efficiencies that can be forced through before price cuts cause a serious lag on margins and there has to be a point where you go so low in price that all other messages are diluted.

Asda has a quality problem. It sits 10th among grocers in the YouGov BrandIndex quality ranking over the past six months, behind its big-four rivals and Aldi and Lidl. Its ‘Extra Special’ higher-end offering is lost in a sea of red discount labels. Outside Christmas, there
has been little care and attention given to building it as a sub-brand.

Morrisons has fresh, Sainsbury’s has quality, Tesco is investing considerably in in-store experience. Asda needs something other than price – and quick. Otherwise, it will be seen by a growing number of haters as “horrible and cheap”.

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