Tesco boss says being a marketer gives him an ‘edge’

Tesco CEO Dave Lewis says his marketing background has helped the supermarket focus on customers and turn around sales.


Tesco boss Dave Lewis (pictured) says his past as a marketer has resulted in the supermarket’s turnaround strategy having “some edge to it”. Lewis had a 27-year career at Unilever, working on popular advertising campaigns such as ‘Real Beauty’ for Dove.

When he took over Tesco in September 2014, some analysts questioned its long-term future. For the year to February 2015, the supermarket giant recorded a record £6.4bn pre-tax loss, while Lewis had to quickly get to grips with an accounting scandal carried over from previous management.

However, things now look on the up, with Lewis leading Tesco to three consecutive quarters of growth in the UK.

At the heart of this turnaround has been a focus on putting customers at the heart of the business. And speaking to Marketing Week at a press event last week, Lewis said his marketing past has been a help and not a hindrance.

Read more: Tesco will not recruit from within to fill top marketing role

“Having been a marketer I come with very much a customer lens to any business as that’s what I care most about,” said Lewis. “I will say let’s do what’s right for the customer and then let’s deal with the consequences from that on finance and the cost because it’s ultimately worth it.”

Lewis’s background as a marketer isn’t exactly hard to detect. In fact, at one point during the press event he proudly cited Tesco’s commitment to a five ‘P’ model – purpose, proposition, product, price and place.

And asked directly whether being an ex-marketer gave Tesco an edge over direct rivals with CEOs from other business backgrounds, he responded: “That laser focus on customers might have some edge to it, yes.

“I feel very passionately given our size, given our structure and given our reach if we serve customers a little better than anyone else then from both a marketing and business point of view we will win.”

A 2015 study from executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles revealed that 21% of UK FTSE 100 CEOS now come from a marketing background. This has climbed from 15% in 2011.

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