Carlsberg, John Lewis, Greggs: 5 things that mattered this week and why

From the follow-up to Carlsberg’s mean tweets campaign, to Greggs’s strong sales and John Lewis reviewing its Never Knowingly Undersold price promise, catching up all the week’s biggest marketing news.

calrsberg mean tweetsCarlsberg celebrates changing consumer attitudes a year on from ‘mean tweets’

A year ago Carlsberg admitted it probably wasn’t the best beer in the world. Holding its hands up, the brewer acknowledged it had lost its way by sharing a series of ‘mean tweets’ suggesting, for example, that its beer tasted like “a puddle of fetid camel’s piss”.

The very public mea culpa was followed by a ‘head to hop’ rebrew, the introduction of new packs and glassware, and a premium repositioning as a Danish pilsner, all of which contributed to ‘Probably Not’ being crowned Marketing Week’s campaign of the year in 2019.

Now Carlsberg is shifting its strategy to show how consumer sentiment towards its beer has changed over the past 12 months. Whereas once the brewer trawled Twitter in search of ‘mean tweets’, this time it is sharing ‘keen’ tweets with its employees and asking them to guess the missing words in comments such as: “The new Carlsberg is a******* c****” (‘actually class’).

Danish actor and brand ambassador Mads Mikkelsen returns in a series of digital films, created by Fold7, reacting to tweets that reveal what the public is really saying about the new Carlsberg Pilsner.

To date the ‘Probably Not’ campaign has driven a “significant” uptick in sales to bars and pubs, with more consumers trying out the rebrewed beer, although Carlsberg admits its performance in-store still “needs work”.

The brewer is aware that it still has “some way to go” if it wants to achieve its turnaround ambitions, but changing opinions on Twitter is a good start.

READ MORE: Carlsberg shows how attitudes have changed since admitting it wasn’t the best beer in the world

John Lewis puts Never Knowingly Undersold price promise under review

The writing has been on the wall for John Lewis’s Never Knowingly Undersold price promise for some time now, if the views of retail analysts are anything to go by. While value is a core part of John Lewis’s proposition, the scheme has eaten into profits amid an increasingly promotional high street retail environment.

It should come as little surprise, then, that new chairman Sharon White will be taking another look at the promise as part of a wider strategic review of the business. That review, she says, “will look at how we keep the really strong quality/value proposition” while considering how to “modernise” it.

Far from being a business differentiator, Never Knowingly Undersold has started to feel like a millstone around John Lewis’s neck. And while it needs to be competitive on price, John Lewis has built its brand on customer service and customer experience. It might well be better off investing here rather than in price.

READ MORE: John Lewis puts Never Knowingly Undersold price promise under review

Greggs

Marketing is a key ingredient for Greggs’s record profits

Its been a pretty momentous 12 months for Greggs. A series of successful PR stunts, lively presence on social and, lest we forget, the triumphant vegan sausage roll launched in January 2019, have all fuelled brand awareness and sales.

The high street bakery chain announced record profits for 2019, with a 27% rise in 2019 pre-tax profits to £114.2m and like-by-like sales increasing by 9.2%.

And, coronavirus fears aside, demand for Greggs’s products remains high.

The company has also been quick to point to its digital marketing strategy as one particular reason for its success over the past year, as well as scooping the Marketing Week Masters Brand of the Year award.

READ MORE: Greggs praises marketing’s ‘key role’ in profit boom

Tesco takes on Aldi with new price-matching scheme

aldi price matchPrice-matching schemes were top of the news agenda this week, first with John Lewis and then Tesco.

The UK’s biggest supermarket has launched a new campaign promised to price match with Aldi, the first to directly do so with a discounter.

Price-matching schemes were all the rage in the grocery sector in the mid-2010s as the big four supermarkets attempted to ward off the threat of the fast-growing Aldi and Lidl.

However, they were short-lived, with supermarkets switching strategy back to investing in price overall, rather than price-matching.

Tesco clearly thinks this time it can compete with Aldi and Lidl, particularly as it now offers other incentives on value including Clubcard prices and its Clubcard Plus subscription service.

The rest of the sector, however, will hope Tesco hasn’t started another price war.

READ MORE: Tesco becomes first supermarket to directly price match with Aldi

Competition regulator warns retailers over pricing amid coronavirus outbreak

face mask
The competition regulator is warning retailers not to hike up the price of products such as face masks

Where there is panic and fear, there is usually someone trying to profit; and as concerns mount over the spread of the coronavirus some have been trying to use it to their advantage.

Ads have appeared across the internet and social media sites promising miracle cures or misleading claims about the efficacy of products. Meanwhile, on ecommerce sites including Amazon, third-party sellers have been hiking the price of products such as hand sanitisers and face masks in the wake of growing demand.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is now warning it will take action against any company found to be breaking the law. And it could take the step of asking the government to introduce price controls if things get out of hand.

It has been noticeable how little big brands have wanted to be seen to be cashing in on coronavirus. There are no ad campaigns talking up the benefits of hand sanitisers or antibacterial soap from the likes of Unilever or GOJO (which owns the Purell brand).

However, others are more unscrupulous. Trying to keep on top of this will be a big job for the CMA, as well as the ad regulator the Advertising Standards Authority and online platforms.

READ MORE: Retailers warned not to hike prices in response to coronavirus demand

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