Co-op aims to be ‘destination not distress’ retailer as it launches new brand with summer campaign

The Co-op is hoping to convince people to shop at its stores more often and as it looks to get customers to reappraise its food offering and brand and draw a line in the sand after the scandal of recent years.

The campaign, which goes live on TV tonight (25 May), is the first to launch the retailer’s new look. The Co-op is returning to its blue clover-leaf logo as it looks to champion the role it plays in local communities.

Speaking to Marketing Week, the Co-op’s customer director Jemima Bird said where before the retailer has championed its slogan ‘Little, Often, Co-op’ it now wants to start communicating “more and often”.

“We are moving from being a distress retailer to a destination retailer and from little and often to more and often,” she explained.

“We want to give shoppers a reason to turn left into Co-op rather than right into a competitor.”

Jemima Bird, customer director, Co-op

“Why not visit the retailer that supports the local community and contributes to the greater good?”

A 40-second brand ad, created by Leo Burnett, aims to encourage shoppers to be as “unpredictable as summer” and to position the Co-op as a convenience retailer that has everything covered whether the weather is sunny or raining. It will be supported by four 10-second adverts showing off Co-op own label products as it attempts to show off the quality and range available.

“People don’t know what our food quality is like, they have an ambivalent view and tend to pop in because they have run out of something,” admitted Bird. “We are trying to demonstrate that the food we offer is brilliant, the breadth excellent and that we have a range of quality, fresh food.”

Bird also promised “unique” experiential and social activity aimed at changing people’s perceptions of the brand. “Lots of people think of us as just another shop on the high street and put us in the same bracket as our competitors. But there is more to how we run our business, our operating model is very different because we add value to the community.”

Co-ops new brand identity aims to make a break with its recent past
Co-op’s new brand identity aims to make a break with its recent past

The Co-op has had a difficult time in recent years, caught up in a scandal that included a £1.5bn black hole in its finances and controversy around its former chairman Paul Flowers’s private life.

The Co-op now wants to put some distance between the company then and now, with a particular focus on its values as a co-operative. Under changes announced at its AGM at the weekend (21 May), the Co-op will now give its members a 5% reward every time they buy an own brand product or service and 1% to be donated to local good cause. It estimates it could be reinvesting £100m a year into local communities by 2018.

Bird says the Co-op sees its food business as a way to get more people to use its other services. Co-op Food has been a bright spot for the company, with its focus on convenience retailing helping boost sales despite a difficult period in the grocery industry.

“We want more customers become members, shopping with us and contributing to local communities. We are more than just a food business but food can help raise awareness of the wider business – whether its our funeral offer, insurance or electrical services.

“We will not hide away from a couple of difficult years in our recent history but over the last two or three years we have driven change and there is real momentum behind the food business. For us it is about looking to the future.”