Iceland on why brands must turn to vloggers and abandon conventional celebrity partnerships

Despite being famous for using reality TV stars such as Kerry Katona, Iceland is ditching the celebrity model for its latest above the line ad campaign as it ties up with real-life mum vloggers instead. And the frozen discounter’s joint managing director Nick Canning says the modern consumer is now ‘less interested’ in celebrity partnerships.

Partnering with mum-only vlogging social network Channel Mum (a deal brokered by the7stars), the new TV campaign (which breaks on 23 May) will continue Iceland’s ongoing Power of Frozen marketing slogan with a series of new TV ads showing the reactions of real-life mums discovering Iceland food for the first time. The campaign will also be supported with digital, OOH and print activity.

Many of the video ads, which are stylistically similar to the Lidl Surprises campaign, show the vloggers and their families unaware of the origin of the food they are eating capturing their surprise at its ‘quality’ when Iceland is identified as the brand. Iceland is hoping it can mirror the success of the Lidl Surprises campaign, which has successfully built the German discounter’s quality perception among the middle classes.

It also hopes it can make a big splash on female shoppers, citing internal research that shows 63% of mums trust information from other mothers above all other sources.

Speaking to Marketing Week, Canning said it had moved away from its partnership with Peter Andre as using real-life mums is now a better way of communicating the brand’s developing food quality.

“It is the right time for us to do this as the modern customer now wants something real and with tangible roots that they can really understand,” says Canning.

“We’ve used real people in the past and it feels like there is a cyclical shift away from celebrity-driven ads right now whether that’s the end of Ant and Dec at Morrisons or Sharon Osborne at Asda. If you want to change perceptions of your brand then using real-life customers is perhaps the way to go.

“If you look at Tesco they are using Ruth Jones and Ben Miller in their ads so celebrities still have a real role to play if your objectives are about cutting through quickly or associating with a certain type of person. But they no longer reflect the journey Iceland is currently embarking on and this feels like a progression.”

Bouncing back


It has been a challenging few years for Iceland, with annual profits down by a quarter last year and its market share falling to just 2.1% as Aldi and Lidl continue to steal customers in the discount space. However, Canning is confident Iceland can turn things around.

He says its ongoing Power of Frozen campaign has succeeded in changing negative perceptions of Iceland’s food quality and had a similar impact to recent moves by brands such as McDonald’s. 

Canning may have a point. Over the last year, Iceland’s quality perception score among British consumers has risen 5.3% – a “statistically significant” rise – according to YouGov BrandIndex. Although its score of -5.4 is still negative, it is now 19th on a list of the UK’s 26 biggest supermarkets and has risen from a position of 24th over the last 12 months.

He admits, however, that there is still work to do. “It’s like McDonald’s with the fast food as since they’ve said their eggs are free range breakfast sales have gone up.

“Iceland doesn’t get the credit it deserves and that’s only our fault. We are the UK’s biggest fishmonger, all our chicken nuggets are 100% chicken breast and all our food is fresher than Sainsbury’s and Waitrose where it is already on the defrost. These are the stories we need to tell more often as people are increasingly waking up to our quality.”

Prioritising quality over price

He says Iceland is growing ahead of the frozen foods market and that it has grown its share of the market to 17%. In particular, Canning believes the recent struggles of Asda prove that a price-focused marketing message is no longer enough.

He concludes: “If you are in Asda’s world then being a price based retailer is a tough place to be in with Aldi and Lidl dominating.

“A price message just doesn’t work in isolation anymore. You have to talk about your entire proposition from online to stores to food quality and to price, all with the same passion. Changing quality perceptions through our marketing is where we can win in this marketplace.”



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