Interview: Sainsbury’s marketing chief explains route to success

Sainsbury’s says that marketing and clear brand communications have helped the retailer boost profit by 17% and add 1 million customers since the start of the economic downturn.


Marketing director Gwyn Burr explained to Marketing Week that Sainsbury’s aimed to attract shoppers on a range of budgets by ensuring its Basics, Core and Taste the Difference ranges, together with strong deals on branded goods, were all available and offers were communicated clearly.

“The aim of Sainsbury’s marketing since the start of the downturn was to ensure that shoppers could change the way they shopped, not where they shopped,” she says.

Another strong pillar of the retailer’s success was the introduction of the “coupons at till” scheme that saw Sainsbury’s give targeted money-off vouchers to shoppers for regularly purchased products.

There are now 100 brand owners signed up to the “coupons at till” scheme Sainsbury’s introduced in September and Burr says it allowed the supermarket to extend its loyalty offer to customers that aren’t Nectar cardholders.

It also meant that Sainsbury’s could target its offers better and keep its promotional activity steady “where others have ramped it up”.

These initiatives have worked in tandem with the brand ambassador role long assumed by Jamie Oliver that also delivers specific messages. The latest campaign starring Oliver launched in April and pushed Sainsbury’s commitment to sourcing the best tasting food for its customers.

The battle for market share is always front of mind for the supermarkets. Burr is sceptical of the value of Asda’s claims that its new Price Guarantee is the “final shot” in the price war between the supermarkets. She doesn’t believe it is a “game changer” and says that it hasn’t yet had any effect on the other supermarkets communications.

“If you’re using a war analogy, one side can’t decide the war is over,” she says.

Latest Kantar Worldpanel figures Sainsbury’s increased its market share to 16.4% in the three months to 18 April, up 0.2% year on year.

She adds that Sainsbury’s marketing will continue down the same track in coming months with a strong focus on its fresh food offer because “that’s what we do and customers understand our message”.

Sainsbury’s is currently working through its marketing plans surrounding its sponsorship of the London 2012 Paralympic Games and says that they will include the official logos and the Paralympics mascot Mandeville, which was revealed by LOCOG last week alongside the Olympics mascot Wenlock.

The mascots have divided opinion since being unveiled but Burr says they are “superb and encapsulate the spirit of the Games”.

Burr adds that the Paralympics mascot Mandeville will be particularly relevant to marketing around Sainsbury’s Active Kids programme, which sees customers collect vouchers for schools and community groups to redeem against sports and activity equipment, to encourage children to get involved with sports.

Sainsbury’s has already indicated that Mandeville will visit all Sainsbury’s stores in the run up to the 2012 Games.