Morrisons’ marketing boss: ‘Brands using social media to sell are making a mistake’

Morrisons has made a conscious effort not to use social media platforms to push sales-based messages according to its marketing director Andy Atkinson, who adds that the supermarket’s new Easter campaign is giving the brand a ‘heavyweight’ feel.

The Easter campaign highlights Morrisons’ role as a food maker for family occasions through the ‘Morrisons Makes It’ slogan. Ending with the word “tradition” it will be followed by three more TV ads due to run from 28 March to the end of April.

The ad, the first since Morrisons picked Publicis London as its creative agency, features Morrisons’ recently rebranded logo and shows more “confidence” according to Atkinson.

Speaking exclusively to Marketing Week, he explained: “There is a real chemistry with Publicis and they really get our brand story. For Morrisons, components such as the fact we make 40 different types of bread in store are the crux of the brand.

“There is a real commitment from David Potts towards advertising and we now want to produce real heavyweight TV campaigns, like this one. They can be a huge enabler in us telling our story as both a foodmaker and a shopkeeper.”

Morrisons has talked up its food credentials in the past. Most notably, previous celebrity endorsers Ant and Dec starred in a series of ads that talked up Morrisons’ role as a food manufacturer.

However Atkinson, who has been with Morrisons for over five years, suggested the old approach to marketing wasn’t honest enough.

“Before, perhaps it was just ‘here, come and meet our butcher’ – it was a functional way of storytelling and there wasn’t any emotional connection,” he explained.

“The execution of Morrisons Makes It isn’t just about us making food, that’s too obvious. It will be about the emotional connection of food and the brand loyalty that creates with a food maker such as Morrisons. Before the Market Street ads worked on one level, now it works on multiple levels.”

For the year to 31 January 2016, Morrisons posted a pre-tax profit of £217m compared to a £792m loss the previous year. And Atkinson says that listening to customers has put “momentum back into the business”.

In particular, Morrisons’ different approach to social media, he said, is helping to foster brand loyalty.

He concluded: “We were a bit late to digital and social, it’s only been a focus for the last 18 months. But what we’ve noticed is using social channels purely to sell products will result in failure and most companies are making that mistake.

“Social media isn’t a platform for selling. It is about reaching out and building a relationship. We want to adopt that progressive mentality.”