Sainsbury’s, Carling, Unilever: 5 things that mattered this week and why

From the launch of ‘disruptor’ food ranges at Sainsbury’s to the introduction of AI to help with upskilling at Unilever and Molson Coors introducing a premium brands marketing hub, catch up on all this week’s marketing news.


Sainsbury’s chases ‘entrepreneurial heat’ as it rolls out Taste of the Future trial

The future is alcoholic kombucha and salmon skin crisps, according to Sainsbury’s.

This week the supermarket kicked off a 14-week trial of 11 “very young brands” across 69 of its stores. The Taste of the Future scheme allows consumers to try 30 products making their UK supermarket debut, including Bootleg Booch, an alcoholic kombucha, and Sea Chips, salmon-skin crisps.

The challenger brands were selected by Sainsbury’s Future Brands team, which was established in April 2018 to nurture new suppliers from grocery and drinks to cosmetics and gifting. The emerging brands then commit to at least 12-months brand-level exclusivity with the supermarket.

Head of Future Brands Rachel Eyre, who previously served as head of marketing planning, propositions and properties at the grocer, set up the team with the intention of helping Sainsbury’s become “bolder and take more risks”.

Notable successes over the past year include the introduction of curries and yakisoba from Japanese grab-and-go outlet, Wasabi, and PepsiCo-owned healthy snacking brand Off the Eaten Path.

Sainsbury’s wants to use these future brands to solidify its reputation for innovation, but it is not alone. This week rival Tesco unveiled the nine entrepreneurial brands taking part in its 2019 incubator programme, which include kefir drinks brand Biotiful and alternative to salt-based seasoning, Mara Seaweed. Tesco says that it made a conscious decision to choose brands that tap into the booming health and wellness trend.

With both Sainsbury’s and Tesco on the lookout for emerging brands to take into the mainstream, the pressure is on to be the first to find the next big thing. CR

READ MORE: Alcoholic kombucha and salmon skin crisps: How Sainsbury’s innovation team chases ‘entrepreneurial heat’

A year is not long enough to grow market share

Brands can drive growth momentum by being ‘meaningfully different’, but very few should expect to grow market share immediately, according to new research.

Kantar’s analysis of attitudinal and behavioural data reveals that on average consumers are willing to pay 14% more for brands they perceive to be “meaningfully different”.

However, the wider three-year study of 3,907 brands from the BrandZ database, spanning 21 countries and 58 categories, finds that less than 6% of brands grew their market share over the first year of the study. While six in 10 sustained this growth over the three-year period, just one in 10 improved on their initial gains.

Growth could, however, come from improving brand clarity. For organisations with high brand clarity, the brand itself contributes 17% to sales. This figure drops down to 12% for a business with medium brand clarity and 10% for those with low brand clarity.

According to Kantar’s formula for growth, companies that make purchasing easy for customers ‘predisposed’ to buy their brand grew by 27%. Brands grew by 12% by framing ‘positive expectations’ and grew by a further 7% by maximising their retention of existing users. Brands that overachieved at each point of this curve grew the fastest, but they only made up 4% of the data set.

The statistics suggest that growth is nuanced and hard to maintain. Being able to show that your brand has a clear, meaningful difference and making the customer experience seamless gives you a head start, but even then long-term growth could still prove elusive. CR

READ MORE: Why brands should not expect to grow market share in just one year

VF opens experiential retail showcase

VF, the parent company of big brands including Vans, Timberland and The North Face, has opened up a brand new retail space in central London to show how it is using technology to ‘reinvent’ its brands and bring their stories to life in new and immersive ways.

As it stands (all six stories of it), Axtell Soho is not open to the public, but VF is using it as a testing ground to see what works, what doesn’t, and how it might be able to evolve the customer experience in-store.

It is certainly an impressive space and showcases what has been going on at VF behind closed doors – from purpose-led design and sustainable innovation, to augmented reality mannequins and product personalisation.

It also shows that VF is moving with the times and willing to adapt its 120-year-old business to the modern retail world, which has seen many casualties fall by the wayside in recent years.

For a company as big as VF, that is no easy feat. But Axtell Soho is a clear visual representation of what the high street could look like if more retailers stopped lamenting the rise of ecommerce and realise the role they need to play in consumers’s lives is very different now. EH

READ MORE: How this 120-year-old apparel giant is trying to reinvent retail

Carling owner tries to get closer to customers

While many companies are centralising their marketing teams, Carling-owner Molson Coors is doing the opposite. It is moving its premium brands marketing team from its HQ in Burton-on-Trent to London with the aim of developing “empathy and closeness with consumers”.

Molson Coors has teams dotted throughout the country. Its craft beer brand Sharps Brewery is still based in Cornwall and Aspall Cyder in Suffolk. And clearly there are different skills required to sell its mass market brands such as Carling versus niche craft beers like Blue Moon.

The suggestion here, however, seems to be that posh premium beer is for London and mass market lager for everyone else. Certainly Molson Coors should be getting closer to its customers. It should just be wary that not all of them may be in the capital. SV

READ MORE: Carling owner launches premium marketing hub to drive ‘closeness with consumers’

Unilever hopes AI can help upskill staff

Unilever is introducing an online talent marketplace that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to help employees spot new career opportunities within the company and identify areas where they can upskill.

The hope is that by using a tech solution, the array of projects, courses and opportunities to learn that are available across Unilever will be more widely seen and taken up. Jeroen Wels, executive vice-president of HR at Unilever, hopes it will “democratise” learning so staff themselves can see what is on offer to them, rather than having to rely on HR or their managers telling them.

The move is just the latest by Unilever to use AI to improve the experience for employees – both current and future. It already has AI-powered tools that sift through the nearly two million job applications it gets every year, as well as services to help new starters hit the ground running.

Turning attention to current staff and their professional development is one more way to take the heavy lifting out of on-the-job learning and open up opportunities to all. SV

READ MORE: How Unilever is using AI to ‘democratise’ upskilling and future-proof its employees



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