Unilever, Waitrose, M&S: 5 things that mattered this week and why

Catch up on all this week’s marketing news, including Sainsbury’s new CMO, the ousting of Marks & Spencer fashion boss Jill McDonald and the sponsorship opportunities around the Netball World Cup.

unilever

Unilever develops ‘Tinder for ideas’ to speed up pace of innovation

Unilever has developed a “Tinder for ideas” as it looks to speed up the pace of innovation and create “double the impact in half the time and cost”.

The tool, ‘Idea Swipe’, was developed in-house and took inspiration from the dating app. It aims to make it faster and easier for marketers to evaluate new ideas and more quickly move onto ideas that the business feels could work.

“How do you evaluate a mountain of ideas with a molehill of a budget? If you want to do concept testing, you end up spending an arm and a leg and at the end of it you are no wiser. We need to figure out a quick way to get these ideas evaluated [faster],” says Unilever’s executive vice-president of consumer and marketing insights, Stan Stanunathan, speaking at the IRI conference this week.

As the pace of innovation ramps up and big brands look to be more in tune with changing consumer needs, there is a growing need to be able to more quickly evaluate which ideas have legs and which aren’t worth spending time and money on.

There are almost as many models for this as companies in operation. Some, like Pepsi, have set up innovation teams while others, including Gillette and Coca-Cola are trialling crowdfunding to work out demand for new products and services.

Tapping into the wisdom of the internal team at Unilever without having to organise meetings and working groups makes sense, particularly in the early stages. And Unilever is showing how technology can be a help in increasing speed and reducing costs. SV

READ MORE: Unilever develops ‘Tinder for ideas’ to speed up the pace of decision-making

Waitrose tackles issue of waste in biggest ever CSR campaign

Any brand worth its salt has jumped on the increased attention around the issue of plastic (and to a lesser extent food) waste. From Coca-Cola hyping up its recycling credentials to Iceland promising to go plastic-free, it has become the CSR cause of the day.

Waitrose is the latest to talk up its sustainability credentials, launching its biggest ever CSR campaign, ‘Partners Against Waste’, to show what the company, its suppliers and customers are doing to tackle the issue of waste. It comes after Waitrose’s customer service team saw an 800% increase in questions about plastic and an uptick in engagement on social media about plastic, packaging and food waste.

But Waitrose is insistent this isn’t simply headline-grabbing and that tackling issues such as this is a “fundamental part of what we do”.

If that is to ring true, Waitrose, as with the other supermarket groups, will need to evaluate every area of their experience to see how they can reduce plastic and improve recycling. Waitrose might be trialling a bring-your-own container scheme at one shop in Oxford, but it still carries out activities such as store sampling using single-use plastic pots.

The backlash against Marks & Spencer since it launched it ‘Little Shop’ marketing campaign, which offers customers that spend more than £20 on food a mini plastic version of one of its most popular food items, shows customers are increasingly critical and vocal about what they see as unnecessary plastic.

As Waitrose admits, banning plastic overnight would be very difficult and there are considerations around the balance between reducing plastic waste and minimising food waste. A campaign highlighting its work and educating customers is welcome, but Waitrose must make tackling plastic waste part of every aspect of its business model. SV

READ MORE: Waitrose launches its biggest ever CSR campaign to tackle plastic waste

Sainsbury’s and Argos merge marketing teams

sainsburys-store-Sainsbury’s has introduced a CMO role, promoting marketing director Mark Given as it merges the Sainsbury’s and Argos marketing teams and brings the Nectar loyalty scheme under the marketing boss’s remit.

Given has been at Sainsbury’s for six-and-a-half years, joining as head of brand communications before taking on the most senior marketing role following the departure of former marketing director Sarah Warby in 2017. This is the first time Sainsbury’s has had a CMO, reflecting the increased size of the group since it acquired both Argos and Nectar and the importance of marketing across the business.

Given will have his work cut out, however. Following the distraction of its failed merger with Asda, Sainsbury’s is having to refocus on its growth at its core grocery business, which has suffered as the other big four supermarkets, as well as the discounters, hone their customer experience.

There has been criticism among analysts that Sainsbury’s has taken its eye off day-to-day trading, with complaints that shops are poorly stocked and messy, and queues increasing. Aligning the messages of Sainsbury’s, Argos and Nectar will also be key and it seems fairly clear that a creative pitch will be incoming, with Sainsbury’s likely keen for the cost savings and messaging consistency that would come from having one creative agency (as it has already done for media).

READ MORE: Sainsbury’s and Argos merge marketing teams with new CMO role

M&S ousts fashion boss as turnaround fails to materialise

Marks & Spencer campaignMarks & Spencer (M&S) has ousted its fashion boss Jill McDonald as attempts to turn around its clothing and home division falter.

McDonald, a marketer by trade, was poached from Halfords less than two years ago to lead the business unit. But concerns were raised at the time over her lack of fashion experience.

Those concerns were brought to the fore over the past few months, when buying errors meant key products such as jeans were out of stock because it failed to buy enough to cope with demand after launching a promotion featuring brand ambassador Holly Willoughby.

M&S remains the UK’s biggest fashion retailer, with its clothing business worth more than £3bn. But sales have been falling for almost seven years and it has struggled to shake off perceptions that its ranges are unfashionable and appeal more to the older customer.

CEO Steve Rowe, who was previously head of the department, has taken charge of the day-to-day running of the department. He will now need to ensure that processes are in place to ensure its range meet the needs and demand from consumers, while tasking the marketing department with improving its brand image. SV

READ MORE: M&S fashion boss Jill McDonald to leave after less than two years

Vitality on turning England’s netball team into household names

If you can’t name any of England’s Vitality Roses (let alone know who they are) you’re undoubtedly not alone.

But that’s something health insurance provider Vitality is eager to change through its sponsorship of the nation’s national netball team and headline partnership with the 2019 Netball World Cup.

Ahead of England taking on Uganda in Liverpool today, Vitality’s brand director Chrissy Fice said the company wants to play a huge role in helping turn the players into household names by raising the profile of the game.

“We are here to support and enable the growth of women’s sport, we’re not here to debit anything from the growth. We’re not looking at our investment in women and in sport through the spectrum of commercial gain,” Fice explains.

“We are simply following through with a core purpose that unlocks opportunities for more women to be involved in sport.”

Fice added that Vitality’s challenger status allows it to take a nimble and innovative approach into the partnership but planning any marketing activations around a sports tournament is tricky.

“We’re a challenger brand, a disruptor, and what that means is we have a very nimble approach to marketing. We can be incredibly responsive and opportunistic, which is hard-wired into who we are as a brand and how we develop marketing strategies,” Fice says.

In a bid to enhance the profile of England’s national netball team Fice says Vitality has produced a series of idents that will run on Sky Sports and feature three Vitality Roses netballers.

But whether there will be an influx of little girls (or boys) suggesting their idols are the likes of Geva Mentor or Helen Housby, time will tell. EL

READ MORE: Vitality on its Netball World Cup sponsorship: We won’t take a cookie-cutter approach.

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