Waitrose unveils brand refresh in bid to become ‘more relevant’

The grocer hopes by adopting a “more confident” tone of voice it can dial up its appeal among consumers looking for quality products amid the cost of living crunch.

Waitrose rebrand
Waitrose’s brand refresh aims to offer a “more confident” positioning. Source: Waitrose

Waitrose has unveiled a brand refresh aimed at making the retailer feel “more relevant and more compelling” for customers.

The new brand expression ‘Food to Feel Good About’ aims to highlight the quality, taste, ethics and value of Waitrose produce, showing how food can make a “positive difference”.

Based on insight from more than 4,000 target customers and employees, the campaign is focused on giving the brand a “new and more confident” tone of voice.

It follows comments last week by Waitrose executive director James Bailey who admitted the supermarket’s brand positioning was “long overdue” a refresh. He described the update not as a “dramatic change”, but a move to “be more confident and bold” about the customer offer, as well as more “challenging and provocative in the market”.

“It’s overdue because I think the Waitrose brand has a lot of assets and attributes and qualities that customers really value, but we haven’t maybe in the past been as confident about delivering that message,” said Bailey on a press call revealing the John Lewis Partnership’s first half results last week (15 September).

With customers becoming increasingly discerning about where they spend their money, our ambition is to ensure that our brand refresh will help to make Waitrose feel more relevant and more compelling for our customers.

Martin George, Waitrose

Launching today and created by adam&eveDDB, the hero 60-second TV ad takes viewers on a journey through different food moments, featuring partner and cheese specialist Vanessa tasting Wookey Hole cheddar.

The creative states that “When we ask more questions, we get better answers”, the idea being to position the retailer as asking the questions necessary to deliver quality, sustainable food at fair prices.

The campaign will span 60- and 30-second spots during Channel 4’s Great British Bake Off, broadcaster video-on-demand, YouTube, outdoor, print, display and social. The brand claims to want to mix “high impact formats” with data-led targeting, focused on the “most relevant audiences”.

Waitrose admits its brand positioning is ‘long overdue’ a refresh

Waitrose’s Essential value range features prominently in the campaign, products from which appear in nearly seven in 10 customer shopping baskets.

In April, the retailer rolled out its first standalone campaign for the Essential range in a bid to showcase Waitrose’s “commitment” to value. The campaign launch came just a month after the supermarket clashed with Asda over its similarly named Just Essentials brand.

“We wanted to create a fully integrated campaign to bring together the quality, taste, ethics and value our customers can feel good about,” says customer director Martin George.

“With customers becoming increasingly discerning about where they spend their money, our ambition is to ensure that our brand refresh will help to make Waitrose feel more relevant and more compelling for our customers.”

Changing habits

On reporting its half year results last week, Waitrose revealed sales fell 5% to £3.6bn versus 2021 levels, although they were up 7% on a like-for-like basis compared to 2019. The grocer benefited from bigger baskets during the pandemic as customers stocked up under lockdown. Customer numbers have since held up, with transactions rising 14% year on year, although basket sizes are smaller by nearly a fifth.

Online shopping accounts for 15% of Waitrose’s sales, not far off the pandemic peak of around 20%. Total customer numbers hit 13.4 million in the first half to 30 July, up 6% year on year.

Bailey noted how the way consumers are spending is changing as a result of the cost of living crisis, causing Waitrose own brand products – highlighted throughout the new campaign – to rise in prominence. He claimed customers are choosing to manage costs within Waitrose’s “four walls”.

According to Bailey, the retailer’s current price inflation is around 6%, half the average supermarket inflation of 12.4% last reported by Kantar.

The approach customers take to mitigating the inflation crunch will be in the spotlight over coming months. Data released by Kantar last week revealed Aldi is now the UK’s fourth largest supermarket, taking over from Morrisons for the first time. The discounter grew sales by 18.7% over the 12 weeks to 4 September to claim a 9.3% market share.

By comparison, Waitrose holds 4.7% overall share of the grocery market, according to Kantar statistics.