Tag Archive for retail

Fun in the Aisles as Supermarket Sweep Continues

Simon Brown, Account Director

Big events, sporting or otherwise, usually bring with them months or even years of build-up and speculation only for the event itself to be a bit dull and uninspiring. Not so the grocery sector that has flipped this on its head in recent years.

For the last decade, discussions in retail boardrooms and shop floors across the country have been centred on consolidation, with an unprecedented level of speculation, but no action. There was plenty of shadow boxing but no punches thrown. Rumours met with carefully worded press statements neither ruling in or out said comings together or splits (I should know having written many of these statements in a former life). This went on for years but last year we finally saw the first signs that consolidation was real and was going to happen on a big scale.

Sainsbury’s and Asda‘s proposed merger is big news, or at least it would be were it not for the activity we’ve seen in the sector over the last 18 months. There’s been more thrills and spills in the grocery market than an episode of Supermarket Sweep. The Tesco and Booker merger got the CMA’s green light, as did the Co-op’s purchase of Nisa. There’s a definite feeling that nothing can surprise us now. In fact, perhaps the most surprising thing about this announcement was Mike Coupe singing to himself while waiting to be interviewed, and of course his choice of song.

Sainsbury’s and Asda are not alone in having taken a hit from the discounters in recent years. Aldi and Lidl may have opened in the UK in the early 1990s but they really came to the fore during the credit crunch and recession when it became ‘OK’ for the masses to hunt out cheaper alternatives. Rather than one big shop, customers quickly moved to making several shopping lists and buying their groceries in a pick and mix style from multiple shops.

Sir Ken Morrison said the secret to running a successful supermarket is quite simply “taking money off people and giving them something in return” but the challenge in recent years has been how to get the customers into big supermarkets in the first place. Like the proverbial oil tanker, it has taken a long time for the ‘big four’ to turn things around and win back customers.

With these changes comes uncertainty and businesses must ensure that its diverse group of stakeholders are kept informed throughout. Employees, suppliers and customers will all be very keen to understand the finer details of this deal. Will suppliers be hammered down even more on price? Probably. Are customers concerned that their store could close? Almost certainly. Will employees be concerned about job cuts? Most definitely. The PR machines behind these big businesses will have meticulously planned their communications in minute detail to communicate as needed with these audiences. I very much doubt, however, that Sainsbury’s PRs could have guessed that the first crisis this proposed merger would throw up was to deal with the CEO’s rendition of ‘We’re in the Money’.

Working with businesses to develop and implement these multi-audience communications programmes is what we do at Acceleris & Limelight. Over the last decade our team has helped businesses navigate change, from implementing new supply chains, to merging several brands under one new brand, and successfully delivers campaigns for businesses small and large.

If you want to find out how we could help you, or to learn more of our retail expertise, email me at simonbrown@acceleris-mc.com or call me on 0845 456 7251.

Which retailers are #winning Christmas?

Dan Stead – Senior Digital Account Executive

Christmas is coming!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. With the retailers selling and everyone telling you get on the beer. Yes, it truly is the happiest season of all and it seems to get earlier each year. The start of November ushers in a frantic scramble for retailers to hide away the Halloween horrors and to deck the shelves with boughs of holly (and the latest must have goods).

Yet we only truly know Christmas is coming when we see that first TV department store advert. We all have our opinions on which is the best, and there are many other blogs which will have their say, but which is actually performing the best for the retailers themselves?

The John Lewis ad is arguably the most eagerly awaited all year and it’s seen as the seminal moment for festive feelings to fall upon us. With the BBC reporting record Christmas ad spends for 2017 with a staggering £6bn spent by brands in 2017, everyone has upped their game to get a slice of the (mince) pie.

But ad big budgets aren’t enough! Even if John Lewis has hired an Oscar winning director, Elbow and thrown £7m at its Christmas crusade. Every festive campaign hitting our screens this year needs to incorporate a sound digital strategy as well as a captivating and often emotional Christmas message. We’ve looked at four of the nation’s largest department stores to see which campaign is delivering the best results so far.

Before we dive straight in, you can view all the ads discussed here:

12 Graphs of Christmas

Google       

Processing over 40,000 search queries per second, Google is obviously the best place to start. When comparing searches for the four department stores it’s clear one comes out on top. And it’s no coincidence there is a spike in traffic after Moz the Monster was born on 10 November. John Lewis jingles all the way to the top of Google rankings based on its Christmas campaign this year.

Frequency of search terms of the big four retailer since 1 November

Social media shouting match

With most Christmas ads now appearing on everything from billboards to buses and TV to Twitter, it’s interesting to look at which retailer is making the most noise online.

YouTube

It’s all well and good shelling out millions for TV ad space but which brands are making the most of the free, online opportunities? YouTube is the obvious place to start and there are two clear frontrunners for the festive ad crown this year. John Lewis leads the way with over 8,000,000 views and Marks and Spencer is keeping close with almost 6,000,000 of its own. Debenhams has clocked up over 1,000,000 views while House of Fraser is languishing in fourth place with a measly 60,000 views.

Twitter

We all know that one platform is not enough however and brands need to be producing engaging content across a range of channels. Twitter tells us more.

John Lewis

 

 John Lewis has attempted to generate interest through the creation of two hashtags for its campaign this year #MozTheMonster and #UnderTheBed. With almost 1,500 posts reaching an audience of nearly 11,000,000 since the 1 November alone, it’s clear the campaign is not just working on TV.

While there have been some mixed reactions to its ‘under the bed’ theme with many citing scared children as one concern, John Lewis’ loveable monster Moz has proved more popular with over 70% of people reacting positively to him.

Source: @KieranRhys Twitter

Debenhams

Debenhams has aimed to create an empowering Christmas message in 2017, #YouShall. The retailer has recruited added firepower this year with the Hollywood A-lister Ewan McGregor drafted in as its celebrity influencer to boost brand awareness through a fairy tale cameo with a modern social media twist. With almost 2,000,000 people reached so far and almost two thirds reacting positively, Debenhams is doing well.

 

Source: @Gail_AT Twitter

House of Fraser

House of Fraser’s Christmas campaign for 2017 takes a trip down memory lane and aims to evoke feelings of nostalgia with its hope to #BringMerryBack. However, with only 58 posts utilising the hashtag in over two weeks (and how many of these are employees?) it hasn’t done as well as the others. With just over half of posts having a positive sentiment, House of Fraser will have hoped for more.

 

Source: @sara00012345 Twitter

Marks and Spencer

Marks and Spencer, last but not least, has teamed up with ‘the nation’s favourite marmalade lover’ to make us #LoveTheBear enough to visit its stores or website. A clever campaigning building upon the star’s readymade fanbase to influence our Christmas spending. It’s clearly resonated with many, achieving an online reach of nearly 4,000,000 people already! However, it seems not everyone is a fan of poor old Paddington with just half of users reacting positively to his glad tidings.

 

Source: @FactDeJour Twitter

 

And the #winner is…

So there is a clear winner as to which retailer’s Christmas ad is performing best.

  1. John Lewis

Unsurprisingly the John Lewis ad has become THE Christmas event of the year after consistent production of engaging and emotional content both on screen and online. This year, driving traffic and searches online has clearly worked and it sold out of the portable LED night light featured in the ad in mere minutes! Well played #MozTheMonster – gold medal performance.

  1. Marks and Spencer

Silver goes to Marks and Spencer’s #LoveTheBear campaign. A creative ad featuring the friendliest, furry legend from fiction, Paddington Bear. Although not all reactions online have been positive, views and searches have shot through the store roof. All publicity is good publicity, right?

  1. Debenhams

It was a close race but the bronze medal goes to Debenhams for its’ #YouShall campaign to have a Cinderella inspired, fairy tale Christmas. This campaign has had a positive reaction online so comes out on top if it’s quality leads you’re after. However, as the ad has been viewed less than its rivals, it just hasn’t created that same buzz as the big spenders.

  1. House of Fraser

Last but not least, it’s House of Fraser’s #BringMerryBack. A nice idea to add a sprinkling of nostalgia to its campaign this year but with only around 500,000 people reached by the campaign so far, it looks like it’ll be playing catch-up for the festive run in.

Although the big four department stores have been the focus here, it’s unforgiveable to examine retailers’ Christmas campaigns without paying homage to the nation’s most heroic carrot. Aldi’s Kevin the Carrot is back with a bang this year and it’s another example of how retailers are maximising revenue over the festive period through championing a brand mascot. Such is the demand for Kevin and his love interest Katie, Aldi has had to restrict sales to two per customer this year!

Lessons to be learned

So the lesson is, don’t just rely on one platform. It’s not just retailers that can capitalise on Christmas this year through creating as many opportunities to expose consumers to their brand as possible. TV ads and video content should be posted on dedicated web pages, YouTube channels, Twitter accounts and we haven’t even touched upon Facebook or LinkedIn etc.

But don’t just take our word for it – have your say on which retailer’s Christmas ad is best via our Twitter poll here.

And although there’s still a month until the day itself, all that’s left from Acceleris is to wish all of our clients, suppliers and partners a very merry Christmas!

All data featured in this blog has been obtained between 1-17 November through research conducted by Acceleris’ Digital Insights division which tracks trends and monitors online behaviour to stay ahead of the curve, and to help inform client PR campaigns. Find out more about our specialist retail team here.

Value of an Agency: Partner or Supplier?

Partner or Supplier?

Simon Brown, Account Director

It’s been an interesting few months for me having recently made the move to the other side of the desk and back into agency life. After six years running the PR and communications for Costcutter Supermarkets Group, I took the decision to check out and take a fresh challenge with Acceleris.

Having spent all of my pre-Costcutter career in agencies this was a move that I made with plenty of ‘inside information’ about the workings of agencies. And it’s this experience, coupled with my learnings in-house, that I hope I can use to offer an alternative point of view on how agencies and businesses need to work together to deliver the best results.

I never imagined that I’d one day quote the New Radicals song You get what you give to make a point about how working relationships should work, but there you have it. As well as topping the charts in Canada and New Zealand, it seems Gregg Alexander has hit the nail on the head, highlighting that these relationships cannot just be one way.

A real bugbear of mine working in previous agencies was that it could feel a bit disconnected from the clients. Not geographically, although I was working for companies all over the UK, but disconnected from the heartbeat of their business, the strategic reasoning behind a chosen course of action, the real ‘why are we doing this?’. The agency would deliver against the brief and generate some great results, but it could feel a bit detached and, beyond a few predetermined metrics to define success, it was often difficult to determine the real value that we had added.

In-house couldn’t be more of a polar opposite, with total immersion from day one. In my particular situation I was the only PR person in the business, with all eyes on me for the creation and delivery of the PR strategy. This situation quickly led me to ask the question, why would a business keep their agencies at arm’s length? After all, I faced the challenge of delivering the PR activity for the business, on my own. When I did secure budget to bring in external support it had to be done in a way that would give the business, and me, the absolute best chance of success.

In my opinion there are two types of agency relationships – the Supplier and the Partner. As you might have guessed I favour the partner approach and this is certainly how I tried to do things at Costcutter. Retail is an exceptionally fast moving industry, convenience even more so with many changes in the sector over the last few years and more to come as signalled by the various deals and mergers that are underway. This brought with it a seemingly endless run of communications requirements – both opportunities and challenges to be managed. Keeping my specialist communications advisors at arm’s length and briefing them on a project by project basis simply wouldn’t have worked.

By being open with your agency and giving them the ‘big picture’, warts and all, they can analyse the current situation and the road ahead and then present their expert advice. Having this open stance with your advisors will deliver better results. One of the many idioms doing the rounds describes communications as a ‘journey’ and while I am not usually a fan of such corporate jargon it’s as good a description as any for how to approach strategic communications. In the same way that a business wouldn’t expect to deliver its entire strategy in one go, communications is a journey that your audiences need to be taken on. It won’t be a flat straight road and there will be plenty of ups and downs, so giving your agency the big picture will enable them to give really meaningful advice and create plans that deliver for the long term. After all, that’s what they do and what you pay them for.

Businesses surround themselves with trusted advisors to help deliver their strategy. Lawyers, accountants, business consultants, growth strategists and HR advisors are all consulted, and rightly so. They are experts in their field and will help shape the future direction of the business, identify the opportunities and put the resource in place to deliver it. Communications advisors are experts too, yet many businesses don’t place similar importance on the need to embed communications into their strategy or view their agencies as trusted advisors.

So, having moved back into agency am I faced with the same bugbear of old? Absolutely not. A good friend of mine often reminds me that people buy people and so as much as Acceleris did its homework before appointing me, I also did mine. Acceleris is very proud of the relationships it has with its clients and through the delivery of sound, insight-based advice it is a trusted advisor to its clients. A partner in creating communications strategies that deliver the right result.

“Communications is a journey that your audiences need to be taken on.”