Tag: consumers

Food for thought – are retailers missing the point?

Barely a day goes by without another news item or broadcast bulletin referring to a supermarket chain either announcing profit warnings, staff redundancies or commonly another price war. I’ve thought about this a lot recently and I can’t help but think that these retailers are missing the point.

Let me explain. I have been a fan of the discounters for some time – in fact years, as I used to manage the PR for Netto. It’s fair to say that the brand didn’t have the best reputation for quality but consumers at the time were misguided; the produce was fresh but we were less accepting of foreign imports.

Then we hit hard times when the recession took hold in 2008 and suddenly the car parks of discounters looked like a high end car showroom. People began to realise that actually you could rely on these stores for your weekly shop and save money.

I am a huge fan of the #Lidlsurprises campaign and can’t fault the PR team for the creative yet simple way that they have shared their message with the masses. The press event which invited journalists and celebrities to a champagne reception with all the glamour you would expect only to then reveal it was all produce from Lidl was inspired. Follow this up with the same concept for a Christmas advert, keeping the messaging simple… well, what can I say, a great example of PR done well.

Anyway, I digress, but the point is that these campaigns make sense to me. They are consistent, engaging, surprising and real. It’s not about money it’s about adding value, giving the consumer something they didn’t expect – like lobster at Christmas and a selection of high quality wines to match seasonal produce.

What I don’t understand is the ongoing bickering that comes with price wars. There is no doubt that consumers are price conscious but I can’t help thinking that retailers need to take a step back. Consumers want good value, not cheap produce. They want variety and provenance – a balance between every day and speciality.

What we get is bread for pennies and milk which costs less than water! Not only is this unnecessary but it’s become a playground fight, only the retailers seem not to have noticed that they have made the consumer a disinterested bystander.

PR is all about reputation, which should be built around values. All I can see from retailers at the moment is ever decreasing costs and a battle, which to all intense and purpose communicates that they are in fact not focusing on the consumer at all but instead on their competitors.

It’s like being back at school; he said this, so I did that…

What the retailers should be doing, in my humble opinion, is looking at how they can add value. Many of them have magazines now, which are great. They are helpful, interesting, well written and appealing to the demographic but what more could they do?

ASDA launched Mums Eye View, a YouTube channel which invites vloggers to share their thoughts on products stocked in the store. Great idea; captivating and interesting content that consumers can access and better still engage with and share.

So how come so few people know about it? Rather than attracting ASDA customers, the vloggers seem to be sharing their message with their own audience, which in most instances doesn’t fit the demographic profile of an ASDA shopper.

The retailer could have done more with this platform to integrate digital with ‘real life’ further extending the engagement. Having a shopper booth at larger outlets which asks customers to give two minute reviews of their favourite ‘must have’ items would be one suggestion but instead the platform seems to be a huddle of vloggers raising their profile and doing what they do best – talking to their audience.

And so, I come back round to taking a step back.

The marketing strategy of retailers needs to start with their values and evolve to the customer journey, making sure that every shopper has an experience online and in store that they can share positively with their friends and family.

Convenience is going to continue to drive the market, as people have less time and no longer commit to a weekly shop, but retailers need to think about brand loyalty. How will they get consumers through the door and most importantly encourage them to become regular visitors without relying entirely on price.

The other point to consider, which should be fundamental to any business with a conscience, is the suppliers. Retailers may feel that driving prices down has a positive impact on consumers but what about the suppliers, the reduction needs to come from somewhere and it certainly isn’t the stores.

These leading supermarkets need to stop and think. The impression they are giving is not positive. I don’t want a local farmer to go out of business because despite supplying the leading retailers the margins have been squeezed so tight he can’t make ends meet.

Provenance is still a trend and is something that consumers have come to expect but I find it interesting that ‘Farmer Smith’ from ‘a farm somewhere near you’ isn’t quoted on pack saying ‘I won’t have a holiday this year because once again you have demanded I lower my margin to meet with your demands, allowing you to offer my produce at 10p less than your competitor’.

Things need to change and until one of the leading supermarket chains stands back and becomes a value based brand with a real conscience the playground scrapping is simply going to continue.

The value of values

Open Communications is a straight talking PR agency – we get the job done and most importantly we do it well. We don’t ‘do’ air kissing but we do meet with clients objectives and as a result we have long-term relationships with the brands we work with.

You may read that and think – so what? Why do I care that you are straight talking, or that you do what you say you will, but actually these are very important points for us. You see the paragraph above is an outline of our values.

Some people think that values are like a mission statement – it’s a paragraph that you make up, you put it in a business plan and then never set sight of it again, or at least not until you are asked for it and then you blow the dust off and push it across the desk.

We wanted to be different at Open Comms. We didn’t want wishy, washy statements that use long words that sound like they would be better placed in an academic text book. We wanted our values to mean something to us and therefore to our employees, colleagues, clients and suppliers.

Although I didn’t realise it at the time, values are a great reference point when you need to regroup.

We have been involved in some very exciting scenarios recently and some very nerve-wracking situations and although there can be the temptation to become something that you are not, we have always followed the same approach; what you see is what you get. If you want results then great, if you want air kissing and posh lunches, we aren’t the right agency for you. Bold perhaps and perhaps some may say a little too honest, but true.

It’s this knowledge of who we are and what we can deliver, which gives us the confidence to sit in front of brands and businesses of any size and confidently present our thoughts and ideas. Our values are the foundations which have allowed us to grow the agency and to build our client base, which is now a portfolio of brands that we are extremely proud to work with.

All businesses should consider their values. Ask yourself, what makes you different, what makes you tick and how could this translate into the products and service that you deliver for your customers? A brand with true values immediately has a stronger proposition than a competitor without – take The Body Shop as an example.

It is irrelevant whether you like their products or share their values, the message is simple; they are a brand that places environmental issues at the heart of everything they do. This translates across design, advertising, communication and even the way that the products are displayed in the shops.

Often the worry with brands is that they choose values and these change, but this is ok. A company’s values can change over time as the business evolves, all you need to make sure is that you are comfortable with this being the case and that you are making changes for the right reasons. Again, take the example of Innocent Drinks – who are now in the most part owned by Coca Cola. Does this fit well with the brands values? Six months ago, perhaps not but since Coke has changed its approach and moved towards more ‘healthy’ options the decision starts to make sense. The decision as I see it wasn’t for Innocent to change their values in order to become part of the huge corporate machine that is Coke but more for Coke to learn how to change the positioning of its values and use the experience of Innocent to make this transition in the mind of the consumers – and it’s working.

If you are confident about communicating new values – or an evolution of your current values – to your stakeholders, employees and customers then you can’t go far wrong. The most important point is that you believe – truly believe – in your values and that they are shared by those who matter most to you. Trying to be something you are not is like wearing the wrong sized clothes – we may all try it from time to time but it will never work!

As far as I’m concerned if you have no values, you have no personality and as per my recent blog  this is one of the most significant and ‘valuable’ assets a business has. So if you can’t see the value in your values perhaps you need to look from the outside in – what is the perception that you are giving your customers and are you confident that this is a true representation of your brand and business.

One size doesn’t fit all

When you work in PR you quickly recognise that one size does not fit all when it comes to campaign planning. For a start the audience for every client will differ slightly – you can always use less defined targets such as men, women, geographical location or demographic but being more specific means that we are able to meet with the objectives set by the brands we work with.

What is also important is the medium that we choose to engage with. Not every campaign will rely on all channels and I’ve seen a few frightening examples recently where agencies have mismatched the campaign and the medium. Sometimes it’s best to do one thing really well than lots of things badly.

There is a strange attitude within the industry at the moment with some agencies believing that everything needs to be shared across social media channels and I simply don’t agree. There are some campaigns that sit better on radio, or within printed media – not everything has to feature on Facebook, twitter, Pinterest or YouTube to get results and engagement.

It seems to me that agencies are pitching social media as a sexy alternative to other mediums and rather than tailoring a campaign around a preferred medium, ideas are being shoe-horned to fit social channels.
I think it’s time that we all took a step back and went back to basics.

When we work with brands at Open Communications we look at the following; audience, media consumption, ideas, strongest recommendations. Ok, so it’s not brain surgery but if you use the same process you are likely to get a campaign that is fit for purpose and delivers a return on investment, which at the end of the day is what you pay an agency for!