October 20, 2005

Engaging customers in recipes

Sainsbury customer Arun Joseph writes about her own recipe, Mummys Special Soup To Make Baby Eat When Ill With Lots of Love.

While we were in Sainsbury, we decided to buy a few things to make a soup with and ended up buying a concoction of items to throw into a soup. Joshua was very happy to eat it not only for his lunch, but for dinner too. So, as of now we know a secret weapon !
I wonder if Sainsbury's should find ways to encourage more of its customers to share their recipes as part of the "try something new" campaign?

Posted by Johnnie Moore on October 20, 2005 at 01:44 PM in Marketing | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 06, 2005

The power of advertising

Nick Dymoke Marr from Stormhoek distributor, Orbital Wines, just emailed me this great link from The Guardian. It seems that since the "Try something different today" advert aired two weeks ago, sales of nutmeg have soared:

In the week following the launch of the advert, weekly sales of jars of whole nutmeg rose from 1,400 to 6,000. Because some folk are too lazy to grate it themselves, sales of the ground spice have also more than doubled to 4,500 jars a week. Demand is so high, Sainsbury's has ordered two years' worth of stock (nine tonnes) and has sent buyers to scour the world.

Checkout magazine confirms the story. I bet Peter Ward, Sainsbury's nutmeg buyer, never expected to see his name in lights. I wonder how he is coping with this exposure?

There's no word yet on whether this increase in demand for nutmeg is matched by increased sales across the board, but, at the very least, the campaign is rousing some dormant cooks.

Posted by Adrian Trenholm on October 6, 2005 at 11:04 AM in Food, Marketing | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 21, 2005

Can Sainsbury's create a smarter conversation?

Several of us met earlier this week to talk about where we're heading with this experiment. One theme that emerged is this: we'd like to use this space to explore how Sainsbury's can create a smarter conversation with its customers and other stakeholders.

A lot of conventional thinking about branding doesn't really countenance the idea of conversation, preferring the apparent certainty of broadcasting. Brands are encouraged to adopt "positions" and put "propositions" to customers. This propositioning creates good income for ad agencies, but does it really engage customers? Does it create a climate in which brands actually learn from their customers?

Using one bunch of agents to do advertising, and another bunch to do market research, doesn't create a conversation. A conversation is much more than a surface level swapping of ideas and opinions. For me great conversations allow both parties to be influenced and affected by each other in a continuous, unfolding process.

Adrian here, and James here, have both recently encouraged Sainsbury's to create better relationships with the farming, especially organic, industry. Cynics would say that would be a waste of time; supermarkets have to squash their suppliers becuase the only thing customers care about is value for money, which they measure largely on the lowest price for a given quality.

I'd like to suggest taking a more optimistic view of human nature, one that recognises that people are not the selfish, hyper-rational creatures of the economists' imaginations. Admen have long prospered by selling their abilities to leverage our emotions... though often on the assumption that our motivation remains fairly narcissistic.

Actually, we're hungry for something to believe in beyond self-interest. In fact, vibrant communities, and thriving conversations, are much more likely to happen when people's higher selves are engaged, not just their pocketbooks or vanity. Not many marketers are willing to take the risk of taking a stand for something bolder, but some that have, have prospered. Pret a Manger comes to mind.

The new Sainsbury line is "try something new". Is this to be just another here today, gone tomorrow, slogan? Or can Sainsbury's bring it to life by creating challenging thinking for its staff, customers and the wider community? Will it risk the sort of thinking that might engage our passions? Can Sainsbury's make this theme about genuine innovation, involving risk-taking by itself as well as customers... or will it settle for being merely the peddler of the latest food novelties?

(One small straw in the wind is how they use Jamie Oliver. Is he bascially going to continue as a gimmick, or are they going to align more with the side of him that campaigns for something? I'm not a huge fan of celebrity marketing, but if they're going to work with Jamie, how are they going to work with him?)

(Credit: Hugh Macleod is the guy who - to my knowledge - first used the phrase Smarter Conversations in marketing)

Posted by Johnnie Moore on September 21, 2005 at 11:57 AM in Marketing | Permalink | Comments (25) | TrackBack

September 19, 2005

Try something new today

Try something new today.

That's Sainsbury's new slogan as reported by The Guardian. I confess, my kneejerk reaction was what the hell does that mean? But I was delighted to read this (emphasis mine):

The new slogan was developed after research showed that customers wanted supermarkets to help them with simple but effective recipe ideas.

A central plank of the strategy is for Jamie Oliver's cooking hints and tips to be sampled by all of Sainsbury's 153,000 employees so they can share their knowledge and ideas with customers.

Bigger stores will also offer samples of new products and ideas to shoppers.

Good Lord - it's as if they have been reading 173 all along! Emphasis on the food. Staff trained accordingly. Leadership for people who want to change their eating habits. And perhaps even a slogan aimed at those of us who say, "I would like to eat better / more variety / healthier."

If other people experience the same initial reaction to the slogan as I, or if the implementation of the strategy is botched, then the store may continue to have problems. But if JS can raise quality and logistics to Waitrose levels, then this training idea could make Sainsbury's definitively the best food supermarket, and I think that is tremendous news.

Posted by Adrian Trenholm on September 19, 2005 at 02:55 PM in Food, Marketing | Permalink | Comments (12) | TrackBack

September 05, 2005

Our Social World

I'm going to take part in Our Social World this Friday. Any business trying to make sense of blogging and other forms of Social Software will find it a bargain-priced way to understand more. Among the attractions, Simon Phipps will talk about the benefits blogging has brought to Sun Microsystems. Anyone at Sainsbury's: for 100 quid, a bargain!

Posted by Johnnie Moore on September 5, 2005 at 07:16 PM in Marketing | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 04, 2005

Do Sainsbury's side businesses damage the brand?

Big Dom. Little Bill? Same tune, isn't it? Open Channel D vents his spleen:

OK another stupid advert, Sainsbury's "little bill"

So they now resale hbos (esure) insurance. wow. great stuff. and how do they show it, well little bill, walks like a cowboy down a high street full of shops.

But Sainbury's is destroying the high street, while a cowboy is hardly much of a positive image.

We have mentioned before the dread "do you have a minute?" from the Sainsbury's credit card salesman who loiters in the fruit and veg section, now we have another television ad to make us cringe.

Sainsbury's bank has also come in for flak from The Times about its Discover credit card and this blogger thinks the bank's customer service is poor:

their customer service was appalling, and as soon as I've paid it off, I'm going to be ditching Sainsburys Bank, and that will equally apply to any organisation that accuses me of having an attitude.

I do wonder if the money that Sainsbury's makes on its various side businesses is enough to justify the resulting damage to the Sainsbury brand. What do you think?

Posted by Adrian Trenholm on September 4, 2005 at 12:01 PM in Marketing | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Sainsbury's: where good wine costs less

I don't know what Andrew makes of this, but the Observer says:

2004 Sainsbury's Classic Selection Vintage Claret (£5.49, Sainsbury's)
Claret under £6 is often rather challenging, but this is a huge step up from the same supermarket's basic Bordeaux. It's fragrant, grassy and elegant with little or no oak and plenty of refreshing plum and cassis fruit.

Posted by Adrian Trenholm on September 4, 2005 at 12:00 PM in Food, Marketing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 03, 2005

Sainsbury's gets its organic act together

This is great news from The Independent on 28 August:

J Sainsbury will today unveil a multi-million-pound shake-up of its organic range, the latest thrust in attempts by its chief executive, Justin King, to turn the supermarket chain around.

Sainsbury's, which is struggling to lure back customers lost to rivals such as Tesco and Waitrose, is adding 100 new products to its rebranded SO Organic range. Prices will also be slashed on a quarter of products, which include Welsh lamb, milk, eggs, wine, cheese, fruit and vegetables. A spokeswoman said the organic market in the UK was growing at around 15 per cent a year, and accounted for an increasing proportion of the retailer's own sales.

On my way to my local Sainsbury's yesterday, I noticed a billboard announcing a substantial price cut on free range organic eggs. Great news. This is the first time I have noticed a really substantial price cut on any item that I buy regularly from Sainsbury's.

What a canny move. Not only is the organic market growing, Sainsbury's is the first of the big three supermarkets to really make a song and dance about its organic range. At last: distinction, instead of more "me too" marketing.

My gut feeling is that it will take a little time for this strategy to pay off. There is a perception, after all, that organic is very much more expensive than non-organic, so it will take a while for the "organic is cheaper at Sainsbury's" message to sink in, especially among shoppers who have previously avoided organic because of cost. Let's hope Sainsbury's holds its nerve and continues to invest in this strategy, whatever the initial results.

Posted by Adrian Trenholm on September 3, 2005 at 11:41 PM in Food, Marketing | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Jamie Oliver vs. Stormhoek

Hatful of Hollow linked recently to a Wall Street Journal article on using econometrics to measure advertising impact. Sir Martin Sorrell from WPP Group is really championing econometrics, and the article featured a bit about the Jamie Oliver ads:

Econometrics uses statistical analysis to measure the relationship between different sets of events, such as the effect of educational qualifications on wage levels. To determine an advertisement's effectiveness, econometricians write an equation to measure the effect on sales of different factors, including the weather, price cuts and advertising. For the advertiser, the purpose is to help decide which ads to run...

British supermarket chain J Sainsbury says an econometric analysis of a long-running TV ad campaign, featuring celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, "probably" helped the chain decide to renew Mr. Oliver's contract earlier this year.

In 2002 the study found that ads that had run since 2000 had generated £1.12 billion ($2.03 billion) in revenue at a cost of £28 million a year. The analysis was done by a WPP-owned research consultancy, ohal, which continues to work for Sainsbury. More-recent data haven't been released.

Compare and contrast with Hugh Macleod's recent post on Stormhoek:

Although we can track the blogger's online conversations easily enough, we have no accurate way of measuring how many offline conversations the freebie thing is generating. Sure, we get anecdotal evidence of it all the time, like Damian's above, but so far it's impossible to measure directly.

Other marketing bloggers keep e-mailing me, asking me for numbers on how the campaign is affecting sales. Basically, they want a case study. They have products and ideas they want to sell to their clients, and they're looking to me to provide them with objective, third-party proof that this whole blogvertising thing actually works.

Well, the wine has been selling very well indeed, ever since the Blogger Freebie thing started. But that's just one part of the equation. Other factors include a damn good product, a good shelf positioning at the supermarkets, a marvellous sales team doing a great job, and also the fact that they now, like Damian, have a story (A) they genuinely like telling to other people and (B) other people don't seem to mind hearing.

So maybe it doesn't really need to be measured.

I wonder what econometricians would make of Stormhoek?

Posted by Adrian Trenholm on September 3, 2005 at 11:16 PM in Marketing | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Is Buying a Strategy Such a Bad Idea for Sainsbury?

Judging by the dire warnings Sainsbury received from the London Business School, the IOD, and a “top FTSE 100 firm”, you’d swear that it had asked al-Qaeda to help it develop a corporate strategy rather than benign management consultants McKinsey and Co. The article in question accuses companies that use consultants for strategy planning of “outsourcing management” and blindly accepting whatever strategies the consultants dictate. In short, it suggests that any company buying in strategy is not “long for this world”.

As you may have sensed from the tone above, I do not agree. But before I continue, I had better disclose that I too am a strategy consultant (not McKinsey) and that the text below needs to be read bearing this in mind. However, let me also add that I would be the first to turn down business if I don’t believe that I will create value for the client: failed strategy engagements never make good case studies. McKinsey knows this better than anyone.

For a variety of reasons, I believe that Sainsbury needs help from whatever quarter it can find it – inside or out. One reason is that the company seems to be irreversibly losing market share to Tesco and ASDA. It has even resorted to buying market share from struggling competitor Morrison. Hopefully McKinsey will help Sainsbury by asking why they are attempting to grow when they should first be learning to manage what they have more effectively.

Second, Sainsbury needs help because it still behaves like a family business. As they say: the first generation makes the fortune, the second holds it, and the third spends it. Before anyone notes that the last family member – Lord David Sainsbury – resigned in 1998, let me suggest that a family culture need not necessarily disappear within a decade. Its effects can easily be transmitted for up to a generation by executives originally employed by the Sainsbury family.

Third, any strategist worth her or his salt would probably explain to Sainsbury that underperforming companies should consolidate their activities and focus on making money from their core competencies at least until performance improves. If Sainsbury has forgotten what its core competencies are, perhaps McKinsey could help it to re-discover them.

Finally, Sainsbury needs help to define its market position. As can be seen from this article, its brand values are diffuse and I am unsure what they stand for in relation to competitors like Tesco and ASDA. In other words, the market is not sure why it should buy there. Yes, Sainsbury should be able to address its brand positioning internally, but for some reason it has not done so. Such fundamental deficits require external assistance to rectify them.

So what could a consultancy like McKinsey do for Sainsbury? I believe that while Sainsbury’s management team are busy executing their daily operational duties (running the company), they are unlikely to find the time to sit down and collaborate on a decent strategy. This is where McKinsey could assist. It could, for example, interview all the Sainsbury executives individually, gather their collective wisdom and experience, and integrate these into a winning plan.

Second, strategy consultants can offer companies like Sainsbury objectivity simply not available in-house. This is because unlike employees, consultants are not (or should not) be constrained by the politics and culture of the organisations they serve. They should not care, for example, that “Sir David was particularly fond of this or that structure”. If it’s losing money, good consultants can do what many employees dare not – they can recommend that it be thrown out.

Third, and related to the above point, many consultants offer research-based expertise. This is the antithesis of the seat-of-the-pants experience-based management style used at Sainsbury (“I’ve been in this business for forty years – you can’t tell me anything about this market”).

Finally, maintaining up-to-date strategy skills is a full time job. Consultants like McKinsey possess these skills precisely because it’s all they do. It could never pay Sainsbury to maintain this level of skill in house. Of course Sainsbury could derive more value by ensuring knowledge transfer at the end of the project, but even without knowledge transfer, it would be better off with an externally developed strategy than they are now.

In summary, a consultancy like McKinsey can ease the burden of Sainsbury executives by providing an objective analysis of alternative scenarios and helping to make their planning a reality.

Posted by Max Blumberg on September 3, 2005 at 09:51 PM in Marketing | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack