Paul Simons: is Asda heading up the same one-way retail street as Morrisons?

The latest news of Asda appointing Saatchi & Saatchi is the latest in retailers feeling the pinch and therefore looking for a quick fix. The reality is that former agency VCCP and S&S have similar levels of talent in their respective homes and I doubt that S&S have suddenly discovered the holy grail of brand differentiation in grocery retail advertising.

Morrison’s haven’t had a great time recently and we have yet another advertising campaign on air that has got nothing to do with the past, i.e. no asset being carried forwards. The spot on air at the moment features a lot of people running in and out of a house moving items of furniture for some unexplained reason, followed by a big family lunch with lots of laughing and unheard banter. And the knock- out punch at the end when a v/o says “Tradition, Morrisons Makes it”. No they don’t, and never will, they are a grocery retailer and I want to know why I should drop Waitrose for Morrisons.

They are opposite each other on a wide high street in my local town. There is also a big Tesco on the edge of town. My local newspaper ran a story before Morrisons opened with a local councillor saying that ‘it is good news for the town to have a cheaper alternative’ – in brackets ‘to Waitrose’.

Now my point is in the wording here. A ‘cheaper alternative’ is a clear, unambiguous positioning for Morrisons so why don’t they stick to the truth? But Aldi and Lidl have stolen this space which is now fully occupied. Morrisons has been ‘repositioned’ by better versions of their original positioning.

Polishing my crystal ball I believe we have continuous disruption ahead in different sectors of society – including retail. One obvious candidate for major disruption is the political landscape, maybe not as extreme as Italy and Greece but certainly more parties than exist today. Labour looks like it is going to split in to the far left and left of centre.

It is the same game for grocery retailers. There are more players in the game giving the public more choice; which appeals to the wider population which is also fragmenting.

I have never been comfortable working with retailers because I know, or think I do, there lurks some nasty person at the top of the business who thinks marketing is a role for limp wristed weaklings. The boss is watching daily and weekly sales by category and reacting immediately if there is a blip. He gets short term promotional advertising, driving traffic, but weeps when a person in a funny suit and dodgy haircut drones on about brand image in the North-West.

I give the life of ‘Tradition, Morrisons Makes it’ a short time on air, to be replaced by next Christmas. RIP.

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About Paul Simons

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Paul joined Cadbury-Schweppes in brand management and then moved to United Biscuits. He switched to advertising in his late 20s, at Cogent Elliott and then Gold Greenlees Trott. He founded Simons Palmer Denton Clemmow & Johnson in the late 80s, one of the leading creative agencies of the 90s. Simons Palmer then merged with TBWA to create a top ten agency. Paul then joined O&M as chairman & CEO of the UK group. After three years he left to create a new AIM-quoted advertising group Cagney Plc. He is now a consultant to a number of client companies. Paul also shares his thoughts on his blog. Visit Paul Simons Blog.

One comment

  1. Avatar

    sorry but you are wrong morrisons does do what it says ie make 65 % of the food they sell ,they run their own abattoirs ,bakeries,sea food factories ,and various food production factoies