Now that I work in a design agency it feels a little strange having a blog that critiques and praises the work of other studios so I’ve decided to change this blog primarily into musings about design as a whole and trends rather than focussing on specific work. It was either that or a lifestyle blog, and as my idea of a balanced diet is sweet & salty popcorn I think we’re all safer if I stick to the former. It does, however, mean that this blog’s name is rather redundant but I’ll tackle that in due course.
For a little while I’ve been thinking about how supermarkets both brand and advertise themselves and with talk of Morrisons launching a new logo these ponderings finally seem ever-so-slightly relevant (But I’ll get back to that shortly). The thing that’s been bothering me is how supermarkets appear to have lost their brands and this post is a very brief summary of my thoughts on this matter.
This is speculative now as I have neither data nor fact to support this but it seems to me that when Supermarkets first began to dominate Britain’s shopping habits they worked very hard to both differentiate themselves from each other (with each choosing a distinctive brand colour) but also to clearly identify and appeal to a particular target market – building trust to lure them away from their local butchers and greengrocers – and I feel that consumers responded to this with an element of loyalty; visiting a specific supermarket for their weekly shop despite, perhaps, it not being the most convenient for them.
Several things have changed from this time:
- a single weekly shop is far less common than it used to be,
- a rise in internet shopping now means many people choose to have their goods delivered and
- since the credit crunch, cost is at the forefront of consumers’ minds allowing cheaper challenger supermarkets (such as Aldi and Lidl) to threaten ‘the big 4’ .
Supermarkets responded (or contributed) to these issues in a number of ways, extra, express and local shops began appearing in smaller and smaller high street nooks & crannies, each major supermarket developed an online shop (although Morrisons was a little tardy here) and they each began churning out adverts to inform you that their milk was at least 1p cheaper than another supermarket’s (Such as this ANNA winning advert for Tesco from 2008):
But now, with every supermarket promising to price match every other supermarket this kind of marketing seems entirely superfluous to me.
So what should supermarkets be focusing on (and how is this all relevant to Morrisons)? Well, I think convenience is still a major factor but, whilst every supermarket was busy competing on price I think they forgot, to different extents, about trust. And it was at this time that the horse meat scandal hit – remember that one?
Now this is where I think Morrisons should really have made their move. They have pretty much been late to every party and their current situation doesn’t look promising. They were the last to develop an online shop meaning many people have already found a system they are comfortable with, they’re selling off and closing M local branches meaning they’re reliant on trust and loyal customers to trek to larger stores and yet the one thing they beat every other supermarket at, they barely mention. And that’s their traceability. They work directly with farmers so they knew that when horse meat started popping up in all their competitors’ products they had nothing to worry about. And yet, no one that I’ve spoken to had any idea about this.*
Whilst I have no particular adverse (or indeed verse, if that’s a word) reaction to this logo I think they’re skirting around a much bigger issue that’s at the heart of their brand and that’s, to put it bluntly, its lack of one. Morrisons only really saturated down from the North of England in 2004 and I think that because of this, a large percentage of the UK only became aware of the supermarket as consumers became fixated on price. As a result I think their branding doesn’t resonate as strongly with the mass market as other supermarkets’ do, as they had much less time to establish both a brand and an archetypal shopper before marketing became cost, rather than loyalty, led.
Obviously I acknowledge that this post skims over huge contextual and social issues, and this is something I’ll try and delve into more deeply in the future, but hopefully I’ve covered enough to put forward a convincing opinion on Morrisons position in the current market and how a logo with a tree in it shouldn’t be where they should be focusing their efforts.
*A partial survey of roughly 5 people