Opinion

Coles’ new strategy is going ‘Down Down’ the wrong path

As Coles moves away from its price-driven marketing strategy, Joyride’s Jamie Clift wonders if customers really value a supermarket's community work over cheap groceries.

The supermarket category is amongst the most fiercely combative segments in marketing – a true heavyweight bout where a single percentage point share movement one way or another can add up to many millions in revenue lost or gained. And for a long time, Coles had the ascendency.

For Woolies, this was a battle fought daily, constantly looking over their shoulders wondering what Coles would do next. Frantically trying to crack the code on ‘value’, and bemoaning the success of Coles’ ‘Down Down’ campaign. Efforts to mimic ‘Down Down’ with ill-conceived campaigns like ‘Cheap Cheap’ left egg on the face of marketers from the green corner.

But time moves on, and new players have emerged to challenge Coles’ grip on ‘value’. Aldi’s fresh take on supermarket shopping and value is a breath of fresh air for weary shoppers, bored with the monotonous tit-for-tat of the big two and the now tiring tones of ‘Down Down’.

They say retail is all about ‘new news’ and in the scheme of things, ‘Down Down’ should have been relegated to fish and chip wrapper two years ago. At launch, its irritatingly simple message combined with ageing rockers cut-through in a ‘so bad it’s good’ kind of way. But now, more than seven years on, it fails to cut through and just looks (and sounds) tired.

Mercifully, Coles is onto this. But will its new ‘Good things are happening’ campaign address the challenge?

Recreating those serendipitous moments in advertising like ‘Down Down’ isn’t easy. Love it or loathe it, ‘Down Down’ changed the game for Coles, but their latest effort doesn’t come close to recapturing the magic.

The media release that accompanied the ‘Good things are happening’ campaign discusses the dialogue Coles has had with its customers, who kindly told them “we want to know more about the good things Coles is doing in our community”. Bollocks!

Shoppers want to know how you’re going to provide them greater value and do it in an entertaining way that takes the drudgery out of shopping. As worthy as the Red Kite partnership may be, it won’t convert a single Woolies (or Aldi) customer to Coles. And as for the 96% Australian produce promise, that’s as old news as ‘Down Down’.

Coles has made the mistake of taking their shopper research too literally. Asking shoppers to give them the answers is a sign of a nervous marketing department that is fearful of fucking up. There is no imagination and no creative leap whatsoever.

Coles has had the wherewithal to understand ‘Down Down’ is running out of puff. Now they need to take another brave pill and find an alternative, and equally bold way to entertain shoppers with their ‘value’ message. A different knock-out blow.

Jamie Clift is head of Joyride.

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