‘It’s all about the customer’: Woolworths’ top marketer on its new brand campaign

Woolworths has overhauled its brand advertising with a series of spots aimed at explaining why people shop there. Its top marketer Andrew Hicks talks Mumbrella through the rationale for the new campaign.

Just six months after the shock decision to dump Leo Burnett as its advertising agency in favour of M&C Saatchi Woolworths has launched a huge new brand push, moving the supermarket chain away from the price-based messaging to one based around its values.

Woolworths chief marketing officer Andrew Hicks tells Mumbrella the supermarket’s new campaign will help it reconnect with consumers and show how the brand is improving.

WooliesHicks tells Mumbrella Woolworths was getting back to the basics of a conversation with its customers and while it would always fight on price, the new narrative of “That’s Why I Pick Woolies” meant it would not be shouting at customers – a thinly veiled reference to rival Coles’ brash and loud ‘Down Down’ marketing.

The campaign kicked off on Sunday night with a warm commercial celebrating the traditional Sunday roast and has continued to roll out new ads over the course of the week touching on various elements of what Woolworths stands for.


The massive media buy covering every platform from TV to radio, print, outdoor and social, aims at touching 80% of Australian grocery buyers in the first week.

“We recognised that there were some great reasons why customers choose Woolworths that hadn’t been shared broadly and equally new reasons why they had come on board that we hadn’t spoken about at all,” Hicks says.

“And so it was just a great opportunity to take a fresh approach, new brand platform, give new meaning to the Fresh Food People and equally to strengthen some of the emotional connections that we have with customers.”


Hicks said the message Woolworths had been promoting was too inwardly focused and the time had come to reach out to customers and put them back at the centre of communications, even down to adopting the use of “Woolies” in its marketing – something the brand has long avoided.

“I think the most important point is it was from the customer’s perspective rather than our own, so using their language,” he says.

“Even the shift from ‘Woolworths’ to ‘Woolies’ in reflecting how customers use it as a term of endearment. ‘Pick’ for us is also a very powerful word.

“It has connotations back to Fresh and to Fresh Food People, but equally it recognises that customers have an active choice they can make everyday in terms of where they shop.

This is really an opportunity to have fresh conversations plus recognition of the fact that we have to work hard to to be the first choice for our customers – and Woolies is the term of endearment customers use.”

While some have noted the new campaign resembles some of the work created by Droga5 four years ago for the supermarket minus the quirky characters, Hicks believes the new work from M&C Saatchi stands clearly on its own.

“I think the campaign idea is new in my view and I think it is different from previous campaigns,” he adds.

“However, there is something that is quintessentially Woolworths in the tone of the campaign and that is something we are particularly proud of, that Woolworths as a brand is authentic and optimistic, down to earth. There is a quintessential Aussie humour that runs through the brand’s DNA. So for us it was really taking the best of what Woolworths is as a brand and breathing new life into it.”


Although M&C Saatchi has had just six months to develop the campaign from scratch, it has already been researched extensively since the agency picked up the account from Leo Burnett in February.

“We have done some extensive research with customers to make sure that we’re living up to what we are saying we are doing in terms of putting the customer first,” he said.

“The research has (been) incredibly positive in terms of both the tone of the work and equally the fact that it is honest and it reflects some of the reasons customers actively do quote as reasons to pick Woolworths.

“I think there is something that is as sincere and authentic about the approach, and from what we have seen in research this will resonate particularly well with customers.

“It’s only been a day since we launched but if we look at some of the initial sentiments on social media they have equally been very positive so I think it does begin to say that we have made a good connection or are in the process of making a good and positive connection with customers.”

The supermarket will continue to fight on price but will avoid the tone of the much derided ‘Cheap Cheap’ commercials created by Leo Burnett.

Cheap Cheap

“I don’t think we are stepping away from price except it’s one of the reasons that customers choose Woolworths every week, and so for us it was important to, yes, maintain the focus on price,” Hicks says.

“But really acknowledging the fact that customers see that as just one reason why they pick Woolies. Price, quality, convenience, even something like Food Rescue and a brand that does good in the community.

“There are a vast array of reasons why a customer picks a supermarket and indeed picks Woolworths. So for us it was really just saying we need to represent that truth more broadly.

“Price is one of the things that is critically important to Australian consumers and we will remain focused on communicating our price credentials as part of one of the core reasons that customers pick Woolies.

“And we have seen price perception gaps narrowing and investment in price is beginning to pay off practically in consumer’s wallets but equally in perception.”

Hicks said that the tone of the campaign would not change and that it would be a long-term platform after three years of chopping and changing brand messages.

“The tone is very indicative in terms of where the brand will go,” he adds.

“I’m not a big fan of the thought that the louder you shout the more you will be heard.

“I think the Woolworths brand has and always would be and should be a conversation. It’s the experience that many customers have with the brand when they interact with our teams in stores.

“I think it’s our job to try and reflect it at its best, and at its best it is a dialogue, a conversation and a friend and so the tone that we are trying to establish is one that is authentic and clear and conversational and has a sense of humour.

“That is something that we are committed to maintaining through all of the mediums that we are going to be rolling the campaign out in.”

As well as traditional channels the supermarket will also use its own media and staff to communicate the new messaging.

“In the initial stages TV, out of home, digital, mobile, social, print, radio, there is a large weight of media behind landing the initial idea with consumers and communicating it well,” says Hicks.

“But our owned assets are equally powerful, so how we utilise Fresh Magazine, our team members in stores and the stores themselves, our own online website, our social media channels, we are committed to everything at our disposal to communicate the idea on an ongoing basis.

“I think the reason that that’s important, as I said earlier, there are many, many reasons why consumers pick Woolies.”

Woolworths will drive its own content with the help of Kiis radio presenter and comedian Dave Hughes, who will create a series of content pieces speaking to customers in stores.

“From basically a content series with Dave, as he describes himself, a trolley boy at Woolies, and so its a humorous lens on the Why Pick Woolies campaign and the reasons,” Hicks said.

“So he is interacting with customers in our stores and asking them the various reasons why they pick Woollies. That content series will then be amplified on the Kiis website and more generally on radio.”

He also said that the new relationship with M&C Saartchi was crucial to the success of the campaign and setting a new direction.

“I think it’s been an opportunity just more generally to reset what the brand stands for and where it’s going,” says Hicks.

“The Woolworths business is going through a transformation and it’s only fitting that the business’s biggest asset, its brand, should equally be reviewed and strengthened.”

Success will be measured by both the financial results and brand measures.

He adds: “There is a lot of brand tracking that is currently in place so we will certainly look to see a number of those metrics move forward.

“I think one of the key metrics for us is our Net Promoter Score which we stay very close to. I think its very direct link back to the customer-centricity that the business and the brand is focused on, so would you recommend this brand to friends or family, that is particularly a metric we would like to see moving forward along with other likely brand metrics.

“I think Woolworths is and remains a strong and iconic Australian brand we have seen opportunities to strengthen it and that is really what we focused on.”


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