Given the recent press coverage, you may be forgiven for thinking that Tesco’s troubles are a new phenomenon. But Tesco lost its way a long time ago. Success bred an efﬁcient machine that rolled out stores in the right locations with massive ranges of lovely products. But supermarkets should be more than efﬁcient machines. They need to have soul. They need to put love and passion into food and into their staff and customers and communities.
Back in the day, Tesco was more of a well-oiled Panzer division crossing the steppes of Amersham and Leeds. This worked perfectly when it knew where it was rolling to. Unfortunately for the supermarket giant, a lot changed in the market place.
Firstly competitors upped their game. For example, when I was at Tesco back in the early/mid Nineties, we just laughed at Waitrose as an irrelevance. Now the Tesco yummy mummy set prefers to shop there – supplemented by Scottish smoked salmon from Aldi and a £29.99 wall safe from Lidl!
Secondly, customers got a bit sick of being taken for mugs. With margins creeping upwards, the recession pushed people to reassess their habits. They found that their main shop didn’t have to deﬁne them as a person.
After all, we are not all Tesco shoppers or Sainsbury’s shoppers or Asda shoppers. We are now canny shoppers, who know price and service and quality when we see and we’ll move stores to get it.
So, did Clubcard lose its way, too? Of course. Clubcard was designed to say thank-you. But that can get boring. Clubcard is now a business tool. And like any tool it can be wielded well or badly.
Customer insights are at the core of a successful business and marketing strategy. But there’s something else there at the core without which the insights are useless. It’s call “marketing nous”. Creativity and retail aggression and excitement and theatre. Insights might tell you what people do, but they won’t generate a great idea. And they won’t get it to market quickly and excite customers and frustrate the competition.
Great ideas and delivery come from great individuals and small teams. I suggest small SAS “who dares wins” units rather than entire Panzer divisions make the difference today. It’s this thinking that could make a difference for Tesco.
So, should Tesco scrap Clubcard? Sure, why not? Use the insight it has now and append it to payment card analysis. Throw everything in the air and ﬁre up the imaginations. Who knows what it could achieve? Putting the £500m into price savings wouldn’t touch the sides, but putting it into creative innovation businesses, teams and communities could transform the UK and Tesco’s position in it and in peoples’ minds.
All of which leads to the question, should Tesco own Dunnhumby? For me, it makes no sense whatsoever. Firstly, Simon Hay told me to say that as he’s in line for a large payout no doubt. But the reality is Tesco doesn’t own Weiden + Kennedy or its direct and digital agencies. Why should it?
It makes far more sense to hold the data at Tesco and then use a third-party to carry out the creative analysis. When we invented and launched Clubcard we took big risks, with customers at the core. We were creative about how we did it. We used small teams. No committee. JFDI Tesco.
Grant Harrison is founder and partner at The Future Customer and former Tesco director of Clubcard and targeted marketing
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