The Fifty Pence Challenge: Sainsbury’s & Lidl


Many people are by now familiar with Tuesday’s Twitter storm after a (probably now unemployed) member of Sainsbury’s Romford Road, Stratford team accidentally put up a poster meant for the staff room in a shop window. The poster was asking staff to encourage customers to spend more during every shopping trip in a concerted sales push towards the end of the year.

The offending poster created quite a stir as TV freelancer Chris Dodd tweeted the picture @ the Sainsbury’s Twitter account along with the caption: ‘Not sure this is supposed to be in your window…’ Cue articles in just about every morning newspaper going and the inevitable office water cooler conversations about that Sainsbury’s poster.

Sainsburys image 2

Whilst the Sainsbury’s brand will never scream its value message in the way that rivals Asda and Tesco do, this does somewhat seem to go against their most recent brand promise of ‘Live Well for Less’. Historically Sainsbury’s have opted to take a more subtle approach than their rival discounters in an effort to appeal customer emotions. However, whilst they might not necessarily make a noise about competing on price their current strap-line definitely implies that customers will be getting more for less and it is easy to see how loyal shoppers would be well within their rights to be angry after this picture was published online.

In a nutshell – Sainsbury’s appear to be promising something that they are not delivering.

Call me cynical but it does seriously make you wonder how many companies (especially in the food retail sector) actually intend to deliver on their brand promises.  With the amount of money companies spend on convincing us that their brand is superior/sexier/better value,  this sort of thing is often hard to judge at face value. In this case however, the speed with which people are prepared to jump on the anti-Sainsbury’s bandwagon after an incident like this is very telling.

Sainsbury’s were quick to dismiss the suggestion that it was deceiving customers by saying that the poster was merely ‘a bit of fun’. Whether or not this is the case, it was clearly not a well-thought out strategy, the damage is now done and Sainsbury’s are left clearing up mess in a fiercely competitive market place. The FT has now published an article that describes the UK Groceries market as being in a war-of-attrition-like state and that Sainsbury’s were expecting a decline in sales in the run up to Christmas following a 3% dip in sales in the second quarter.

What we absolutely loved was how quickly German rivals Lidl reacted to Sainsbury’s unfortunate mishap with this genius ad and a great hashtag in this morning’s metro.

Lidl image

In our new technological age everyone is armed with their own weapons of mass communication and there really is nowhere to hide. When a traditionally well-loved food giant like Sainsbury’s makes this kind of slip-up, people are all-too savvy and eager to grab their moment of glory by exposing a large corporation for all to see.

And of course, as with Lidl, competitors are always waiting in the wings ready to reinforce their own brand values and capitalise on such a situation in order to seize a slice of the market pie chart and educate people as to the benefits of their brand. The moral of the story – “Brands! Stick to your promises, be transparent and be careful”.


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