Are you wasting time and money by reaching the wrong audience with the wrong message at the wrong time. This is especially likely when a brand has more than 1 target audience. In this case study, discover how Asda ensured its message was as effective as possible with useful learning for companies big and small.

In pre-internet days, I was Head of Advertising & Media at Asda. Our message was aimed at ‘working people and their families who demand value’. The Asda Price pocket tap was a very effective piece of advertising short hand to communicate value.

Communicate to the right audience

At the time, Asda had around 200 stores across GB. Some stores were tiny and were 25 years old: many were new and huge. Some stores were in poor areas and competed against discounters like Aldi, Netto & Lidl: others were in affluent areas and competed against Waitrose. Asda was unique in competing against the full range of stores whereas Sainsbury and Tesco did not effectively compete against discounters.

So Asda did not have just one target audience: there were multiple target audiences e.g. more affluent areas preferred higher price wine. In addition to differences of affluence, there were local, regional and national differences. Welsh people preferred to buy Welsh butter and bara brith fruit bread; Scots preferred McKewans ale and Scottish cheese; Geordies preferred Newcastle brown ale.

Following a strategy review, we developed a store based marketing approach with each store’s offer (product range and pricing) based on analysis of the store’s customer profile and the supermarkets in its catchment area.

In addition we analysed every store catchment to identify the customer profiles for each store and the best local media options e.g. local press titles or local radio stations or door to door leaflets.

This process enabled to move from one message to multiple messages to multiple target audiences.

Communicate the right message

Historically, Asda and other supermarkets tended to run a national tv campaign supported by national press ads. We continued with tv but switched from national press to local media to enable us to tailor the messages to specific store catchments based on our analysis and insight to ensure we were communicating to the right people. Each of our target audiences were significantly more likely to see the most relevant message. By moving from national marketing to more local marketing we were able to tailor the message at a store specific level based on customer preferences and the specific competitor set for each store.

So the tv ads set the tone but the local media made the campaign relevant on a more individual level.

e.g. an affluent shopper in Harrogate deciding whether to shop at Asda or Waitrose would see a tailored message communicating the Adsa offer in a way that was highly relevant for them. Whereas just a few miles away, a shopper in a less affluent part of east Leeds deciding on whether to shop at Asda or Aldi would see a very different message communicating the Asda offer. Althought both ads were 100% Asda brand and designed to communicate the same message that ‘Asda provides great value to my family’, the substantiation in the form of products and prices featured was designed to be relevant to two quite different audience segments.

Communicate at the right time

We developed a calendar of monthly campaign themes based on what was important in our customers lives across the year e.g. Christmas, barbecue, back to school.

With over 25,000 products available in the store, naturally every Asda buyer and product supplier wanted their product(s) featured in the ads due to the significant sales uplift but there was only space for 4 to 50 products depending on whether the ad was a tv commercial or a door drop leaflet.

Other supermarkets were less focussed at the time and ‘inappropriate’ products would often be advertised because a product supplier was keen to promote their product and may have offered some promotional support e.g. a buyer might want to feature cornflakes in a barbecue campaign!

We took a different view and put the customer first and would only feature products if they were a compelling exemplar of that month’s campaign theme making sure we were communicating the most relevant products for that month.

Key learning for companies big and small

Although this example predates the internet, the principles are just as relevant today if you want to maximise your marketing return on investment and ensure your marketing is as effective as possible. Our analysis showed that every advertising £ Asda spent delivered more sales that our competitors.

  • does your product or service have more than one audience segment?
  • if so, have you got a compelling brand proposition that can attract target leads across all target segments
  • have you identified what the most compelling message would be for each segment?
  • how can you ‘isolate’ different segments to ensure they see the relevant messages? e.g. can this be done by structuring the website in a different way or by having different email campaigns aimed at different segments or by using social media marketing e.g. blogs, Twitter or Facebook?
  • have you identified which products and services are most relevant to your target audiences? e.g. keyword research
  • do you have a campaign calendar to ensure your offer and marketing is seasonally relevant?
  • how often do your target audiences want to receive communication? e.g. email  frequency
  • have you made it easy for target customers and prospects to find you e.g. SEO & PPC
  • do you track whats working and what isn’t e.g. web analytics