The great marketing delusion: why it won’t save Morrison’s bacon – or yours

Are they off their trolley? Another firm gets things back to front

If you want a good laugh with a touch of irony you can always rely on the banks.

Barclays commented the other day that they are “wary” of the new approach being taken by supermarket chain Morrisons .

Their investment analysts think reducing the Morrisons product range may alienate customers, and cutting the staff will upset the ones that are left.

Barclays should know. They have managed to alienate their customers, their employees, their shareholders and even the supine government.

So what are Morrisons up to?

If you follow UK supermarket wars you know those at the top – Waitrose – are thriving, as are those at the bottom – Aldi and Lidl.

Stuck in the middle and going nowhere fast are Tesco, Sainsbury and – in a real pickle – Morrisons.

Someone at Morrisons seems to have decided a big marketing push might help.

No doubt they called in their agency – or had a clutch of agencies waste time and money on pitches. But however it was decided you can be darn tootin’ sure all were agreed: marketing was the answer.

And not just fragmented marketing, but coordinated  marketing.

Accordingly, last week at Bristol Temple Meads Station friendly young people offered me – for no apparent reason – free fruit, courtesy of Morrisons.

Elsewhere big posters appeared. An ad in the paper said they were cutting prices, not just temporarily, but permanently. And I see they are even sponsoring a charity.

This is all a complete waste of effort and money.  Bill Bernbach explained why half a century ago. “Nothing kills a bad product faster than good advertising”.

The best marketing in the world – which this is not – cannot compensate for essential shortcomings.

Morrisons is not “a bad product”. But in Bristol (and I bet a lot of other places) it might just as well be.

That’s because they don’t have the essential: location.

They have three supermarkets in all Bristol, which with its environs has a million or so inhabitants. They also have, a 5 minute walk from me, a little Morrisons located by some half-wit 100 yards away from a big Sainsbury’s with a far larger range.

You can give away all the fruit you like, festoon the place with posters, give half your profit to charity, plaster the paper with ads about your new, low prices* but people will NOT trek miles when they can get much the same stuff just as easily in more places.

Good marketing is not a panacea. It only works if you’ve got everything else right first.

Just as an add-on:

Based on my experience in Bristol if the people at Tesco would stop rearranging their shelves every ten minutes so I know where everything is that might help.

And if the people at Sainsbury’s Fish Counter were shown how to clean fish I would like it more there.

But that’s just me – one of the people who pay the money.

* If anyone at Morrisons studied their industry’s history they would know that slashing all prices does not work as well as selective cuts. But then, as I commented the other day, few marketers study anything more than the latest fad

LATE NEWS: Just after I drafted this a reader of this blog sent me something which gives you an idea what sort of loopy stuff is going on at Morrisons.

About the Author

Drayton

In 2003, the Chartered Institute of Marketing named Drayton one of 50 living individuals who have shaped today’s marketing.

He has worked in 55 countries with many of the world’s greatest brands. These include American Express, Audi, Bentley, British Airways, Cisco, Columbia Business School, Deutsche Post, Ford, IBM, McKinsey, Mercedes, Microsoft, Nestle, Philips, Procter & Gamble, Toyota, Unilever, Visa and Volkswagen.

Drayton has helped sell everything from Airbus planes to Peppa Pig. His book, Commonsense Direct and Digital Marketing, out in 17 languages, has been the UK’s best seller on the subject every year since 1982. He has also run his own businesses in the U.K., Portugal and Malaysia.

He was a main board member of the Ogilvy Group, a founding member of the Superbrands Organisation one of the first eight Honorary Fellows of the Institute of Direct Marketing and one of the first three people named to the Hall of Fame of the Direct Marketing Association of India. He has also been given Lifetime Achievement Awards by the Caples Organisation in New York and Early To Rise in Florida.

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