Today I experienced for myself a brilliant bit of brand activation at Sainsbury's supermarket called "Brand Match", that has helped boost Sainsbury’s business results. The company report market share of 16.7% in the 14 weeks to January, up from 16.6% a year ago. Like-for-like sales increased 4.8% and included Sainsbury’s best ever set of Christmas sales.
Brand Match instantly calculated the cost of the brands I'd bought compared to Tesco and Asda, Sainsbury's tow key competitors. As my shop was a bit more expensive than the competitive stores, hey presto, it gave me a coupon to use on my next shop to cover the difference. The snazzy system uses independently verified price data supplied by experts BrandView, that is updated every day.
Here's why I think Brand Match is brilliant.
1. Gaining a point of parity on price
Sainsbury's has a reputation in the UK for offering better quality than Tesco and Asda, but its seen as being as more expensive. In reality, prices are quite close, but the "memory structure" of Sainsbury's being expensive is hard to change.
What's clever about Brand Match is that Sainsbury's is not trying to be the cheapest on everything, which would be costly and potentially under-mine the brand's quality image. Rather, its just trying to get a "point of parity" by not being more expensive on branded products, which are the same in every supermarket.
The power of Brand Match is that its so personal, based on my shopping. In December 2012, over 50% of shoppers found that their Sainsbury’s shop had actually been cheaper than Asda and Tesco on branded products. With 20.7 million coupons being given out in December alone, that means 10.35 million personal experiences of Sainsbury's being actually cheaper than Asda and Tesco.
This seems to me to be a more effective way of changing memory structure than communication. Second, for the other 50% where the shop was a bit more expensive, the difference was probably smaller than people would have expected, showing the brand is not that pricey. And, the fact the difference is refunded in the form of a coupon is reassuring and rewarding.
3. Creating a brand property
Brand Match has the potential to become a powerful brand property. Sainsbury's could have just run a campaign to address price perceptions saying, for example, "Sainsbury's quality, at a price you can't beat". However, creating the Brand Match brand property is a much more distinctive way of addressing the issue, and more likely to create memory structure.Indeed, it seems Brand Match is already gaining good awareness, with reports suggesting 70% of shoppers already know about it.
It also seems to me to be a useful and smart service that is really distinctive, versus just cutting prices across the board as Tesco did with their "Big Price Drop". It does seem to have been more effective, as Tesco’s share dipped from 30.5% to 30.1% during the same period that Sainsbury's gained share.
The key to brand growth is penetration, as we've see in earlier posts. And it seems Brand Match is helping drive penetration for Sainsbury's, with the company quoted as saying “Our research shows that when customers fully understand the offer it’s encouraging new customers through our doors.”
5. Business sense
Brand Match is also smart from a business stand-point. The system works by giving shoppers a coupon where their shop was a bit more expensive. In reality, not every coupon will be redeemed, making this much cheaper than cutting prices to match Tesco and Asda. Even if the coupon is not redeemed, it has done a job by showing that Sainsbury's is not that more expensive.
In addition, Brand Match avoids a price war. If Sainsbury's had matched the prices of Asda and Tesco, these competitors may have cut their prices even more to ensure they were the cheapest, forcing Sainsbury's to cut prices and so on.
In conclusion, Sainsbury's Brand Match is a brilliant bit of brand activation. It addresses a barrier to trial in a disnctive way that is driving business growth, and enhacing brand equity.