OPINION: MILLS ON ... ICELAND v SAINSBURY’S

By DOMINIC MILLS, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 16 June 2000 12:00AM

It’s no exaggeration to say that, at last week’s Marketing Society awards, there was general surprise at the winner of the most outstanding marketing achievement prize: Iceland. But, as the audience (which, clearly, is far too well-heeled to shop there) digested the rationale, there was general agreement that it was indeed a worthy winner.

It’s no exaggeration to say that, at last week’s Marketing Society

awards, there was general surprise at the winner of the most outstanding

marketing achievement prize: Iceland. But, as the audience (which,

clearly, is far too well-heeled to shop there) digested the rationale,

there was general agreement that it was indeed a worthy winner.



In its darkest hour (to date of course - it could get worse),

Sainsbury’s should contemplate this, for there are more than a few

parallels between the two organisations. It wasn’t that long ago that

Iceland was itself considered the basket case of the sector - a title

for which Sainsbury’s now vies with Somerfield. Its shops were small,

grubby and clearly suffering from under-investment; its advertising was

all over the place and it chopped and changed its agencies. And, if you

asked the question: ’What is Iceland for?’, coming up with an answer

wasn’t easy.



Now, of course, Iceland is renewed and reinvigorated. The famous ’Mum’s

gone to Iceland’ line, arguably a factor in holding the chain back, is

history. The range of products has been expanded dramatically and

Iceland has taken on the mantle of consumer champion, fighting

genetically modified foods and pioneering free home delivery.



Much of the credit for this has to go to its agency, HHCL &

Partners.



At a time when all agencies talk glibly about their ability to provide

creative ’business’ ideas as well as creative advertising but few

actually deliver, what a pleasure it is to see an example like this.

HHCL is rightly applauded for transforming Iceland’s advertising, but

that’s the tip of the iceberg - its real contribution has gone on

beneath the surface in devising a complete repositioning.


Equally, however, Iceland’s top management must take considerable

credit.



Accepting that you are wrong requires courage. Selling the need for

change to a staff which may resist it demands patience and persistence.

Luckily, in Malcolm Walker, Iceland had a chief executive not only

prepared to lead the change internally, but also to stand up for the

company outside.



Walker, for example, has converted his personal anti-GM passion into

something the company could also stand for.



I mention this in the context of Sainsbury’s. While it would not

necessarily make sense for Sir Peter Davis to ape Walker (didn’t he try

that at the Prudential in those ads?), he could do with demonstrating

some of the latter’s passion. Funny that. If you look at Britain’s most

successful retailers - Tesco, Asda, Carphone Warehouse, French

Connection - they all have two things in common: chief executives who

publicly demonstrate their passion for the cause and agencies who offer

more than just great advertising. If you look at the frumps -

Sainsbury’s, Somerfield, House of Fraser, Marks & Spencer ... well, you

work it out.



So while all eyes are on AMV and Jamie Oliver (bless him, his vowels may

be all over the place but his passion’s genuine), the real impetus for

change has to come from inside Sainsbury’s. Great advertising isn’t the

beginning of the process. It’s the end.



dominic.mills@haynet.com.



This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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