Asda's Stephen Smith on 'desk-bombing', personality and thinking afresh

Looking into 2015, Asda's chief customer officer Stephen Smith discusses the merits of planning ahead, the difficulty in creating a brand personality and being 'desk-bombed'.

Asda's Stephen Smith says 2015 may be challenging  but delivering value for customers is his focus
Asda's Stephen Smith says 2015 may be challenging but delivering value for customers is his focus

Writing this, I feel a little like I’m in a marketing version of A Christmas Carol, playing Christmas Yet to Come. By the time you see this piece, it will be 2015 and Christmas will be a distant memory. But, as I write, it’s still December, I have just enjoyed Thanksgiving in the US, at home with my family, and Christmas is still all to play for.

My trip home wasn’t all play and no work. One of the great things about being part of the ‘Walmart family’ is the people you get to bounce ideas off, and while I was in the US I took the opportunity to share Q1 plans with my counterpart there – which I love to do, largely because I think my team has nailed it.

I love being 'desk-bombed'

From my team’s point of view, Christmas is all wrapped up (unlike any of my gifts) and we are already in the midst of planning for spring/summer 2015. But there is still an unmistakable buzz created by the festive season. It’s been great to get back in the office and catch up with people. My desk is in the middle of the marketing floor and I love being ‘desk-bombed’ by colleagues who want to chat, get my advice or views on something (my PA is going to kill me for saying that). Seeing people grow and develop in their roles is really rewarding and gives me a chance to think about the world and our business differently as well.

If I could tap into whatever magic keeps my daughters permanently attached to their iPhones, my career would be made.

I’m also thinking a lot about our digital offer at the moment, and how we continue to engage with our customers online to give them the ‘personality’ that they get in our store. If I could tap into whatever magic keeps my daughters permanently attached to their iPhones, my career would be made.

Integrity is vital

Asda’s mission is centred on saving families money every day, and at the heart of everything we do is the ‘Asda mum’. Christmas is the high point of her year and it’s a time when more than ever, what we do really matters. For me it’s absolutely vital that our marketing has integrity and stays focused on doing what’s right for our brand – no matter what tactics our competitors throw at the market.

I’ve no desire to hold the biggest budget pot in the business and, despite the amount of noise in the market at the moment, I believe our strategy of investing in lowering the price our customers pay for their food, rather than inflating prices to fund expensive vouchers or gimmicks, is the right one.

For me, that offer of quality and value is one of the most exciting, and challenging, elements of our marketing. 

It’s no secret that the competition has never been fiercer between the established players and the discounters. I’m really proud of our Christmas offer, which captures that sense of family and togetherness under the proposition of ‘Smile, it’s an Asda Christmas’. We’re surprising and delighting our customers with an offer that delivers both great value and amazing quality – something every family wants and deserves.

For me, that offer of quality and value is one of the most exciting, and challenging, elements of our marketing. The sense that ‘you get what you pay for’ is so deeply entrenched in our consciousness that we genuinely struggle to believe that we can get fantastic products without spending the earth. It’s a myth that we really enjoyed debunking at the Taste of London Winter festival in November, which Asda sponsored as part of our strategy to build our reputation and presence in the capital, a key growth market for us. It’s a constant balance to continue to deliver what our customers trust and expect us to deliver for them week in, week out, while also building our reputation with new shoppers who might not think to visit us.

Focus on delivering value to customers

Writing at the end of one year, thinking about the start of the next – I want to take this opportunity, in case I don’t get a chance by the time this is printed, to say thank you to every member of my team, and the wider Asda family, for their hard work and dedication this year.

It’s not been an easy one and 2015 will undoubtedly bring new challenges for our market. But, as Asda enters its 50th year, I’m proud that our focus on delivering real value for our customers is as unswerving as ever – and long may it continue.

Become a member of Campaign from just £46 a quarter

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to campaignlive.co.uk ,plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events

Become a member

Looking for a new job?

Get the latest creative jobs in advertising, media, marketing and digital delivered directly to your inbox each day.

Create an Alert Now

Partner content

Share

1 Why creative people have lost their way

What better way to kick off the inaugural issue of Campaign's monthly print offering than with another think piece on the current failings of our industry, written by an embittered, pretentious creative who misses "the way things used to be"...

Share

1 Job description: Digital marketing executive

Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).