Lidl marketing director: Great marketing is about being brave with your ideas
A view from Claire Farrant

Lidl marketing director: Great marketing is about being brave with your ideas

When it comes to winning over sceptics, marketers need to be willing to take risks with their messaging, writes Lidl UK's marketing director.

Coming from the north, I love honesty, and ads that have stood out for me convey exactly that.

For example an old Volkswagen ad that launched the first Beetle car that didn’t fit the mould of the classic VW. The brand was brave and didn’t hide from the fact that it wasn’t the most attractive car; instead it focused on the excellent quality and reliability of the product, which made the campaign stand out for me.

Oasis launched some really impactful out-of-home which commands a short dwell time. The line "It’s summer. You’re thirsty. We’ve got sales targets" is great. They’re taking a risk by being bold and honest.

It’s this similar kind of brand bravery that drew me to Lidl a couple of years ago - as an example, the "Lidl surprises" market campaign totally changed people’s perception of our offering.

More recently, our Lidl anti-advocates campaigns also have this kind of bravery at their core. Using non-advocates, we take them on a journey of realising Lidl’s products at low prices.

Our recent anti-advocate campaign taking a non-believer to a Saint-Émilion vineyard in Bordeaux massively changed the perception of our wines for those who didn’t know about their quality. Our sales of the Saint-Émilion wine trebled since the ad campaign launched, as well as having a halo effect on our wider European red wine range.

With the uncertainty around Brexit it’s easy for businesses to be reluctant to take risks - but this year it will be even more important to do things differently to ensure we stand out

Allowing the viewer to see that transformation in a real Lidl sceptic helped demonstrate bravery in storytelling.

Of course it is only human nature that I have sleepless nights sometimes when it comes to our communications, about "have we pushed it far enough? Have we pushed it too far?"

The 2016 Christmas ad focusing on the provenance of our turkey generated some consumer concern but it was a strategic decision and it’s still deemed one of most successful campaigns by Lidl in terms of ROI and driving positive food credentials during the most important trading period of the year. I wouldn’t change it as it’s one of the bravest things we’ve done.

When there’s so much uncertainty around Brexit it’s easy for businesses to be reluctant to take risks. This year it will be even more important to do things differently to ensure we stand out. It might be a measured risk but we have to push ourselves and continue to make Lidl front of mind for customers.

My daughter’s future is also often on my mind as I try to be a good mum as well as balancing my work life. It’s sometimes tough and I do lie in bed feeling guilty at least once a week for not getting the balance right. My daughter however has an amazing outlook on life; she is very creative and teaches me something new every day.

Getting back to my point on honesty, this is also a key trait for those in my dream team. John Lennon would be first in - not only was he a fantastic song writer, but he was truly honest.

Retailers can fall into the trap of being seen as a bit similar by customers and fail to have a distinctive USP - we need blue-sky thinkers to change this

Lennon said: "Being honest may not get you a lot of friends but it’ll always get you the right ones." He wasn’t afraid of saying how he felt so he’d be a great member of my team.

Bear Grylls is extremely resourceful. He would support me, be a good leader even in times of adversity and a great problem solver.

A blue-sky thinker is important so the late Walt Disney comes to mind. His ethos that "it’s kind of fun to do the impossible" is just the right kind of imagineering I’d want on the team.

I think retailers can fall into the trap of being seen as a bit similar by customers and fail to have a distinctive USP, so we need more blue-sky thinkers to change this.

The fourth member of my dream team has to be a risk taker. I heard Hassan Akkad speak at the Marketing Society Brave Conference. He’s a Syrian refugee who risked his life so many times to seek a better life in Europe against huge adversity. His story has stuck with me, the way in which he told his story was so humbling. His journey was truly inspirational.

The fifth person would be my dad. He is a great leader and my hero. He’s an amazing implementer and taught me that you won’t get anything in life by sitting back, you’ve got to get stuck in, work hard, take risks but most of all enjoy what you do!

Claire Farrant is marketing director of Lidl UK and a member of Campaign’s Power 100

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