First to go was Jamie Oliver, now it's the slogan. Last week, Sainsbury's, the UK's third-biggest supermarket, unveiled 'Live well for less' as its latest strapline, surprising many by ousting the six-year-old, and highly successful, 'Try something new today'.
Sainsbury's director of brand communications, Claire Harrison-Church, says the latest of its ad slogans, developed with Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, represents the 'different place' in which the retailer now finds itself - namely, fighting hard for price perception (see Inside View, below). Nonetheless, some commentators have questioned why it is deserting the brand values it has built up over years.
The 'Live well for less' line is both 'bland and anodyne', according to Richard Huntington, director of strategy at Saatchi & Saatchi, which handles the Asda account. 'I know times have changed for Sainsbury's and that straplines wear out, but ("Try something new today") was a sensational piece of work that encapsulated the heart of the brand. It was shocking to axe it so unceremoniously.'
Huntington claims that slogan was integral to Sainsbury's growth strategy. 'It was about a brand philosophy that scintillated people's palates and built a strong economic case to improve the basket size of every shop.'
Harrison-Church, however, argues that Sainsbury's is not abandoning its previous strategy, insisting that its attempts to 'inspire the nation' will remain central to marketing. 'We still like the idea of inspiring our customers in different ways, but it's now in ways that help them live well for less. We are thinking of value much more strongly.'
The industry will no doubt keep a close watch on how well the slogan moves with the times. While brands in many sectors can switch straplines with each campaign, supermarkets want longevity. Tesco's 'Every little helps', for example, will be 20 years old next year.
Jim Prior, chief executive at branding agency The Partners, says Sainsbury's new line 'reeks of consumer research'.
'What seems to lie behind it are issues about price sensitivity and general good health, which are topical in consumers' minds,' he adds. 'But I can't help but feel it is reactive and dull compared with what it had before.'
The question, according to Prior, is 'whether the tail is wagging the dog' or vice versa. 'Is it refreshing this because the ad agency said, "Come on guys, we're bored, everyone else is bored, it's time to change", or because it has a new idea of how it might go about providing a better service?'
Sainsbury's change of focus is certainly about more than a few words. It follows an 18-month review of the business and coincides with the multimillion-pound relaunch of its core own-label 'by Sainsbury's' range. The overhaul covers 65% of the 6000-strong mid-tier range. In addition, it is trialling a Brand Match initiative in Northern Ireland, which prints a coupon at the till if branded goods are cheaper at Tesco or Asda.
The deeper focus on value through this activity and 'Live well for less' will bring Asda and Tesco fans to Sainsbury's only if it can deliver a superior experience and comparable or better prices, according to Toby Southgate, managing director of The Brand Union. 'Will consumers ask, "for less, compared with what?" Is the strapline comparing to before, or with the competition?' he says.
'For consumers to believe prices are comparable with Asda or Tesco requires a big perception shift - that will be hard to bridge,' he adds. 'The slogan on its own won't change consumer loyalty or perception overnight, but this is a clear move into competitor territory.'
1882: Quality perfect, prices lower
1918: Sainsbury's for quality, Sainsbury's for value
1945: It's clean, it's fresh at Sainsbury's
1959: Good food costs less at Sainsbury's
1991: Sainsbury's - everyone's favourite ingredient
1997: Fresh food, fresh ideas
1998: Value to shout about
1999: Making life taste better
2005: Try something new today
2011: Live well for less
INSIDE VIEW 'REINFORCEMENT AND REINVIGORATION'
Claire Harrison-Church - director of brand communications, Sainsbury's
'Try something new today' was a brilliant line six years ago when we launched it, because it was signalling a change in Sainsbury's - we had made quite a few changes internally and were encouraging customers to try some different products.
We are now in a very different place as a brand; our customers are in a different place too. We really want to get back to focusing on all the good things Sainsbury's has always stood for, which is great-quality food at great prices.
'Live well for less' is about making sure we absolutely deliver in terms of quality and value. We know that consumers' budgets are under more pressure than ever, but when we speak to our customers they talk about not wanting to compromise on the quality of products.
The latest strapline is very much a reinforcement and a reinvigoration of what we are all about. It offers a new way of talking to our customers about that, but also ensuring we deliver it in everything we do as a business. It is a big move forward for us as a brand and a business.