Magazine article Marketing

Profile: Ready for Revival - Patrick Allen, Executive Director of Marketing, the Co-Operative Group

Magazine article Marketing

Profile: Ready for Revival - Patrick Allen, Executive Director of Marketing, the Co-Operative Group

Article excerpt

A year after it merged with United Co-operatives, The Co-operative Group faces another massive marketing challenge.

The company has agreed to buy rival chain Somerfield, which will propel it into the grocery big league and see its relatively low-profile executive director of marketing, Patrick Allen, join the likes of Marks & Spencer's Steven Sharp and Asda's Rick Bendel in the prestigious retail marketing directors' club.

Allen is unfazed by the pounds 1.6bn deal, which will give the mutual a total of 3000 grocery stores in the UK, making it the nation's fifth-biggest supermarket, with net sales of pounds 8bn and 8% market share.

He is focused on the group's pounds 1.56bn rebrand of its 4200 UK outlets, which range from pharmacies to banks, to a single identity, a task he was handed immediately after his appointment in July last year, as well as a pounds 50m ad relaunch in 2009.

A campaign using the 'Good for everyone' strapline will promote the group's ethical approach across its businesses, as well as its loyalty scheme; this has 3m members, who receive cash payments based on the points they earn when they use any of its services.

The activity is intended to revive the chain, which was the biggest food seller in the 60s, before falling into a decline amid competition from supermarkets such as Tesco and Sainsbury's.

'The Co-operative is enjoying a renaissance,' Allen says. 'We're a million miles from the old company.'

The grocer will push the fairtrade credentials of its premium label Truly Irresistible as an added-value point of difference. It is ramping up investment in the range, which launched in 2003 and accounts for 7% of the company's retail sales, with additional lines to rival other supermarket premium own-brands, such as Tesco Finest.

Allen, a former United Co-operatives head of marketing, who beat his counterpart at The Co-op, Zoe Morgan, to the top job when the companies merged, is also concentrating on the group's nascent media centre, which will provide campaign planning across its media channels, including digital screens, in-store radio, direct mail and magazines.

'It could change the buying habits of media buyers and is a great revenue stream,' Allen says. …

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