Magazine article Marketing

Super Mc

Magazine article Marketing

Super Mc

Article excerpt

When Kevin McCarten arrived at Sainsbury's just over a year ago, he was hailed as a potential saviour of the retailer's fortunes. Having already climbed to the top of the marketing tree at Procter & Gamble and then overhauled Superdrug's image, he was seen as a man with the kind of marketing pedigree Sainsbury's needed.

His appointment bucked the Sainsbury's trend to promote from within. Taking on an 'outsider' was testament to how deep Sainsbury's problems were, and at the same time a recognition that something had to be done.

The retailer that used to be held up as a paradigm of success had lost its top spot and was trailing behind the one-time underdog, Tesco.

Unencumbered by a stodgy management style, McCarten crackled with energy, spoke with a hybrid Scouse-American accent, wore green suits, and was an Everton supporter to boot.

All eyes were fixed on Sainsbury's headquarters waiting for sparks to fly as the 39-year-old director made his introductions to the board.

The fireworks failed to materialise. Instead, frank exchanges on Sainsbury's future strategy were held as McCarten exercised his right to overhaul the company's approach to marketing.

Instead of the bloodletting that usually follows an appointment McCarten acted in a restrained manner. Members of the old regime are still working alongside new recruits. And so too is its agency of 17 years, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO.

Guided by the principle that it's better to work with what you've got rather than start from scratch, McCarten concluded that the Sainsbury's strategy is sound, but the execution lacking.

With the gap widening between Sainsbury's and Tesco, McCarten knows that his and the store's credibility are on the line.

He began by introducing the Savers promotional campaign to bring Sainsbury's pricing into line with competitors. Out went 'Everyone's favourite ingredient' and 'Where good food costs less' made a comeback.

Perhaps his biggest initiative was the launch of the Reward Card, which was viewed by some as a copycat move.

But a year later the picture remains gloomy and newspaper headlines about a [pounds]70m profit warning will have made depressing reading for Sainsbury's shareholders and staff. Sainsbury's marketing has impacted heavily on costs, and for a 1.4% rise in sales compared with the sector average of 6%. Few doubt McCarten's presence has activated change, but many in the City are impatient and still have not seen enough to dampen fears that Sainsbury's situation may get worse before it gets better. …

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