Coles appears to be finally ditching its much-derided ‘Down Down’ ad campaign in favour of a radically different marketing strategy that emphasises not rock-bottom prices but high quality, locally-sourced produce.
The new TV ads rest on the slogan ‘Good things are happening at Coles’ and cultivate an image of wholesomeness, similar to the image conjured up by rival Woolworths’ slogan ‘the fresh food people’.
The ads, which first aired on Wednesday evening, feature celebrity chef Curtis Stone, Aussie farmers, an 85-year-old checkout operator, and kids eating fresh fruit.
The decision follows months of criticism from consumers, marketing experts and financial analysts. One particularly damning report by UBS found Woolworths was beating Coles on every metric, and concluded the supermarket chain had “lost its way” – largely thanks to its obsession with price.
But this criticism took a long time to get through. Rather than ditching it, last year Coles attempted to re-boot the seven-year-long ‘Down Down’ campaign by hiring former Australian Idol winner Casey Donovan to sing a reworked version of the catchy Status Quo rock song.
But the jingle was met with widespread derision from consumers and advertising experts alike.
“At long last Coles finally acknowledges that consumers are not stupid, and that those ‘Down Down’ ads were terrible,” Coles customer Mark Lohr wrote on Facebook in reaction to the news of the campaign.
“Insulting to anybody with more than half a brain.”
Another customer, Grant Stewart, also welcomed the move: “Thank God that’s gone, Australian television is bad enough.”
However, while the ‘Good Things’ campaign will become Coles’ new focus, the supermarket said the old ‘Down Down’ message would continue to run alongside the new ads.
Ms Donovan’s manager Renee Hansen confirmed to The New Daily that the singer still had a contract with Coles, so it may not be the last time we hear that jingle.
Some examples of the ‘good things’ to feature in upcoming Coles ads include its donations to charities such as Redkite and Secondbite, the phasing out of single-use plastic bags from July 1 this year and the Coles Nurture Fund which helps Australian farmers.
One of the ads also emphasises that 96 per cent of Coles’ fruit and vegetables are grown in Australia.
This is not a unique selling point, however. Woolworths also stocks 96 per cent Australian-grown fruit and vegetables.
Woolworths has now outperformed Wesfarmers-owned Coles for five quarters in a row. Most recently, Woolworths’ half-year report revealed profits were up 37.6 per cent, while Coles profits dived by 14.1 per cent.
Coles’ renewed focus on ad storytelling
Retail expert Dr Gary Mortimer of Queensland University of Technology said the new ads focus on conveying positive feelings and emotions.
“Price is very black and white,” he told The New Daily.
“By using storytelling and a celebrity endorser, an 80-year-old checkout operator and farmers – real people – customers will start to associate these positive feelings with the Coles brand.
“Down Down worked really well when it launched but it’s got to a point now where they can’t keep cutting prices.
“Price is also no longer a point of difference. The two big supermarkets have the same layouts, the same products, mostly the same brands and often the same prices too.”
But Dr Mortimer said he believed Coles would struggle to reposition itself.
“We saw this with Woolworths’ ‘Cheap Cheap‘ which launched to compete with Coles’ ‘Down Down’ price message – it backfired,” he said.
“This new message may confuse or disenfranchise their core customers.”
Marketing expert Louise Grimmer of the University of Tasmania said she was concerned about Coles’ decision to continue its “annoying” ‘Down Down’ slogan alongside the new campaign.
“This is a no-no for advertising,” she said.
“It can confuse consumers and dilute the message.
“Coles’ focus on storytelling appears to be a way to differentiate itself but one could argue the supermarkets aren’t differentiating themselves at all.”
Dr Grimmer pointed towards Woolworths’ latest ad which tells the story of a Paralympic athlete.
A Coles spokeswoman said the ‘Good Things’ campaign is based on feedback from thousands of customers and input from team members across the country.
“We know our customers care about price, but they also care about where their food comes from, they care about their community and they care about the environment.”