HEAD TO HEAD: Jack vs. John Lewis

High-street retail’s in a bit of a mess, isn’t it? Now there’s a statement of the bleeding obvious…

Some store bosses go all Scooby-Doo in media interviews, using whichever excuse comes to mind to explain their latest slide in sales: “If it weren’t for those pesky consumers with mobile phones/Brexit/oil prices/butterflies flapping their wings in the Pacific…” (delete as appropriate).

In this new retail reality, shifts in strategy are called for – or updated branding, at the very least. Two retail behemoths recently unveiled makeovers, so we’ve put them under the microscope.

 
 

Firstly, stalwart of middle-class shopping (or browsing, in our case) John Lewis rebranded its department stores and grocery division Waitrose, adding “& partners”. Sounds like an ad agency to us… but the desired effect is to highlight the fact all of its employees have a stake in the company and share the profits. What’s that you say? 99% drop in profits last year? Ah. The new look needs to work damn well then.

Secondly, Tesco - the house that Jack Cohen built more than 80 years ago - is overhauling its discount format, Tesco Express. The new brand is called Jack’s, after Cohen, and the parent company seems to be turning a corner despite overblown revenue claims.

Though we doubt Jack’s is responsible, given there are only a few stores for now, we headed down to the chiller cabinet, plucked out a 99p cheese and onion sandwich, and shouted at shoppers to find out what they thought of the branding in comparison to the new John Lewis identity. (Not really, we went back to our regular panel of common-or-garden UK-representative consumers. Some of them have actual jobs!)

  • Memorability: Okay, let’s ‘fess up. We’re comparing a brand ad for grocer Jack’s with a… weird press execution featuring too many pans for multi-category John Lewis. So not quite apples with apples, but two pieces of creative which were intended to be unmistakably retail. Anyway, the great news for Jack’s is that more than 90% of those polled would remember it’s an ad for them - yet we think it’s pretty hard not to when “Jack’s” is in big type and appears twice on the page. (What on Earth’s wrong with the 7% who couldn’t see themselves remembering it was a supermarket ad? Maybe they’ve never been to a shop.) Less good for John Lewis is its 61% memorability. To be fair, we think that’s pretty high considering the generic pans motif.

 

Memorability results for John Lewis ad. Graph extracted from The Nod App.

Memorability results for Jack’s ad. Graph extracted from The Nod App.

 
  • Actionability: Jack’s can be happy with the nearly two-thirds (59%) who would take some sort of action after seeing the ad. A healthy 34% want to know more about the brand, while 12% would like or share the ad on social media. (There wasn’t an option to “buy a 99p cheese and onion sandwich” but we’d be all over it if there was.) By contrast, almost two-thirds were driven to inertia by John Lewis’s weird pan-balancing act. However, 1 in 5 would happily look into visiting the store to buy at least 14 pans in one go. It doesn’t look like there’s any need for a Mike Ashley rescue act just yet (thank God).

 
Likely Actions results for  Jack’s  ad. Graph extracted from The Nod App.

Likely Actions results for Jack’s ad. Graph extracted from The Nod App.

 

Love / Hate results for John Lewis ad. Graph extracted from The Nod App.

  • Love: Now, we love John Lewis. We only get to shop there when we snaffle a voucher from our nan, but it’s the king of department stores. We were glad that only 11% hated the work, which stacked up well against Jack’s 7%. Still, Jack’s does appear to be the annoyingly more talented little sibling in this test. Some 38% of respondents loved its ad, eclipsing the 37% scored by John Lewis. With the scores on the doors so far, the great unwashed might soon be heading to “Jacks’s” in the same numbers who visit “Tesco’s”, “Asda’s” and “Lidl’s”.

Brand association results for  John Lewis  ad. Their brand values are:  Vision, Integrity  and  Value . Graph extracted from The Nod App.

Brand association results for John Lewis ad. Their brand values are: Vision, Integrity and Value. Graph extracted from The Nod App.

  • Brand association: For those of you who couldn’t be arsed reading the other blogs, this is the part where three adjectives are chosen to describe the work and - in an ideal world - respondents pick the same ones from a longer list. Giving, in other words, a positive or negative emotional response. For Jack’s, 66% identified the key traits of “traditional”, “affordable” and “easy”. Many liked the simplicity, colours and British connotations of the ad (many more selected “99p cheese and onion sandwich”). Rotten apples for John Lewis though, as only a fifth chose the correct three descriptors, “vision”, “integrity” and “value”. A combined third of respondents picked confusion and boredom instead, labelling the ad “bland” and having “too much going on”. Although one person worryingly described it as “sexy” (as far as we know, pans aren’t the type of utensils you normally find in Ann Summers).

 

So, all in all, the establishment loses out to the young upstart in terms of ad appeal. Let Jack’s thumb its nose at John Lewis and declare: “We panned you.”

Rare: ConsultancyComment