Posts by Brooke Curtis - London

Can Waitrose maintain premium positioning as it takes on Tesco?

waitroseWaitrose, a well-established U.K. supermarket, has recently started advertising a price promise. This may seem unremarkable—a supermarket communicating its low prices—but this isn’t any supermarket. Waitrose is a premium-positioned chain, better known for advertising its food credentials. And this isn’t just any price promise: It’s a promise to match 1,000 prices at Tesco, one of the lower-priced supermarkets in the U.K. This seems to be a reaction to shoppers trading down to cheaper rivals in the current climate. But is it a disastrous step if Waitrose wishes to maintain a premium position?

Perhaps not. They’re offering to match prices on 1,000 branded goods. This is an interesting choice. I’m immediately reassured that quality isn’t going to suffer. And if the quality is good, and prices are lower than before, I can’t think of many people who’ll grumble. This may give Waitrose customers reassurance that their supermarket offers good value, and perhaps even make consumers who previously considered Waitrose too pricey reconsider their options.

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The U.K.’s National Rail equates cost-cutting with cuddles

national-railIn pitching cost-saving railcards to young people, families and the more senior among us, National Rail has moved from a positioning of pure cost savings to equating those savings with the warmer, cuddlier things in life. It seems that they’re seeking not only to address anxieties about the cost of rail travel (which is on the increase) but also those tied to the fact that we don’t connect face-to-face as much anymore. A headline of “1/3 off hugs with mum” is paired with the line “because a text won’t get your washing done”; “1/3 off hugs with grandad” adds the line “because it’s hard to play hide and seek on a webcam.”

We’ve seen a similar idea from Nescafé in Australia, where a “Get a little closer” campaign urges consumers to “turn off the gadgets, turn on the kettle and enjoy a cup of coffee together.” These campaigns tap into the trend of Savoring Simple Pleasures as well as the growing urge to unplug in an increasingly digital world. Quality face time certainly feels like something the modern world needs. A virtual hug via Facebook really isn’t the same, is it?

AmEx downplays upmarket credentials in the U.K.

amex-posh-nosh1Recent American Express advertising in the U.K. attempts to reverse the brand’s luxury image, telling consumers they should no longer just consider it for “posh nosh” and “vintage bubbly” but also for burgers and shampoo (bubbles for your hair, not your glass). What’s interesting is that American Express has spent years creating its luxury image. But in this post-recessionary world, it’s frowned upon. Many of us are worried about being associated with the overtly upmarket or luxurious. Gone are the days of flashy watches, over-the-top cars and flashing the credit card that suggests you’re loaded. Frugal is still the new flash.

Consumers seem to like the ads—they garnered positive feel-good scores in a recent study of digital outdoor advertising by Clear Channel Outdoor and Kinetic that used new face-tracking technology. And what better cure for anxiety is there than that?

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Virgin Media plays to anxieties of overworked parents

These days, we’re all having to work harder to make ends meet. And a common anxiety for many of us is whether this is preventing us from spending enough time with our families. As a colleague said recently, it’s worrying when your young son asks, “When are you going home, Daddy?”—and you realize he’s referring to your going back to the office. Virgin plays with this concern in its latest advertising for its mobile telephony service. We see a scene where a father is easily able to keep in touch with his kids through a new unlimited-call package. The energy and warmth of the scene makes you feel he really is being able to connect with his family, despite not actually being in the same physical place.


A nice example of a brand trying to take a little stress out of our lives. (But—and call me a feminist—where’s the execution with the working mum trying to stay in touch with her kids?!)’s response to a response to economic anxiety

Ever since the words “credit crunch” and “recession” have filled the papers, companies have been reacting with money-off offers here and price reductions there. And with every brand claiming to be cheaper than the next, it’s become easy to block out the numbers. So it’s interesting to see’s response.

A price comparison website for insurance policies, could easily have gone down the straight money-saving route. Instead, it seems to be purposely avoiding this by representing potential savings with the items you might have purchased had you saved with In this ad, a woman and her husband watch a ghostly pair of jeans, the pair she “would have bought with the money I could have saved on the car insurance if I had gone to” It’s a clever way of making the savings tangible. And a clever way of standing out from the crowd in a post-recession battleground that remains number-fueled.

Jeans Savings Regrets

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NatWest harks back to a better time to boost customer confidence

In the aftermath of the U.K. banking crisis, banks are trying to increase consumer confidence. NatWest, which was touting its MoneySense advisers at the start of the recession, is revisiting customers featured in an old campaign. And as a consequence, we find our confidence in the bank increasing. Why?

First, we see these customers are still with NatWest, a sign the bank is a safe bet. Second, it’s strangely refreshing to see that some customers have experienced difficulties, just like the rest of us. While the pregnant woman now has a cherubic baby, we also flash back to a guy who told us he needed to save for an engagement ring—and if his girlfriend said no, he’d buy a car. We see him today, and he confirms what we feared: He bought a car! We feel empathy, thereby warming our feelings toward NatWest.

Finally, and most powerfully, NatWest returns us to a time when we trusted banks. A time when we had no anxiety that our money wouldn’t be there when we went to withdraw it. And what a better time that was.

Helpful Banking for 2010

Mazuma Mobile addresses twin anxieties with recycling program

The impact of our disposable lifestyles on the environment has been a concern to many for some time now. But how many consumers are prepared to pay more for a “green” brand? So often, the anxiety about bank balance is put before anxiety about the environment. Now, being green can actually earn consumers money: A number of companies in the U.K. are encouraging people to recycle old mobile phones in return for cash.

Mazuma Mobile, the most vocal of these, boldly aims to address both concerns at once—recycle your phone for reuse in developing markets (thereby being kinder to the environment and bettering communications in these countries) while earning some cold hard cash in the bargain (reducing concerns about just how to fund one’s lifestyle until the next payday). And with up to £280 for a used phone, Mazuma is likely to have found a successful combination. If only being green could always be this profitable.


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