Tesco sales announcement 'efficient' but marketing needs overhaul, says agency boss

Tesco's handling of the news of its disastrous Christmas sales has been praised, although blame has been laid on the retailer's overall marketing strategy.

Tesco: 'Marketing department needs overhaul'
Tesco: 'Marketing department needs overhaul'

Britain’s biggest supermarket chain has announced that it is set to launch a complete overhaul of its supermarkets. Nearly £5bn was wiped off the company’s stock market value yesterday after it revealed that UK profits could fall in the coming year.

Tesco boss Philip Clarke – who took over from Sir Terry Leahy last year – said ‘this isn’t going to kill us, it is going to make us stronger', adding that the results had led to a lot of ‘soul searching’ at Tesco. Clarke vowed to plough millions into improving the store’s fresh food, choice and customer service.

Eulogy CEO Adrian Brady said: ‘In many ways, the comms strategy has been very efficient in admitting there are issues and the way they’ve touched on their plans.

‘But the sad thing is the issues have been brought on from a previous management regime and we shouldn’t allow senior board people to blame comms people. The whole marketing department needs to have an overhaul.’

In particular, Tesco's 'Big Price Drop' promotion has been dubbed the 'Big Price Flop' by analysts, as it was overshadowed by other supermarket campaigns.

However, W Communications MD Warren Johnson said that Clarke’s statement ‘we are not going to be an also-ran, we are going to be a leader’ was ‘extraordinary’ and made Tesco look like it was admitting defeat.

‘The way this story has played out makes them look weak,’ said Johnson. 'It's key that they get on the front foot with more positive announcements and a significant change in tone.’

In December, it was revealed that Tesco had hired Downing Street press officer Ruth McAllister, who will join the supermarket giant in February as head of UK media.

McAllister is the second senior Downing Street comms official to sign for Tesco in recent years. She follows in the footsteps of Tom Hoskin, a former Number 10 head of news, who made the switch in 2009. Hoskin is now the firm’s head of group media.

Tesco also employs Tony Blair's former private secretary David North as UK corporate affairs director and Blair’s former head of events Victoria Gould as government affairs manager.

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