business news in context, analysis with attitude

The Orange County Register reports that Tesco-owned Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Markets is launching a major advertising campaign “bombarding various markets,” according to the story, “with its ‘low price, fresh ingredients’ philosophy using radio ads, freeway billboards and bus shelter signs.

“The media campaign will also promote several store changes made over the last few months, including adding more than 1,000 new grocery items — ranging from liquid soap to ready-to-cook meats.”

It is actually the first major ad campaign undertaken by Fresh & Easy, which entered the US two years ago but has had more than its share of growing pains despite what the company said was careful and comprehensive research before it ever opened any stores.

The Register says that Fresh & Easy has made some specific changes in its offering, providing shoppers with more loose fruits and vegetables instead of pre-packed produce; featuring more than 1,000 new SKUs, with both national and private brands; and putting more signage in the aisles informing customers both about prices and nutritional attributes.

CMO Simon Uwins says that the 125-store chain has finally achieved the size where a large and unified campaign makes sense, and that it would not have been sensible to do so earlier, when the format was still being tweaked.
KC's View:
The experience here at MNB is that the hundreds of emails that we’ve gotten over the years about Fresh & Easy have been generally split into two camps – people who were disappointed in the concept or outright hated it, and those who found it to be refreshing and innovative. I suspect that this is probably true among the general population…though it doesn’t make sense to alienate or irritate half your customer base…and so the question that Fresh & Easy has to answer is whether the ad campaign is enough to overcome whatever bad press and negative word of mouth it has gotten to this point.

I think it probably isn’t too late to make a good impression, and that there is no evidence that Fresh & Easy is going anywhere, despite the predictions by some that Tesco would lose its appetite for the battle in the US. But, I also think that there probably isn’t a lot of margin for error…and that Tesco better have it right this time.