Sainsbury’s Told to Change Brand Match Campaign

Posted on 9 October, 2012 by Kirsten Kennedy

Supermarkets are constantly trying to get one up their rivals at the moment, with each chain determined to beat the competition on price and quality in order to draw custom to their stores and onto their websites. With initiatives such as brand matching, promotional codes and in store vouchers plentiful in UK stores at the moment, consumers now have more choice than ever about which chain can help them save the most money.

However, this week, Sainsbury’s Brand Match scheme has backfired spectacularly, with the Advertising Standards Agency ordering the company to pull their current advertisement for the initiative so as to avoid misleading customers.

After receiving 20 complaints about Sainsbury’s price promise, one from rival Tesco and the remainder from members of the public, the ASA began to look into whether or not adverts for the Brand Match scheme misled consumers or inaccurately represented the offer Sainsbury’s is making.

The adverts, which are currently broadcast on television, radio and online as well as appearing in newspapers, claim that Sainsbury’s will beat or match Tesco and Asda on price for all branded goods. If customers were found to have paid more at Sainsbury’s, they would receive a voucher for the difference which may be redeemed next time the customer shopped in a branch of the chain.

However, according to the ASA, these adverts were misleading to consumers as they do not specify exactly how Sainsbury’s calculated the comparison. Additionally, many consumers were surprised to find that they were only eligible for money off vouchers if they had paid £20 or more for a single transaction in one of Sainsbury’s stores.

Although the £20 base line limit appears in the small print, it is not made clear in the television campaign or in any other medium of advertising. Neither, actually, is the fact that at least one item in the customer’s basket or trolley must be identical to produce sold in Tesco or Asda stores – even down to size and flavour.

Yet the biggest sticking point in the ASA ruling centred around a claim made by Sainsbury’s. The advertising watchdog has insisted that the retailer changes the “Save at Sainsbury’s with Brand Match” tagline, due to the fact that consumers do not actually pay less at Sainsbury’s than in rival stores. The retailer simply refunds the difference without adding a percentage cost on top.

A spokesman for the ASA said; “We told Sainsbury’s to ensure future ads did not imply consumers would not pay more, or would save money, if that was not the case.”

However, Sainsbury’s has responded to the criticism, saying that it did not believe it had misled customers in any way.

A spokesman for the retailer said; “Sainsbury’s is committed to providing advertising that our customers can easily understand.

“We do not believe that our customers have been misled but we have already changed our current advertising to reflect the concerns which have been raised.

“Our customers love Brand Match because it is the most straightforward price matching guarantee in the market. Tens of millions of people have used the vouchers, saving millions of pounds.”

The Brand Match programme uses price data from all three supermarkets to calculate the combined total of branded goods in a customer’s shopping basket. If the cost of the products at Sainsbury’s is higher than at either of the rivals, as long as the customer has spent more than £20 they are eligible for a voucher worth the difference in price. This system even takes promotions and price drops into account, with the voucher capped at £10 to prevent consumers taking advantage of the promotion as seen earlier this year in Asda.

Do you think Brand Match and similar promotions run by other leading supermarket chains really do attract consumers, or will customers remain loyal to a brand they have shopped with for many years? Should Sainsbury’s have been fined or otherwise punished for launching a misleading advertising campaign, or do you believe the fact that they have to change their advertising methods is punishment enough?

 




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