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To Thine Own Brand Be True

To Thine Own Brand Be True

Unless you’re from the UK or have done extensive traveling in Europe, you may not be familiar with the brand, Tesco. However, the lesson learned by the brand after the recent announcement of the failure and closure of its discount chain, Jack’s, is applicable to any brand looking to differentiate its services and product offerings from competitors.  

But first, let’s dive into the backstory of their discount initiative. In 2018, Tesco launched its version of a discount grocery store called Jack’s with much to-do. The spinoff brand was created as a direct rival to the German discount store, Aldi (in which there are over 2.1K in the US). Tesco’s strategy was to leverage its size and scale to offer a more “bespoke” range and experience. Even the CEO at the time, Dave Lewis, touted the brands’ purpose was “to be the cheapest in town”. 

While Tesco planned to open Jack’s stores across the UK, starting with 10 to 15 in year one, the fanfare was short-lived after only opening 13 over the past 4 yrs. Current CEO, Jason Tarry, made the prudent decision to pull the plug on the venture and focus on the core of Tesco. 

When brands fail, our first question is always – why and what went wrong? But in Jack’s case, it may well be the proposition was doomed to fail from the start as numerous retail and marketing experts called Jack’s a “short-lived venture” doomed to fail. Let’s review a key lesson in Branding 101 that is core to any successful spinoff venture.

                                                                                  “To Thine Own Brand Be True”

One of the core principles in branding is “to thine own self be true”, however, Tesco wasted time, energy, money, resources seeking to match and/or beat their competitors. They lost focus on what they do best and instead, focused on becoming something they are not – a discount grocery store. It’s a bad strategy for any brand to try to “Keep up with the Joneses. Therefore, if you want to compete, take stock of your strengths, believe in your product and/or services, and message that.  Have faith that your customers will see the value of your offering. The goal is to capitalize on your points of differentiation and why it is the solution to your customer’s pain points. 

Tesco’s experiment of Jack’s stores yielded a number of learnings for the brand, including the launch of their ‘Aldi Price Match’ as well as its ‘Fresh 5′ fruit and veg discount offer. However, it’s an expensive lesson to learn; one that could have easily been done through competitive research, quantitative and qualitative. Insights from competitive site visits and social listening data could have saved Tesco the millions of dollars used to fund the venture. But if they had done that, you would be reading a different article!