Why retailers and advertisers should never underestimate people power

About the author, Laura Cunliffe-Hall

Laura is 20 and is currently studying English literature at University of Warwick. She writes for The Boar – the university’s student newspaper and is currently using her summer break to explore a range of potential career opportunities including the exciting world of PR.

Shoppers in 2015 have been through some tough times in recent years. From horse meat to fake warranties, we’ve seen it all, so it’s no surprise that when we shop customers want to feel like we are the ones calling the shots.

As a result, big supermarket retailers like Tesco have suffered because, to put it simply, they’re just too clingy. Like an overly enthusiastic partner, Tesco threw themselves at their customers and lost sight of what the customers really wanted in the first place; good food.


Whilst its mantra, “Every Little Helps”, has paved the way for the former East End market stall to expand into fashion, electronics, gardening products, banking, travel insurance and mobile phone contracts, the retail market has become over saturated with choice for customers.

Contrastingly, discount supermarkets like Aldi and Lidl have thrived due to their more compact stores and smaller product ranges. If Tesco is ‘clingy’ then Lidl is like the ‘cool’, slightly wrong side of the tracks love interest in a Nicholas Sparks film.


Tesco and other big retailers has also struggled with company losses from its online delivery services. Its popular online presence must be used to lure customers back into stores, promising big in store discounts and club card points. It can’t afford to alienate customers like this anymore: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ms6zzOm6v94

Equally, customers need to be treated as more than walking pound signs. At a career’s talk I went to at university, a retail executive claimed the most important attitude in retail was an “obsession with money”. A charming sentiment. Yet his “greed is good” vibe highlighted how out of touch many companies are; they need to personally reach out to their customers or lose out in the long term.


For example, Always’ 2015 “Like A Girl” campaign personally connected with its target market, turning a phrase previously used for insulting women into a display of female empowerment. In a sea of sexist adverts – think Lynx circa 2009 -, the Always brand stood out by offering a campaign that celebrated its customers rather than demeaning them. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q3GpXgFwWmk

To give Lynx its due, they have grown up in their advertising approach and ditched the bikini clad women hovering around a fat hairy bloke for a more progressive campaign. Its 2014 Australian hair advert features two men kissing and it has a ‘relatability’ factor that has resonated with customers so much more than sensationalist sexism. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qmdlPBY7c8U


Similarly, retailers that have taken on board what customers want and improved their services through technology. Domino’s with its app service, has made the most of its practical and personal strengths as a company. Whilst it is impossible to know if technology in shops is always a good thing – over the years I have been tormented by countless unexpected items in the bagging area- , it is undoubtedly the future of the consumer experience, with retailers like Waitrose planning to introduce iPads and voice recognition products.

item in bagging area

Therefore, retailers and advertisers need to sell a more personalised experience to customers. As a customer, if you feel valued by a brand, you are much more likely to stick with them in the future, and companies seriously need that kind of loyalty. If we strip back every complex advertising strategy and business plan, underneath it all is the simple reminder that the brand is nothing without the customer.

As this blog marks the end of my time at Velvet, I want to thank the friendly and hard working team – with a special mention to Natasha- for making my time here so enjoyable. From calling journalists to drafting releases about twitter treasure hunts, it has been a great experience.  I would love to go into PR or a similar industry in the future to apply everything that I have learned.