We have worked for a lot of agencies over the last 20+ years working in design and branding before we started Designed By Good People back in 2010. During that time we have worked with Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, M&S, Asda and many other supermarkets both in the UK and other countries including the USA. And Tesco.
Today we hear that Tesco has had declining sales (yet again) and profits are down. We aren’t surprised.
The experience of working with Tesco wasn’t particularly pleasant. Head office seems to run under a culture of fear. Management styles weren’t inspirational, they were autocratic. The atmosphere was one of penny-pinching, it felt unfriendly and very corporate. In the main entrance an LED display showed the share price like it was displaying results of an important news story. We met suppliers and no-one seemed to have anything positive to say about them. Very often we were asked to design for reactions to the competition rather than for an innovative idea that make the competition react to Tesco.
But it wasn’t always like that. Once, Tesco were the innovators. Good, better best, Tesco Finest (which we used to design the packaging for at previous agencies), out of town supermarkets, Tesco Metro, Tesco.com, Tesco Express petrol station convenience stores and the Clubcard were all exciting innovations . They weren’t the biggest supermarket but challenged Sainsbury’s and overtook them, making them look old fashioned. Their advertising was groundbreaking and they had a charismatic leader in Sir Terry Leahy. We met him when we were working on Tesco’s ill fated adventure into the US and he really is really sharp.
Go back even further and Tesco stood for something: pile it high and sell it cheap and again they had a really great leader in Jack Cohen.
These were the glory days for Tesco. They were a Great British company, doing well and innovating and leading. But sometimes success and growth means you lose sight of what made you what you are in the first place. You become defensive. The culture changes.
We believe the problem is connected to the culture of the company. What we saw was a culture that stifled innovation, it didn’t support it’s staff or encourage them. It had a huge sense of it’s own importance, using this to squeeze suppliers. It became too big and too top down in it’s management structure. They seemed to be too intent on their share price and forgot the basics: they are there to sell things that PEOPLE need AND want.
Tesco were recently approached to help out with a local arts festival. They declined to help, but The Co-operative stumped up over £1000. Tesco seem to have nothing to do with local communities. Their staff seem uninterested, they haven’t really come up with anything particularly new or exciting in recent years. They are perceived as being big, uncaring, unfriendly and dull.
What’s the solution?
We believe in transparency and truth. Be honest. Say they have made mistakes, be human, be seen as a personality, an organisation run by human beings that have the same concerns as the people who they want to shop there. Listen and solve the problems they face. They need to stand for something.
What if Tesco said: Our customers wanted us to switch to Free Range Eggs in all our products. So from the x of (insert name of month) all our products will ONLY use Free range Eggs.
What if Tesco said: Our customers wanted us to treat them better. We are sorry, we lost signs of what’s important, and that’s you. Not our profits. Without you we are nothing.
What if Tesco stood up for their suppliers, customers and their local communities.
What if Tesco were there for you instead of being there for Tesco?