In a social world, Tesco insist on doing all the talking
Tesco chief executive Philip Clarke announced last week that he’s launching his very own blog in order to rebuild trust in the brand, which is set to announce its first global profits drop for 20 years next month.
Clarke’s first post details a commitment to making Tesco ‘better understood’ – by bringing to the fore the human element and the various stories from all levels of the organisation. He concludes by saying that “the best blogs kick off a conversation, not a monologue, so we’re in the market for your feedback, ideas, corrections, criticisms, and bouquets.”
Yet curiously, Tesco have decided against comment boxes, preferring ‘social media buttons’ at the end of each post.
Clarke and Tesco claim that such buttons “open the conversation to wider audiences, which comment boxes don’t always do.” Now it’s undeniable that comment boxes invite some of the crudest responses on the web due to the anonymity factor, and a descent into the unadulterated comment-box-enabled mayhem you see on some news outlets, but it’s difficult to believe that Tesco is taking the sensible social option here.
Clarke talks of creating a conversation, but how can that conversation take place when the consumer appears to have no say? Each post is tailed by four buttons: two to Facebook and Twitter, your standard “Promote me!” fare and two Tesco-specific buttons. The first is a disappointing ‘Like it’ that appears to do nothing more than add to a meaningless tally at the end of the post (one you can’t rescind), whilst the other directs you to the dreaded anonymous ‘Get in Touch’ form.
Tesco may claim it wants a two-way dialogue, but it appears that it will only do so on Tesco’s terms, effectively telling consumers that any response they do have, needs to be had elsewhere on other channels. The only response mechanisms through the site, aside from the ‘Get in Touch’ form, are ones positively endorsing the brand. This process means Tesco can pick and choose which queries it responds to more delicately, but is likely to leave its consumers feeling no closer to trusting the brand than before, nor have any confidence that their voice will be heard.
Considering its competitors have all launched their own blog offerings already, Tesco is already playing catch-up in the blogosphere and as they look to make the company more ‘human’, it’s interesting to take a look at what they are up against.
Waitrose arguably set the gold standard with Mark Price’s ‘NotSoChubby’ blog back in 2008, cleverly weaving in his Waitrose brand in an attempt to shed a few pounds from his waistline. By presenting himself as a human figure attempting to overcome a dietary challenge, he immediately removed all the boundaries you would expect between the CEO of a national supermarket and that of his everyday consumer, successfully creating a platform for engagement that I’m sure generated a heap of positive conversations and insight.
Price’s blog experiment was fleeting, but both Asda and Sainsbury’s currently run blogs offering ‘behind the scenes’ content, keeping customers up to date on topics such as sustainability and production, as well as suggesting recipe ideas. By and large, the engagement from consumers on Asda’s blog is near non-existent, with posts generally fairly brief and light reading, but Sainsbury’s site features a wealth of insight from behind-the-scenes, with all authors quick to respond and interact with consumers who engage.
With rivals already setting a high standard, the onus is on Tesco to provide an offering that promises something new and exciting. Clarke certainly has the theory right to concentrate on rebuilding trust, but it seems that there is some way to go before the application is brought up to scratch.
The value exchange dialogue should by now be recognised as a fundamental truth for any marketer, to build trust, and create those desired long-term connections with consumers. This simply cannot happen if a brand insists on a one-way monologue; consumers are too empowered, too savvy and will happily go and talk to someone else about your brand if they cannot talk to you. The inevitable result is that nothing is learned and ultimately, nothing gained.
On a more positive note, Clarke does seem aware of the potential ramifications and has not ruled out implementing the ability for comment in the future. But, it still feels strange that Tesco would seemingly let fear rule them in this situation. It will be interesting to see if the Talking Shop can help turn around Tesco, or become a costly social faux-pas.
Ian Stockley, MD, customer intelligence agency Indicia