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What’s in a name?


Asda have announced that they are changing their value range name from “Smart Price” to “Just Essentials” - a name some have deemed precariously close to Waitrose’s value range: “Essentials”.

Asda says their new range will be aimed at consumers who are interested in “healthy and nutritious food with lowest prices and larger and more diverse range of great value products”. Waitrose says their range has “built up a strong reputation for value, quality and higher welfare standards”.

Retailers often choose to copy the presentation of established brands, such as similar packaging shape and colouring, design elements and names so their brand can piggyback off the image of the established brand. Consumers spend a relatively short time grocery shopping, and they rely on external or superficial cues to help them make their decisions about what to buy. Retailer brands often copy established brands’ features to signal a “quality” image to shoppers.

Within the retailing world, this is not a new practice. Take the example of Aldi and Lidl. The Marks & Spencer’s Colin the caterpillar vs. Aldi’s Cuthbert the caterpillar made headlines, as did the Sarson’s Malt Vinegar vs. Lidl’s Samson Malt Vinegar. Similarly, though Asda already positions itself for the budget shopper, they might aim to establish “an image for quality” via using a similar product range name, such as Waitrose’s established range name “Essentials”.

But is this practice effectively stealing a brand identity? Some shoppers might look down on the imitator as a copycat, particularly if the copied body convinces the public and takes legal action where possible. Sometimes, though, consumers might also find the retailers who “copy” as acting in the interests of the shopper.

Another issue here is the moral one: shoppers may question the values of the retailer due to these misrepresentations. They might perceive this as unethical and inauthentic. There are clearly financial benefits to the customers, but particularly younger generations, such as Millennials and Gen Z, are quite sensitive to these issues.

Millennial and Gen Z consumers expect transparency, authenticity, and honesty from brands. These younger shoppers make up more of the population than the two prior generations combined. They are much more driven by the customised customer service and communications compared with the approach Asda has adopted in this latest incident.

But perhaps not all is lost: Asda can learn from Aldi with their well-executed social media marketing which engages not only their consumers, but also the general public, leading to not only a “fun” brand but also a well-known brand image of high quality with low prices.

Melisa Mete

Lecturer in Marketing
Published 8 April 2022
Leading insights

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