Marketing journalist Siobhán O’Connell, wrote an interesting article in the Irish Times Media & Marketing section recently where she posed the question "Does Musgrave's takeover afford the opportunity to reinvent or kill the Superquinn brand?" ChangeAgents were kindly asked to comment and our thoughts together with the diverse views of other branding and marketing experts can be viewed here in the Irish Times article.
Superquinn’s excellence in the past was due to the extraordinary vision of Fergal Quinn. He understood brand innately and knew that every world beating brand is underpinned by a strong customer value proposition. He set about identifying the important problems that needed to be solved for Irish grocery shoppers, exceeding their expectations constantly through a culture of innovation, relentlessly placing the customer at the core of the organisation and in so doing building a hugely successful brand.
The Supequinn takeover now makes Musgrave the largest retail group in the country with a 27.8 per cent market share (with Tesco at 27.6 per cent). Musgrave now have an opportunity to reposition Superquinn and redefine what the brand stands for in a new and different way. The question is where will the Superquinn brand fit relative to the competition and indeed relative to Musgrave’s own brands? How will Musgrave carve out a unique position and what will the new Superquinn brand stand for going forward and even more interesting how will competitors respond?
A brand or reputation is the most valuable asset owned by any organization. There is a growing awareness in Ireland that brands have a financial value beyond the bricks & mortar of physical stores. As savvy marketers Musgrave were aware that a brand like Superquinn has a tremendous financial value because it has created value or brand equity in the hearts and minds of loyal customers over a period of time. In the retail sector each brand reflects and plays a specific role in the market. Musgrave's acquisition not only allows it to tap into the existing goodwill surrounding the Superquinn brand but also enables it to use its different brands in different market segments to counter competitors and gain overall market share.
There is no doubt that the unique position that Superquinn owned in the minds of the Irish public in the nineties and early noughties, as an innovator in all aspects of the grocery shopping experience has been eroded by new market entrants or incumbents who have successfully negated Superquinn’s advantage and then gone one better. The Irish public over the boom years has also been exposed to multiple retail concepts at home and abroad and much higher levels of service so the bar has been considerably raised.
Superquinn’s position is now under threat as it has moved over time to the centre, driven by the recession to compete on price, when in the past customers were happy to pay that bit extra because they recognised the service and experiential difference. Now this has been diluted and Superquinn is in the equivalent of strategy’s “no man’s land” - stuck in the middle – neither superior on price like Aldi/Lidl or superior on experience/service (like Donnybrook Fair or the better Marks and Spencer stores). This shows how marketers need to be in touch with not only the needs of their customers but their relative position in the market as well as the trends that are shaping the future market. At the end of the day if you don't understand and define what your brand means your competitors certainly will.
For far too long supermarkets have been set up into categories and not customer experiences and in many cases bore the consumer into submission. Hopefully with the consolidation of the market and the 'supermarket wars' hotting up, consumers will get greater choice and value and retailers will move away from product, price and point of sale - to create more innovative and interesting shopping experiences for Irish customers.