Tuesday, September 22, 2009


"Rebranding". It's an awful, depressing term. A marketer's admission of failure, it basically says "you didn't buy enough of this product before - I'll put it in a different box and see if you buy it now." Depressingly, it often seems to work.

Sometimes, in fact, it works so well that a large media outlet will give you free ads.

As you can see, this 'article' is on page A2 of the print edition.

It's Countdown but not as you know it, promises supermarket boss Peter Smith.

Progressive Enterprises, owner of the Woolworths, Foodtown and Countdown brands, has announced it is uniting all its supermarkets under one Countdown banner.

How exciting. Now please tell me how this change will actually affect my life, and thus is worthy of being treated like a piece of news.

This was not the old, rundown Countdown format that some shoppers might associate with the brand, he said.

The new stores had a diverse range of fresh food, a bigger grocery range, wide aisles and a brighter environment.

Perhaps you could fill your readers in on this week's Countdown specials? You know, seeing you're already working in 'corporate shill' mode. You've already got a massive logo for the company in the photo, so I'm not sure what more you can do - perhaps a little device that plays their jingle when you open the newspaper?

Honestly, you're not even trying anymore.


  1. Well, I found it interesting and newsworthy enough. I'm only slightly interested in the supermarket wars, but it seems like a significant development in them.

    Perhaps they put that article in for me, not for you?

  2. Perhaps they did.

    Perhaps they could have just written about it, rather than provide a platform for the CEO to talk about how great his supermarkets were.

  3. If grapevine is to be believed then Vodafone is making some changes as well.

  4. Well, it clearly wasn't investigative journalism. I shop at Countdown Westgate and they didn't interview me.

    The make-over sucks.

    Fancy painting all your interior walls dark dark grey. Dull, oppressive dark grey. When it used to be light bright white and a cheery green. I told the checkout operator that the new colour scheme gave me claustrophobia and she responded, we're getting new brighter lights.

    So what's the carbon footprint of that, eh?

  5. *Shudder*
    I hope Maria Slade had to take several showers to wash off the dirty used feeling after reprinting this press release tripe.

  6. I think the story is legit - there's comment from other parties in there giving viewpoints other than the company stance. Far better anyway than TV1's super-brief mention in passing on the 6 pm news yesterday, which was basically just the announcement - no opportunity taken to expand on what was happening.

    I do strongly suspect this was a partial rewrite from a press release, with additional comment, though. I suspect it because I've done it myself before...

    Personally I think the rebranding is an error. Of the three Progressive supermarket brands, Countdown is probably the one with the least brand equity - the poor cousin to Foodtown and Woolworths, without being the genuine bargain experience of the competing Pak 'n' Save. (It might have been smarter to run with Woolworths, which fits in between Foodtown and Countdown and which obviously works fine for them over the ditch as the article suggests.)

    Also, as a single brand if they're content to sit between New World and Pak'n'Save, they may do alright. But I suspect that if the economy gets worse, Pak 'n' Save will start carving off buyers from Countdown's lower end - and in the event of economic recovery, Progressive will have to get used to New World now having the run of the premium supermarket category. I don't conceivably see how one brand could cover all of these bases.

  7. It was probably part of an advertorial deal for future advertising, I can see the rationale, just not the impartial journalism.

    They do this every time the words iPod, iPhone, Xbox, Playstation, Wii or Miley Cyrus are used as well, remember.

  8. Every time I see one of these PR exercises I sincerely wonder how some people don't see right through it.

    Eddie Bernays would be so proud...

  9. Hello all. Could you suggest another way of writing this type of story?

    The subject is certainly of interest to readers. Supermarkets are normally second only to mortgages / rent in terms of weekly spend. They will be interested to know that things are changing.

    But if you don't want the newspaper to interview the people concerned, what should it do?

  10. ps samuel, I don't think they are trying to cover all three bases. I think that they're going for the middle ground, which is probably a good thing for the company. They're targeting one market far more aggressively.

    And fewer lines, universal branding, defined supply chains, centralised warehouses, unified administration etc will cut costs considerably.

  11. I guess my point is that I don't think that things ARE changing, any more than Coke changes when they rebrand it.

    And as far as talking to people, I don't think the following style of journalism is acceptable:

    Reporter: So what will change?

    Executive: Our supermarkets will be brighter and better than ever before!

    Reporter: Ok, I'll just put that in the story, then.

  12. There are many ways of covering this that qualifies as news not press release/PR for one of their biggest advertisers:

    - as a straight announcement so members of the public know what is going on;
    - as a business story that looks at economies of scale in marketing only one supermarket instead of 3;
    - background and context about the supermarket industry in NZ, and how Progressives came to own 3 different supermarkert chains;
    - assessments from marketing commentators about this particular rebranding (choosing Countdown over Woolworths)
    - as a shopper at Westgate Countdown, my particular gripe - something from a marketing or design person on colour and mood and what causes people to buy more (nice smells?) or less. An assessment of the new colour scheme.

    So, lots of options really. Mind you, this wasn't the only story on the Progressives rebranding to appear; it just happens to be a great big PR jobbie with major pic on the front page masquerading as news.

  13. "I guess my point is that I don't think that things ARE changing, any more than Coke changes when they rebrand it."

    Not true, the 3 chains had different profiles of consumers that they targeted and product lines that they ran and prices that they charged. The new improved Countdown now has a wider range of products, it is more like a Foodtown.

    The downside of this is that there is now so little shelf space for any one good that the chance of it being sold out is extremely high, especially if it is on special. This never happened in the old Countdown days...

    My impression is that prices are higher too, but maybe they are higher everywhere.

  14. Am I the only one gutted that the mirror image of Countdown on the cars roof doesn't amount to a naughty word Conutqomu...it had potential too :(

  15. There's actually an investigation ripe for the taking in this one. It was glossed over with:

    "No stores would be closed, even though in some places such as Glenfield Mall - where there is a Countdown and a Foodtown - the company may end up with two Countdowns opposite each other."

    It simply does not make fiscal sense to have 2 supermarkets of exactly the same brand right next door to each other, or even on the same block. There *is* going to be attrition in the long term. What effects will this have on staff - will they lose their jobs? What effects will this have on suppliers - will there be less stores to supply to?

    Also, what further effects will this have on Progressive's Australian vs NZ suppliers issue? Already their helpdesk and management structure is centralized to Australia - more jobs lost for NZers, more communication problems.

    Progressive are plucking NZ clean. Not ENOUGH fuss was made last year when they announced cutting out NZ suppliers if they couldn't supply both NZ AND Australian stores. This is why you won't find niche brands in their stores any more; this is why their meat is vaguely labelled "Product of NZ and Australia".

    Dig harder, please NZ media.

  16. "Hello all. Could you suggest another way of writing this type of story?"

    If you're going to write an advertorial (and that article was an advertorial) it should be in the local rags. It shouldn't be in the Herald where it is being disguised as news.

  17. so you think it isn't news?

  18. forgive me for this, although I think some may agree that it makes a point.


    I take it rebranding news is quite big. Look at the number of articles about a font change.


  19. "so you think it isn't news?"


  20. There was one quote from a big cheese at Progressive, yes, and the word 'brighter' was used. however, there is also a chap in there saying it's not going to be a good bet.

    Advertorial? Almost but not quite. Consumer news often scrapes such a boundary. Look at all the free advertising Apple gets on the Guardian, for instance.