Should Tesco axe “Every Little Helps”?

Recent news reports suggest that Tesco is considering killing off its "Every Little Helps" strapline, 20 years after it was first introduced, as part of a review of its £110m ad account. This has become one of the best known brand properties in Britain, so its a big call to make.

What should they do? Here are the arguments for and against ditching the slogan.

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1. Why keep Every Little Helps (ELH)?

Brand properties like ELH are marketing gold

As I've posted on here, distinctive memory structure takes an estimated 2-3 years of consistent marketing to create. And its also hard to "un-learn" brand properties like ELH once they are hard-wired into our brains. This is why marketing teams often get frustrated in focus groups, as consumers recall not this year's new ad campaign, but rather one from 5, 10 or even 15 years ago. This argues in favour of keeping ELH.

ELH is still relevant

I suggest that "Every little helps" is as relevant today as it was 20 years ago, if not more so, given the tough times people are living through. The same was not true for Sainsbury's, whose "Try Something New Today" idea felt out of touch with the times, and was changed for "Live Well for Less" in 2011.

Campaigns can be refreshed

The key to creating distinctiveness is "fresh consistency". The consistency comes through the brand story and brand properties, such as slogans, music and symbols. Freshness comes through chapters of new news on the brand. So, couldn't Tesco and their agency simply refresh ELH for 2012, bringing it up to date.

After all, James Bond still has the same theme music, catch-phrases and characters but has refreshed these, as I posted here. And the last two movies are amongst the most successful of all time.

2. Why loose Every Little Helps (ELH)?

ELH is a strapline, not a campaign

ELH is really just a strapline tagged on the end of various different executions. This means the brand has not created much memory structure, if any, in the last 5-7 years. Which is not great, given an ad spend of £100m a year. Which brand properties can you remember, apart from the strapline itself?

In fact, I suggest the brand has not had a true campaign since it ditched "Dotty" back in 2004. This campaign featured Prunella Scales as Dotty, the fanatical shopper. In testing Tesco, she gives it and its staff a chance to really bring to life ELH. For example, in this ad she takes back a sad looking trout and sawps it for a "happy sole". The campaign ran for 10 years and 25 executions. According to Thinkbox, the campaign delivered £38 of incremental profit for every £1 invested.

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ELH has led to fragmentation

The great thing about ELH is that it is broad and flexible. The bad thing about ELH is that it is broad and flexible. And given where Tesco is now, the disadvantages may outweigh the advantages. The brand needs a big idea supported by a few big, bold service propositions to re-launch, not lots of little ideas. When it comes to the Tesco brand, every little may not help enough

The need to provoke re-evaluation

Tesco needs to provoke peope to think again about Tesco, both shoppers and staff. And it may be hard to do this with the next episode of ELH. A new campaign idea may work better to create the sense of Tesco setting out on the next 20 years of success, not trying to re-cycle the last 20.

And the answer is…

Net, I am surprised to find myself in favour of change. My rationale is that ELH has a rather hollow strap-line, not a true communication campaign. Tesco needs a big new idea that can help provoke positive re-evaluation, inside and outside the business.

That said, Tesco's problems really run much deeper. As I posted on here, an upgrading of the stores and shopping experience is over-due. A new ad campaign without change to the service model will only paper over the cracks.

What do you think? Please do leave a comment if you have a view for or against losing Every Little Helps.