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Why we're crying spilt milk over this terrible Sainsbury's execution

Some years ago, when Shopper Media Group were working in Sainsbury's developing the first integrated shopper marketing service for brands, we hit upon one of those rare ideas that's so brilliant you just have to show it to people and they get enthusiastic.

Someone noticed that the till divider (plastic thing that guards your shopping from the next person's) was the exact (and I mean exact) size and shape of a 400g Toblerone. Moreover, it had a cardboard insert advertising bags for life or whatever it was. We took off the cardboard wrapper from the Toblerone, inserted it into the divider and boom - the Toblerone Till divider was born.

The only person in Sainsbury's who wasn't totally enthusiastic was the instore marketing manager. She handled the divider nervously before shaking her head and saying regretfully: "Neat idea, but the problem with this is that it looks like we're trying to sell Toblerone". I felt like Louis Armstrong trying to explain the point of jazz.

That story ended happily: objections were overcome, stakeholders were managed, arses were covered and the Toblerone Till Divider duly went into stores and was a huge success. But it seems some people in Sainsbury's are still determined that nothing so simple as common sense will be allowed to get in the way of a steadfast determination to stick to The Rules, even if it means producing literally invisible POS.

The photo (left) shows a branded entrance gate which is live right now in Sainsbury's. It's possibly the worst execution of an entrance gate (actually any point-of-sale) I've ever seen.

Did no one, either in the retailer or at the manufacturer stop and think - hang on a minute: white milk bottle, white background, this isn't going to work? Probably the manufacturer did, but was told 'these are the rules'. And then we consider the unreadable text size, the fact that it's a new product but there is no communication to the customer about the benefits (tastes as good as semi but is fat-free; lasts longer in the fridge).

All in all, it's a waste: of Sainsbury's colleagues time putting it up, the advertiser's money in funding it and the poor old shopper who has to try and make sense of it.

The great retailers of yore, a John Gildersleeve or a Malcolm Walker, would have spotted that a mile off and heads would roll. How far up the organisation you have to go to find someone who cares about actually getting it right for the customer?


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