Can a brand gain from adopting a rival's disused marketing idea? The Marketing Society Forum

Morrisons has registered variations of a trademark that borrows from a former Sainsbury's slogan.


I would steer clear of recycling a competitor's marketing idea. If used in jest, it can come across as a cheap shot; if used in a serious way, your spend could create value for the rival who still 'owns' the idea. However, there are few variations of wording that imply food is high quality at low prices - the essence of any supermarket proposition.

Morrisons has been clever to introduce the double-meaning word 'making' - its degree of vertical integration is a real point of difference. Registering 'Making good food cost less' doesn't mean it will be used; Morrisons may be the only 'big four' grocer not to have a consistent slogan, yet it has the sharpest and most differentiated image of them all.


Putting aside passing off or copyright litigation, when consumers perceive the original brand as owning the idea, the second brand may fail the 'fair and reasonable test' - at best, it fails by comparison, at worst, it is a thief.

True ownership can be achieved only when a brand truth lies at the heart of the creative. Yet it can also be reassigned by subtle changes to the ideas of others, and ideas with no natural owner demand to be shared. Waitrose shoppers do not care that 'Dine in for £10' was an M&S concept. Waitrose was criticised for the move, but customers might question their patronage had it not produced its own version of such a great idea.


This strategy is unlikely to work unless the borrowed slogan reflects a fundamental brand truth and the borrower can make it its own - and expunge the emotional resonance the original brand engendered.

Even then, it smacks of laziness. Consumers are marketing-literate, sophisticated and critical; they appreciate originality and creativity.

Sainsbury's new proposition, 'Live well for less', is more dynamic and inclusive than the line it dropped over 20 years ago. It reflects how far the brand has moved on.

Morrisons would be better off investing in a memorable expression of its unique brand story.


Morrisons clearly wants to create a value proposition around affordable quality, but this fails. Its twist on the old Sainsbury's strapline seemingly promises a store packed with promotions.

You can steal a line, but if it's incongruent with the very DNA of the brand it is now meant to represent, it's a wasted effort. Better to steal from an adjacent category in another market entirely and use Target's old line: 'Expect more, pay less'.

Each week Forum questions members of The Marketing Society on a hot topic. For more information on membership, visit


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