EDITORIAL: How Iceland came in from the cold to win top MS award

Iceland crops up a lot in this week’s issue. It features on our front page for its success at this week’s Marketing Society Awards, on Adwatch for the 67% recall of its ’Feel the Deal’ advertising, and next to this column, where its joint managing director makes a robust defence of a controversial leaflet on GM-foods.

Iceland crops up a lot in this week’s issue. It features on our

front page for its success at this week’s Marketing Society Awards, on

Adwatch for the 67% recall of its ’Feel the Deal’ advertising, and next

to this column, where its joint managing director makes a robust defence

of a controversial leaflet on GM-foods.



But the retailer deserves the column inches we’ve given it. It has

reinvented its brand, reinvigorated its business and won what all

marketers strive for: consumer trust.



Just a few years ago, it was being written off as past its sell-by-date,

and no competition for the likes of Tesco or Sainsbury’s. Its stores

were too small, its focus was frozen when everyone wanted fresh, and its

’Mum’s gone to Iceland’ ads felt as unfashionable as its brand name.But

it was marketing that came to its rescue.



Under chief executive Malcolm Walker, Iceland decided the only way it

would survive was to reinvent its brand, its retail environment, and

crucially, its relationship with customers. Iceland’s rebirth began in

January 1998, shortly after the company picked HHCL & Partners as its

new ad agency, when it asked itself, ’what exactly do we do?’



The answer was simple. Iceland provided family meals, and its target

customer was still ’mum’, but ’mum’ now meant anyone with responsibility

for putting the family meal on the table - regardless of gender, age,

class or race. So Iceland, which had previously thought of itself as

’Britain’s leading specialist frozen food retailer’, became ’The

Revolutionary Family Food Company’.



But this was more than just sticking a new label on an old business.



Iceland’s new sub-heading signalled a fundamental change in its business

strategies, ethics and communication. It had already been vocal about

genetically-modified foods, but now decided to make this a central part

of its brand positioning. It told consumers that Iceland was on their

side, and at the same time associated the retailer with natural

ingredients.



It sought to make shoppers feel more confident about buying their family

meals at Iceland.



Its green credentials have been part of an aggressive marketing campaign

that the retailer makes no apologies for. Walker recently said of the

anti-GM advertising: ’Everything we have done we have firstly done

because we believe in it - then we exploit the hell out of it.’



Ultimately, that is the message of successful marketing. Believe it and

then exploit it - smartly.



Iceland’s challenge now will be to continue the momentum it has built up

over the past two years, particularly given its proposed merger with

Booker.It is a worthy winner of the Marketing Society Award for

outstanding achievement, and a reminder that excellent marketing can be

the engine that propels a brand to success.



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