I remember, way back when, being a student in Salford (Highfield Road, near the precinct, if anyone knows the area) and wandering into this strange shop called Lidl, with my housemate.
As was natural (and probably still is), we wanted to get hammered for as little money as possible.
We wandered round this strange, quirky shop – with unknown juices and crisps under names like ‘Floop’ and ‘Runken’ – until we came to the drinks aisle.
Of the various unheard of beers, we settled on a pack of 12 bottles of the hilarious-attempt-at-appearing-Belgian, ‘Blond Biere’.
For good measure we bought a bottle of ‘Apple Sourz’ too.
Oh how we laughed (not really, but makes the story sound better) at the funny little bottles of Blond Biere. Then we took a few sips and realised that, actually, it didn’t taste too bad and – for what we paid – we’d done really well. Blond Biere became our drink of choice, and we regularly stocked up on that and other strange products (mainly alcohol) from Lidl.
Fast forward 13 years, and no-one is laughing at Lidl now, or Aldi.
These German supermarket titans – once purveyors of cr*p, cheap stuff that no-one had heard of – are now making serious headway as competitors in the cluttered UK supermarket brand sector.
Anecdotally, rarely a day goes by when I don’t hear someone say that they visited Aldi or Lidl and were ‘surprised’ or – as I saw last week – mentions them on social media.
Not only that, but they keep ‘unexpectedly’ winning awards – awards in categories you’d never imagine a quirky budget supermarket winning:
Lidl smashed the competition out of the park with its whisky.
Aldi saw off established Champagne brands, at Christmas.
Aldi has also been selling food such as lobster – that bastion of quintessential, upper class luxury – for £4.99, and both Lidl and Aldi have been selling good quality steaks for previously unheard of prices.
What’s great about these two stores though, is that they been in the UK for ages (Aldi, since 1989. Lidl, since 1994), but – as successful brands – they’ve slowly crept up on us.
Neither brand could be considered ‘brash’ or ‘loud’ and, up until recently, neither of them had done much by way of above-the-line advertising.
Even then, this advertising has been what I would call ‘humble’ – it hardly screams from the rooftops.
Neither brand stoops as low as to do price comparison ads (see below) or takes part in tit for tat price wars, and they never have – it just looks so undignified, having to slate your competition to look good.
Neither brand has marginalised themselves as ‘too cheap’ or ‘cheap and nasty’, and they certainly haven’t set themselves up as ‘out of reach’ or only aiming at a certain class of clientele.
They haven’t garnered a reputation for bullying their suppliers, to keep prices low, either.
They’ve just quietly sat back, folded their arms, watched the recession unfold and change people’s habits, and they’ve reaped the rewards.
They’re proof that, in a cluttered sector, you don’t need to be brash, loud, arrogant, or hammer the competition – you just need to be shrewd.
Well played, Aldi and Lidl – well played…