COLES – THE ART OF BULLDOG ADVERTISING

Last month Coles finally euthanised its “Down, Down” campaign, moving away from a cost-based approach to their new slogan “Good things are happening at Coles”; how beautifully vague. Having finally acknowledged the market share that Aldi holds as the king of cheap groceries, Coles have wisely taken a new tack, though whether or not they will be doing away with their affinity for bulldog advertising is yet to be seen.

On the off chance you somehow managed to avoid the ads under the rock you’ve been under for the last seven years, here’s one of Coles many ‘Down, Down’ ads:

Yeah, not good. For the best part of a decade the ‘Down, Down’ campaign ran for it was entirely inescapable, Coles bombarding TV, print, radio, their catalogues and their stores with the obtrusive campaign; the name of the game was quantity, not quality. This is known as Bulldog Advertising; its ugly but it works. Instead of taking the subtle, soft sell approach, Coles hard hitting spruiking approach simply bombarded consumers to the point where every Aussie, young and old were subconsciously singing “Down, down, prices are down.” The ads are ultra-cheap to make, which gives Coles marketing budget more cash to spend on media buying, at one point a million dollars a week on TV alone, which has resulted in the over-saturation of the campaign. Naturally, this turned millions of Australians against the brand, many pointing a big red middle finger right back at Coles, but when the companies got a majority on the supermarket industry its near impossible to avoid forking over your cash to them at some point.

Unsurprisingly for such a long running campaign, ‘Down, Down’ was exceedingly successful, establishing Coles as the price focused supermarket, which when at the business end of the GFC would have netted the chain quite the pretty penny. The long-running campaign dragged in Status Quo, Casey Donovan, The Wiggles and even One Direction to unceremoniously spruik the brand, the campaign so influential its catchphrase is undoubtedly cemented into the Aussie vernacular alongside the Reading and Writing Hotline and “Not happy, Jan!”.

Whilst the campaign has been veraciously successful in bringing shoppers through the front door, I worry what long term damage it will do to the brand. Bandwagoning on something as sensitive as price can have its negative, just ask the Good Guys. Only 10% of Australians have supermarket affinity between the big two, so this campaign hasn’t been about getting consumers out of Woolworth’s, it’s about getting them out of the independents and turning Australian into a two-supermarket nation.

Bulldog advertising damages the brand in the long term, though it’s obviously resulted in record sales over the seven-year campaign. It’s a vicious cycle, as where can Coles go when the prices are as low as they can go? It will be fascinating to watch Coles tighten their media buying as they shift from spruiking value to freshness and quality, as it will absolutely result in reduced sales till the new campaign gets into its stride. In the meantime, will we see Aldi increase their media buying tenfold, push low prices harder than ever and properly join the big two in their supermarket monopoly? Only time will tell.