Retail sales are up but consumer confidence is down which means people are looking for value. But not necessarily at the expense of quality. Moensie Rossier explains how the two brand assets can work together.

As the cost-of-living rises, retailers are fighting harder for every dollar. It has never been more important to articulate your unique value in a way that inspires people to choose you.

The marketing levers are much the same – quality, price, service and experience.

The balance of quality and price is perhaps the most challenging as supply chains continue to feel the crunch. But it can be done.

The most successful brands do it by translating their marketing strategy into something more distinctive and meaningful with nuanced expression of a great brand idea.

UK retailer John Lewis sustained its promise, ‘Never knowingly undersold’ for 97 years. Much more than a price pledge, this underpinned trust in the brand. It exuded confidence, speaking to leadership, integrity and service, as well as quality. The subtext was almost, ‘How dare they undersell us? We’ll take care of this.’ (Read that in a posh English accent from someone who is immensely capable.)

In recent years, the line has become problematic because the price pledge doesn’t apply to online-only retailers. John Lewis has invested in lowering prices across the store, and has ramped up its ANYDAY value range, to offer customers ‘everyday quality and value.’ The external promise adds a touch of surprise and delight with ‘quality you’d expect at prices you wouldn’t’.

John Lewis’ core promise has evolved to ‘always knowingly committed to outstanding value’. Fortunately, that phrase only lives in the marketing plan. The retailer has already registered potential new brand lines with the Intellectual Property Office, including ‘John Lewis: Life is beautiful’, ‘For hopes and dreams: John Lewis’, ‘For the joy of life: John Lewis’ and ‘John Lewis for all life’s moments’. The risk is that moment marketing has become a category convention making it harder to be distinctive. But, as a pioneer of heart-warming, epic Christmas campaigns, John Lewis can arguably lay claim to this space, while maintaining its reputation for quality and value.

Compelling expressions of value can also be found in the world of consumer goods. L’Oreal’s longstanding campaign idea, ‘I’m worth it’ ascribes worth to people, not things. It shifted the mindset from saving to splurging because, instead of judging whether something was worth paying for, customers were reinforcing their self-worth.

Mastercard rose to the challenge of creating long-term value in a functionally indistinguishable financial services category with ‘Priceless’. This captured the imagination of customers and built pride in the organisation. Part of the brand’s DNA for 25 years and endlessly versatile, the brand idea is itself priceless.

A little dopamine hit of fun, status, or sociability, underpinned by a firm promise, goes a long way. Over many years, Kmart built its business on the back of the long-term brand idea, ‘We make low prices irresistible’ along with an uplifting store experience. In contrast to Bunnings’ ‘Lowest prices are just the beginning’, Kmart infused energy, fun and distinction into a mundane price conversation.

Aldi embraces its difference at a brand level and lets its prices do the talking. It used the genuine passion of fans to address misperceptions about quality and value in its Supermarket Switch campaign. Aldi’s ‘Good Different’ brand continues to enliven conversations about top quality products at the lowest prices.

In summary, affordable prices, quality products, and good service underpin value, but value is created with an inspiring and nuanced, long-term brand idea.

Moensie Rossier is a Strategy Director at Principals.

This article first appeared in Inside Retail