tesco clubcard prices

As the nation’s largest grocer, Tesco tends to lead the category in most cases. It was the first to build a customer loyalty programme with Clubcard, the first to offer an Aldi price match, and subsequently Clubcard Prices.

It should come as no surprise, then, that Tesco has led the way in adopting the use of a bold and bright yellow – a category generic semiotic – to signify lower price.

But having just lost its Court of Appeals bid over claims that it copied Lidl’s logo for Clubcard Prices, it’s now going to have to rethink its branding.

The yellow circle on a blue background has to go. However, while Lidl can claim ownership of that design, the ownership of the colour yellow to signify discount is harder to claim. So Tesco could proceed in one of two ways:

  1. Lean into the immediacy of yellow, but in a more generalised way with a version of a yellow sticker that is at least differentiated ‘enough’ from Lidl’s.
  2. Move towards a more ownable and distinct label that could use tropes and colours from Tesco’s visual system.

In this case, I’d suggest the former, leaning more towards the more general approach. In a retail environment, we are scanning the shelves looking to shortcut all the information available to us to find our product as quickly as possible. As we’re walking up and down, our brain filters out a lot of information. Yellow does a good job to disrupt that autopilot as it catches the eye very quickly, regardless of a customer’s loyalty to one supermarket or another.

Yellow has been used to signify discounts and deals across the retail landscape for decades  –  not just in the UK but in many other countries. Its meaning is immediate. Customers intuitively know the meaning and relevance of that yellow sticker in a supermarket environment – and it’s just as effective in an e-commerce setting as a physical store.

Sainsbury’s Nectar Prices deploys a purple from the brand’s wider colour palette. While the purple may well be distinctive against the backdrop of the Sainsbury’s orange masterbrand, it requires more time for consumers to intuitively associate it with lower prices, and for purple to disrupt the ‘autopilot’. 

One option would be for Tesco to deploy its own ‘red’ labels. After all, it has been used for many years to signify ‘sale’ or ‘markdown’ across the industry – in fact, it’s the colour it uses for its Aldi Price Match. There’s an issue with this simple solution, though. It would need to create a degree of difference between those two value messages for customers, and using a yellow ensures their shopping environment doesn’t look like an all-year-round sale.

Tesco Clubcard prices

This brings us to the real question: does a price label have to be ownable and distinctive?

Ownable – no.

If every supermarket had its own way of signifying what is full price and what is lower price, we’d all suffer. We already have to carry around multiple loyalty cards to access the best prices for things, questioning whether it is actually a deal or not. The last thing we really need is to have to learn each supermarket’s idiosyncratic sticker colour systems.

Distinctiveness from category – no.

Distinctive design is vital for a brand. It’s how people recognise it, it empowers the brand to tell its own story. But does distinctiveness from the rest of the category have to extend to every single touchpoint of a retail experience when the audience is already in your shop?

Distinctiveness within your shop environment – yes.

The design challenge is more about how to navigate your customers around a store or an online shopping experience in as easy and enjoyable a manner as possible. And that may mean you need to distinguish between one value message, and another (ie Aldi Price Match).

In the interim, Tesco should focus on the intuitive power of yellow in a less legally inflammatory way to provide that intuitive, immediate and disruptive trigger. But Tesco’s real opportunity is to once again lead from the front when it comes to customer centricity.