Italy: history and marketing of discounters

Discount Retail Chains in Italy: 50 YEARS OF ASCENT What was the first discount store to open in Italy? What are the marketing strategies that discounters have adopted to make their customers feel less? Why have LIDL shoes been so successful? HOW DISCOUNTS ARE BORN The history of discount stores begins in Germany , after World War II , when the brothers Karl and Theo Albrecht seized the main need of German consumers at a time of great economic difficulty : low-cost products . Thus, starting from their father's small grocery store, the brothers founded ALDI (Albrecht-Discount).

ALDI quickly became a supermarket chain known for its spartan atmosphere and affordable prices, mainly due to the brothers' negotiating skills. In the 1970s, following the example of ALDI, LIDL was born in Germany. The concept is the same: confined spaces in the stores, little choice of products, no mood music. In short, zero frills and reduced costs to the bone.

One of the first Aldi stores in Germany. LIDL is the first discount to arrive in Italy in 1992. Its success, however, at least at the beginning, is not comparable to that achieved in Germany. This LIDL had all the characteristics of the first German discount stores: narrow aisles made of pallets one on top of the other, neon lights, goods of unknown brands with minimal and unattractive packaging inside the boxes. It was, in short, sad and ugly.

Historical collage of vintage photos depicting the first Lidl stores in Italy. Image credits: Lidl Italy Shopping in such a place was mortifying for the Italian consumer. For Italians, in fact, going to the supermarket is not just a necessity: shopping is a beautiful moment, a prelude to the convivial ritual of the table , of tradition and of all those beautiful things that certainly cannot be born between the depressing aisles, the poor lights, and the atmosphere of misery, then typical of the Teutonic discount stores.

Understanding this limit is the key to the success of another discount store, all Italian, which was born in response to LIDL only one year after its arrival in Italy: Eurospin. Eurospin copies the model of the German discount, as regards the convenience of prices , but adapts it to the needs and gastronomic habits of the Italian consumer. In particular, Eurospin focuses on the higher purchase frequency of the Italian consumer compared to the German one, including in its assortment fresh and very fresh products , lacking in the first discount stores, such as fresh bread, quality fruit and vegetables. Furthermore, Eurospin is characterized by a cleaner and more elegant environment, in which the Italian consumer can feel a little more at ease, and includes products with a more attractive packaging , which conveys an idea of ​​quality.

One year after Eurospin, MD, another 100% Italian discount store opens . Other brands followed in the following years, and ALDI, the first in the history of discount stores, also arrived in Italy in 2018. HOW DISCOUNTS WORK What unites all discounters is their business model, based on two fundamental distinctive features. First of these is the reduced assortment of products: we are around 2,000 references against those of traditional supermarkets, which reach 40,000. The advantage of this strategy, in addition to avoiding the paralysis of the consumer during the purchase in the face of an excess of supply, is above all the savings on management costs, due to the presence of few products in stock.

Another feature of discounters is that the vast majority of their products are not from well-known brands, but from the discounter's own brands, the so-called “private labels”. Although they have different invented names depending on the product sector, the private labels all belong to the discount store and therefore involve considerably lower marketing and distribution costs than those of traditional supermarkets.

While maintaining these cornerstones, over the years the discounters have transformed to intercept a wider range of consumers. To do this, they tried to raise their positioning, to the sound of marketing and advertising, by adopting some precise communication strategies. DISCOUNT MARKETING The discounter in its beginnings, in the collective imagination, was associated, especially in Italy, with a category of low-income consumers , who are satisfied with lower quality products in the name of saving . Given this perception, the social stigma of those who cannot afford decent spending weighed on discount shoppers.


Therefore, those who feared feeling judged in these terms avoided discount stores or went there reluctantly. To attract this clientele, discounters had to implement a real repositioning , in terms of stores and products, and psychological , in the minds of consumers.


In terms of layout, discounters have become more similar to supermarkets: larger, more beautiful, they have begun to locate themselves even within urban centers, to arrange the goods in a more orderly way, and to take care of the lights more, thus making the consumer shopping experience is more enjoyable.

Products from the ITALIAMO line by LIDL

At the product level, the fresh departments have increased and some branded products have appeared . Have been inserted, in addition, private label of high-end (such as the Deluxe line LIDL or Premium MD), as well as organic products , vegans, but also products for intolerant to gluten and lactose.

In addition to the interventions at the store and product level, among the marketing strategies adopted by the discounters to reposition themselves, those of Eurospin, LIDL and MD represent winning examples. EUROSPIN: YOU ARE NOT POOR, YOU ARE INTELLIGENT Since its inception, Eurospin has embraced the claim: “ Smart shopping ”, adopting a repositioning strategy based on the perception of the consumer who goes to the discount store. What we intend to communicate is that the discount customer is not less wealthy , but intelligent because he knows how to choose the right relationship between quality and price.

In 2020, Eurospin emphasizes this claim through a TV commercial, which takes up an advertising trend that began a few months earlier, in which Eurospin customers are so intelligent that they all turn into Einstein, a symbol of human genius, when they enter the store.

In reality, in the commercial, the transformation of consumers, men, women and children, concerns hair and mustaches, which want to resemble the iconic ones of the German genius. The advertisement ends with a little girl who, after leaving the discount store, repeats the slogan: “Smart shopping” and sticks her tongue out, like Einstein in his famous photograph. LIDL: WE ARE VERY ITALIAN Unlike Eurospin, which relies above all on savings, LIDL's repositioning strategy focuses on the consumer's sense of belonging. The advent of the crisis in Italy had forced many middle-class families to review their consumption habits, often to the detriment of the quality of purchases. LIDL's "Italiamo" line was born in 2010 precisely to intercept this target: it is a private label that covers typical local products, such as DOP and IGP cured meats and cheeses, including products made in co-branding with Gambero Rosso, a guarantee of excellence and quality.

Through its range of Italian regional products, LIDL reposition itself by solving the concrete problem of the consumers it was trying to intercept: by going to LIDL they can find a sense of belonging to the local tradition and, while saving money, they do not have the feeling of giving up quality. The presence of the Italian flag in the logo is certainly no coincidence. LIDL Italia logo LIDL's choice to partner with the men's national football team, the popular emblem of national unity, goes in the same direction. In the dedicated spot, the decision to rely on LIDL for the supply of fruit and vegetables is definitely approved even by Mancini. To seal its repositioning, in 2013 LIDL launched the advertising campaign "Anch'io", an eloquent name that suggests the idea of ​​a LIDL suitable for everyone's needs, because, as promised by the spot "LIDL is for you". The campaign appears in all the major media, focusing on the concepts of quality, freshness and Italian style, and ends with the payoff: “Don't change your lifestyle: change the supermarket”. The spot is directed by Luca Lucini, director of "Three meters above the sky" and the soundtrack is "Aria" by Gianna Nannini. Among the repositioning efforts by LIDL, attention to environmental sustainability emerges. In 2006, LIDL discount store is the first Italian to take the mark of the trade fair Fair Globe. His subsequent social responsibility initiatives are manifold: from the promotion of renewable energy sources to anti-waste campaigns.

On the digital level, LIDL has recently activated a completely digital loyalty program , through the LIDL Plus app. Furthermore, among the social activities of Italian supermarkets, that of LIDL, entrusted to the Plan. Post from the FB page of LIDL Italia In 2020, in full pandemic, LIDL becomes the protagonist of a particularly resonant marketing initiative: it launches a line of clothing signed with its own brand and with the colors of its logo (blue, yellow and red). To advertise it, in Germany, LIDL implements an effective advertising campaign: for customers who go to a store, wearing sneakers from the LIDL line and share a selfie in which they wear them on social networks, there is a pair of limited edition footwear.

Shoes are selling like hot cakes and the campaign is a success: almost at the price of production costs alone, LIDL manages to generate traffic in the points of sale, giving the consumer the role of influencer . Before the launch in Italy, a well-known influencer appears on IG wearing LIDL shoes: it is Federico Lucia, aka Fedez. The shoes, whose original price was 12.99 euros (US$15.6), are soon unavailable.

LIDL sneakers Numerous analyzes have been carried out on the phenomenon of LIDL sneakers. An interesting reflection traces its success in their being a "statement piece", that is an object whose value is not found in quality or aesthetics, but in the provocation it offers: an economic product, of a discount, which becomes high fashion. LIDL has played precisely on this dichotomy through the collaboration with well-known influencers, such as Fedez, instilling in consumers the desire to have sneakers to appear on social media by wearing them: in this way a product accessible to all becomes a niche product, sold on ebay by the thousands of Euro.


MD: HOUSEHOLD EXPENDITURE Unlike Eurospin and LIDL, MD's strategy has focused above all on the use of testimonials , faces known and loved by the Italian public, to give an idea of familiarity and trust, removing from MD the image of "discount with prices at good market ”to favor that of a“ reliable and convenient local supermarket”.

One of the most successful collaborations was the one with Antonella Clerici , testimonial of MD since 2017. In 2019, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the sign, MD launches a radio campaign in which Paolo Iannacci readjusts his father's famous song, “Vengo me too". In the commercial, the zoo becomes the discount store: the reasons why “you could go to MD to do the shopping” are listed, and the refrain becomes “I'm coming too! Yes you yes. But why? Because he is MD”, Antonella Clerici replies.

This is precisely the soundtrack of the television commercial, signed by the Sunny Milano agency which sees the testimonial protagonist of a sort of musical inside an MD, in which customers and employees sing happily, showing how the discount is a pleasant place. open, well-kept and informal where you can shop with joy. The spot ends with the claim: "Good shopping, Italy!"


In the following commercials, Antonella Clerici's familiar smile is flanked by patron Patrizio Podini, founder and president of MD. His presence, the "putting your face" is functional to underline the reliability of the discount store and the quality of its products.


In 2020, MD also begins a new digital communication project, created by the Deltastudio agency called Casa MD: in twelve videos, Antonella Clerici appears together with one of the chefs of La prova del Cuoco in a home kitchen, welcoming and familiar, preparing recipes made with MD products. In addition to the blog, the video recipes can also be found on MD's YouTube channel.


MD's communication on social media is noteworthy. On Facebook, MD actively engages its large community through nice polls, and posts with funny and ironic copy.


Post from the MD FB page

Among other social initiatives, MD promotes the video pills of "Vitaliano chooses Italian", in which the comedian Giovanni D'Angella di Zelig discovers that from MD you can "go around the world in ten lanes", showing the numerous products of Italian tradition proposed by the sign. In his hilarious gags, Vitaliano will also be able to enjoy a beach holiday thanks to travel offers from the website www.md-viaggi.it, a travel agency similar to the one already started by LIDL.


Since the first LIDL in the 90s, Italian discounters have evolved, changed and transformed to get closer to the needs of consumers. While becoming more similar to supermarkets, they have retained their identity, and have launched effective communication strategies in step with the times. However, now LIDL shoes are also available for less than 1000 euros (US$1,200). This is precisely the soundtrack of the television commercial, signed by the Sunny Milano agency which sees the testimonial protagonist of a sort of musical inside an MD, in which customers and employees sing happily, showing how the discount is a pleasant place. open, well-kept and informal where you can shop with joy. The spot ends with the claim: "Good shopping, Italy!"


In the following commercials, Antonella Clerici's familiar smile is flanked by patron Patrizio Podini, founder and president of MD. His presence, the "putting your face" is functional to underline the reliability of the discount store and the quality of its products.


In 2020, MD also begins a new digital communication project, created by the Deltastudio agency called Casa MD: in twelve videos, Antonella Clerici appears together with one of the chefs of La prova del Cuoco in a home kitchen, welcoming and familiar, preparing recipes made with MD products. In addition to the blog, the video recipes can also be found on MD's YouTube channel.


MD's communication on social media is noteworthy. On Facebook, MD actively engages its large community through nice polls, and posts with funny and ironic copy.


See here for more: https://lagazzettadelpubblicitario.it/casi-di-successo/discount-marketing/


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