One of the major battlegrounds of the cost-of-living crisis is on the high street and this summer, at MAD//Fest London, Jon Evans hosted a special edition of the Uncensored CMO podcast and found out how key retailers are weathering this storm. 

Giving Evans the view, and key tips, from retail were Jessica Myers, CMO of The Very Group, Adam Zavalis, former CMO of Aldi, Pete Markey, CMO of Boots, and Alex Rogerson, Marketing Communications Director of Morrisons.

Here are four tips, covering what marketers should do these cash strapped times, how to build in-store experiences, how to make sure the importance of product value is heard, and how to and why you should not stop spending on brand building. 

Jessica Myers stressed what she felt was key to any retailer or marketer riding the storm - to be customer centric: “You have to have that deep customer obsession and being the customer ambassador and coupling that with deep commercial acumen.” 

She went on to say: "Marketing is the sweet spot between art and science. Marketers' role is to deliver accelerated business growth for the business. So whether you're an online retailer, high street retailer or hybrid, our jobs are all the same, we just use different tactics and different channels.”

Evans was keen to find out whether bricks and mortar was on its deathbed and Markey was keen to defend what he saw as the unique experience of shopping in-store. “The High Street definitely still got a really big role to play. What we've seen post pandemic is lots of people coming back to stores again… But it's a lot more about the experience in-store.” 

He said that in-store at Boots you can get things done, such as get a health MOT that you can’t online. “It's become more of an event and a moment again. But I think as retailers you have to give people a reason to go.” Markey emphasised that the onus was on retailers to create events, create opportunities, and know what matters in their customers lives. 

Value has always been part of the retail conversation and during the cost-of-living crisis even more so. Zavalis told Evans that whilst many people might naturally expect a disruptive discount supermarket, such as Aldi, to thrive, that it’s not as simple as that. “Everyone knew we were cheap but people associated cheap with just poor quality”

So how did Aldi convince people that cheap didn’t mean poor quality? “We did brand campaigns to show people what was on our aisles was just as good a quality as some of the brands that people knew and love, but obviously significantly cheaper.” This is, of course, very relevant today when money is tight. 

Can you invest in and build your brand when costs are increasing and your customers have less money to spend? Rogerson said the answer was very much, yes as he told Evans: “Morrisons leadership team are really aligned on how brands grow and how to how to invest to grow in the brand.” He added that, “We've grown absolute investment year on year, against that really tough backdrop of every penny mattering”

Rogerson went further on the brand building point: “Ultimately, you’re reminding your customers why you exist. Making them proud of the brand they shop with, is more important now rather than less important.”

Watch the whole of this rich discussion here and find out what tips they would have given their younger selves and how you go about creating change.