GDR Reviews… Tesco Finest* pop-up wine bar

Aug 10, 2016

Shifting consumer preconceptions is never easy, but that’s precisely what Tesco is hoping to do with its new pop-up wine bar in London’s Soho. GDR Innovation Researcher, Lamorna Byford, went to the bar to find out more…

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Soho’s Wardour Street is full of buzzing bars and trendy stores and the Tesco Finest* pop-up wine bar, that opened on the 2nd of August, has convincingly adopted the clothing of its neighbours. The glass and understated black signage outside suggest this place is the real deal and, stepping into the bar, I’m again met with slick, urban interiors. The bar stocks 49 of the retailer’s wines. Visitors can order a flight of full sized glasses of wine to expand their repertoire.

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Aesthetically, this is not what I might have expected from Tesco, but this is not a stealth branding exercise. The Finest* logo is clearly displayed across the large room. Rather, this is about pushing the Finest* range into a new conceptual space – as a premium brand that is equal, if not better, than its rivals’ offerings.

Speaking to The Drum, Nick Jackman, head of brand marketing for Tesco Finest* said: “While customers are aware of the fact that Finest* exists and they know it’s our best brand in terms of quality, innovation and provenance, we really need to amplify the experience of the brand for customers. We want it to really embody experience, discovery and expertise. And if we can try to deliver those – whether it’s through a pop-up like this or through any other amplification – that’s at the heart of what we’re trying to communicate.”

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So, has Finest* and the agency behind the event, CUBE Communications, achieved this? Can expert staff and glossy décor really side step the preconceptions that consumers have about Britain’s big supermarkets?

In June, German discount supermarket Aldi put a pop-up wine store in a shipping container at East London’s Boxpark retail development. The store, which aimed to promote Aldi’s venture into online wine selling, was far smaller than Tesco’s bar, featuring more technology-driven information and providing only small tasters of the wines. Arguably, Aldi actually has an easier mission than Tesco, as the discount supermarkets have seen huge increases in their approval ratings and footfall in the last few years, building their reputations and identities on the idea that they exceed consumer’s previously low expectations.

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Despite this harder task, Tesco has risen to the challenge. The bar is visually aligned to the Finest* brand, but also matched to the trendy tone of Soho and its wine-hungry visitors. Chalkboards next to wine displays are etched with tasting tips and information on provenance and pairings. Most importantly perhaps, the range of wine is diverse, high quality and tasty – according to GDR Consultants Will and Bia, who selflessly stepped up to sample the wines on offer.

What the bar really demonstrates, for other brands and retailers, is the power that an unexpected move can have to force consumers to confront and re-evaluate their preconceptions. Immersing customers in a social environment, with staff who have a deep knowledge of the product, is a far cry from shot-sized tasters in the supermarket entrance. It’s a clever move by the Finest* brand and one that, at least in terms of challenging brand perceptions, appears to have paid off.

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