This article in Marketing Week on Waitrose new personalised promotions caught my eye late last week. In it, Sarah Vizard explains that Waitrose is looking to change customers’ relationship with promotions.

Waitrose’s theory is that the current promotional system causes brand promiscuity and constant switching. One moment the shopper buys Kitkats for the week’s lunchbox, the next Penguins, making keeping brand loyalty reminiscent of the travails of Sisyphus, constantly pushing a rock to the top of a hill only to have it fall back down again, and having to start over again.

Their solution is allowing shoppers to pick their own promotions, which lets myWaitrose customers pick from a list of over 1000 promotions to receive a 20% discount on, even if the product is already part of another offer.

It’s not completely new, of course, Carrefour has been doing this for a while. However, in UK grocery, this is a bold and significant step towards driving loyalty and personalisation. Wouldn’t it be amazing if the offers were also pre-personalised? Fewer offers, tailored to the individual shopper, much like Tesco’s Loyalty Clubcard mailer.

They have the data available, so maybe it’s in the pipeline? However great this focus on loyalty and/ or talking to lapsed shoppers, it brings to mind once more, the issue of the challenge of grocer instore activation. Instore templates are set up for NPD. There’s a ‘New’ barker but not a ‘brilliant and existing and wouldn’t you like to remember to put it in your basket’ barker (Note – if this ever happens, it may need a catchier name!).

Thus while NPD is important and drives category excitement, most of it fails. So why do grocers spend all their effort on pushing products most of which fail. Developing a way of activating existing brands in an engaging way, with ‘drive the core’ campaigns, would surely drive better category growth in the long term. So come on Media Centres!

Given the current retail challenge to drive profitability and footfall into the major multiples, develop a template that works for brands and retailers! And then maybe that Sisyphean rock has a chance of staying up at the top of that hill.