, March 3, 2017

Lambs, Waitrose and confused customers

Names – as Waitrose has just discovered – can be unintentionally misleading.

Waitrose has found itself on the end of negative publicity from both the National Farmers’ Union and customers for calling its range of ready meals “British”. Waitrose chose the name to reflect the origin of the recipes, for example lamb hotpot and shepherd’s pie. However, other people interpreted the label to mean British ingredients, and were then angry to find that the lamb actually came from New Zealand.

Waitrose tried to clarify the situation by applying a sticker to its packaging saying “New Zealand lamb”. And when that still caused confusion, it decided to rename the meals altogether. “We are about to re-launch the range with the branding ‘Classic’, removing the large ‘British’ reference from the front of pack,” said a Waitrose spokesperson. “This was only ever supposed to denote the origin of the recipe but we understand why confusion has arisen,” she added.

Waitrose Lamb hotpot

The clarifying sticker only led to more confusion

Having to change the name at this stage is obviously an expensive exercise and highlights the importance of clear messaging from the outset. It has also prompted further calls for British lamb to be used in the first place.

When we here at Grain are asked to develop a new name or identity, the creative ideas are only a part of the story. The other part is thinking through any possible pitfalls or misunderstandings in depth, as well as researching the brand landscape and checking that the necessary trademarks and domain names are in place. Thinking through a name — and all its implications — is essential, and descriptive names must always be accurate. In an age when customers can take to social media the moment they spot something misleading, brands can’t afford to do anything else.

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