Aldi wants to get rid of the ‘prejudices’, so it is now even doing TV commercials


If you had asked Rianne de Bruin twenty years ago about her favorite place to go shopping, she would have answered resolutely: the Aldi. De Bruin used to do almost all its shopping there. Only for products that Aldi did not sell, or for some premium brands, did she go to another shop in the village.

But with the arrival of competitor Lidl in 2002, that routine has completely changed, says De Bruin. She still does shop at Aldi – “some products are better there, like the muesli and Greek yogurt” – just not nearly as much as in the past.

Also this sunny autumn afternoon De Bruin visited Lidl in a small shopping center from the 1960s, just outside the village center of Mijdrecht. She is standing by her bicycle with a bag full of groceries. Why not at Aldi, further down the shopping arcade? “At Lidl they have a wider range, more fruit and vegetables,” explains De Bruin. “I also sometimes think that less is sold at Aldi and that it is therefore longer there. It just looks less beautiful and fresh. ”

Where the German Aldi was long considered a major challenger to the established Dutch supermarket chains, in recent years that place has been taken over by its yellow-blue countryman. Lidl is increasingly gaining market share: 10.7 percent in 2019 according to market researcher GfK, with Aldi at 5.9 percent. Twelve years ago, the proportions were the other way around: 4.8 to 8.5 percent.

Aldi is not only bothered by Lidl

By the way, Aldi is not only bothered by the colleague discount, other supermarkets are also on top of the prices. That’s how Dirk joined the consumer program last year Cash desk as the cheapest in the test and the discounters as expensive, an outcome that, according to Aldi, disregards ‘price-quality ratio’. All in all, it is reason for Aldi – 500 stores in the Netherlands – to use a weapon that the chain had never used in the Netherlands: television advertising. Apparently a small development, but quite a step for a company that is as closed as Aldi and so averse to fads. To illustrate: it was only about six years ago that the company switched from fax to e-mail.

The campaign, which can also be seen on Facebook, consists of videos without “frills or celebrities”, says Nienke van de Streek, who is primarily responsible for Aldi’s marketing in the Netherlands. On display is a shopping cart that is loaded with vegetables, fish, meat and typical Aldi brands such as Helaes Peanut butter. On the side, in budget supermarket style, products displayed in boxes, and the full receipt in full screen.

Nevertheless, according to Van de Streek, such a commercial is not only about price, it is also about image. There are “prejudices” about Aldi, she says. For example, that products have a shorter shelf life, that they therefore cost so little.

The chain wants to get rid of that, says Van de Streek. Besides being cheap, Aldi should also be known for being good. Hence the slogan: “If you say quality, you say Aldi? Of course it is.”

The concern is doing more than just an advertising campaign: Aldi stores are being renovated worldwide, a refurbishment that costs 5 billion euros for years, according to trade journal Retail Detail.

Market uproar

When Aldi came to the Netherlands – the first store opened in 1973 – other supermarkets saw it as a serious threat. How to deal with the German competitor who turned the market upside down?

Aldi is a notoriously taciturn family business that has never shared financial data. Little more was known about the Albrecht brothers, founders of Aldi (Albrecht Discount), than that in the early 1960s they divided the group into Nord and Süd – in the Netherlands there is only Nord – and that they got into serious quarrels with each other. Only in recent years has something more come out about this, because next of kin fight each other in court.

Customers also heard little from Aldi. No advertising was made. The idea was that the price should speak for itself.

Aldi did this in the usual way for decades. Simple shops with bright fluorescent ceiling beams, cream-colored tiles and garish price tags. And a limited range that was not neatly on the shelves, but was displayed in cardboard boxes, in cupboards or simply on pallets. That saved unpacking.

Also read: Aldi never leads the way (2015)

But, says Van de Streek of Aldi, “as a discounter you cannot do in 2020 what you did thirty years ago”. For example, the customer no longer wants to stand in long lines, she says. And even though the range is still modest – an Aldi has about 1,500 products on its shelf, a substantial Albert Heijn 20,000 – the customer nowadays expects a fresh department. “We didn’t have that before.”

Especially in these types of cases, major competitor Lidl, which made the switch to the Netherlands in the 1990s, has become much better, says Kitty Koelemeijer, professor of marketing at Nyenrode Business University. “Lidl has made enormous strides in the field of fresh produce in recent years. Their fruit and vegetable department actually wins a prize every year. ”

She also thinks that Lidl offers a little more luxury. “At Christmas they have special cheeses with the Delicieux brand, for example. With this they appeal to different types of customers. You don’t want to alienate people who are short of money. But if you can deliver to them and to people who can and want to pay a little more, then you serve a larger group. ” In addition, according to Koelemeijer, Lidl has “started to focus very much on sustainability and customer-friendliness”.

Steps that Aldi is now also taking. At first glance, there is not very much to see of this in Mijdrecht. The difference between Aldi and Lidl is not even that big. The same tiles, the same pallets. Although the crowds differ greatly. Aldi runs on one cash register, Lidl opens the third at the end of the afternoon.

Photo Simon Lenskens

Metal bins

Annemarie Wouda is a regular customer of Lidl in Mijdrecht. She finds Aldi “not a nice shop”. Perhaps because of the metal bins of bargains like clothing and electronics in the center of the store that look like customers have already been digging deeply into them. “That gives such a messy look.” She also praises Lidl’s wider range and generous department with fresh fruit and vegetables. “They don’t have many products at Aldi.”

But the Aldi in Mijdrecht is therefore an ‘old’ establishment, one that has not yet been renovated. More than half of the Dutch stores are now in a new style. Aldi calls them Aniko stores, or Aldi Nord Instore Konzept.

But is it successful? Are customers better able to find the ‘Anikos’? Traditionally, Aldi does not want to say anything about this.

But at least it looks like a nice difference, as appears about 20 kilometers away in a converted shop in Uithoorn.

There you come upon bins of fresh rolls: sausages, donuts, croissants and pistols. Wines are displayed in wooden crates, the vegetable department is at least twice the size in Mijdrecht and the spotty yellow tiles have made way for sleek gray ones.

Not that everything is completely different. Chocolate and cookies are still in boxes.

There is no meat department, the luxury cheeses are missing and there is certainly no sushi to be found. And the soda is still on old, trusted pallets.

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