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Brand Perception Case Study

One of the big news stories in UK retail last year was the massive growth of discount grocery stores Lidl and Aldi.

Lidl’s success can be at least in part attributed to its neat #LidlSurprises campaign, which managed to change its brand image by cleverly challenging the public’s perception of its products.

Keen-eyed Econsultancy readers will be aware that I’ve already sung this campaign’s praises in a previous post, but I thought it was worth revisiting to see how it has developed in the intervening months.

It involves a smart narrative where the brand’s voice is handed over to Lidl's customers, so the ads appear to be natural testimonials.

It has effectively created a brilliant brand campaign by combining word-of-mouth marketing and customer reviews.

Read on to find out how Lidl has weaved the narrative through its various marketing channels, and for more on this topic read my posts on how Zady and Jaeger uses storytelling in their marketing.


There’s no avoiding #LidlSurprises on the company’s website.

The campaign hashtag is splashed across the top of the page and the sidebars include tweets praising the retailer’s products and low, low prices.

In keeping with the light-hearted tone of the campaign, many of the tweets poke fun at Lidl’s reputation for stocking cheaper, low quality items.

For example:

  • "My boyfriend’s incredibly posh mum refers to Lidl as her 'wine merchant' with genuine pride."
  • "Man discovers tastiest steak ever was bought from Lidl."

It’s quite subtle, but the use of comments from genuine customers really adds to the campaign message.

Lidl’s ‘About Us’ section includes a page describing the campaign – clearly the retailer is very proud of its marketing efforts.

It features two of the campaign videos which allow its customers to tell the story of the brand.

That said, the copy does massively contradict itself by saying the company has “handed the voice of Lidl over to the people who matter” before heaping praise on its own product and services in the very next paragraph. 

TV and YouTube

Lidl’s TV ads were generally well-received and scored a good reaction on social media.

People were impressed by the brand’s self-effacing approach and the ad’s clever trickery.

More than half of the videos on Lidl’s YouTube channel have been uploaded as part of the current campaign, which shows how revolutionary this new digital approach is for the retailer.

However, a lot of the ads have proven to be quite unpopular online, racking up just a few thousand YouTube views. Some have even failed to reach 1,000.

It’s obviously not all bad. Some of the videos have been watched more than 50,000 times, while the Christmas ad has just over 1m views.

Regardless of their popularity, the ads all tie into the overall narrative of the #LidlSurprises campaign.

The basic template is that members of the public express surprise at the quality of Lidl’s products.

My personal favourite is the one where a posh couple are shocked that some quail they’ve just eaten was actually quite tasty. 

Other social channels

I’ve previously compared Lidl and Aldi’s social marketing efforts, and to be honest I wasn’t hugely impressed by either of them.

Since December the content on Lidl's Facebook page has mostly focused on recipe ideas, product suggestions and a bit of fitness advice to coincide with people’s New Year resolutions.

#LidlSurprises was mentioned fairly regularly last autumn but it seems to have lost momentum recently. Maybe the campaign has just come to a natural end?

Well that certainly doesn’t seem to be the case on Twitter, where the hashtag is still a common feature.

In fact it appeared just this morning in a tweet about Lidl’s sustainably sourced fish.

There are also occasional variations on the theme, with #HealthySurprises being used to promote fitness products and healthy foods.

Lidl frequently retweets other users who mention the brand or use the #LidlSurprises hashtag. It also responds to a huge number of @mentions from other users, both positive and negative.

This ranges from questions about products, complaints about service in-store, or just people mentioning the fact that they’ve shop in Lidl. 


The #LidlSurprises story also features in the retailer’s stores.

As well as appearing in print ads, positive tweets that use the #LidlSurprises hashtag have been prominently displayed in-store.

Many of these fit with the light-hearted theme of the campaign, as they include people expressing their surprise that they bought something half-decent from Lidl.

I even noticed that the hashtag appears on Lidl’s outdoor signage (e.g. on the signs in the carpark), which goes to show the all-encompassing nature of the #LidlSurprises story.

You might be interested in

“Why not let every client who sets foot in the door know that this agency has entered the future?” – Don Draper

If you ask most people what they think a mainframe is, most will likely get visions of black and white photos of antiquated computers housed in an IBM backroom. As the Vice President of Z Systems Marketing for IBM, it’s Deon Newman’s job to change that perception.

Believe it or not, all of us are connected to a mainframe multiple times each day. The stats might actually surprise you. For example:

  • 80% of all corporate data resides or originates on mainframes.
  • 55% of all enterprise applications need a mainframe to complete transactions.
  • 30 billion business transactions are processed on mainframes every day.

It’s staggering to consider how much we touch this technology when most of us don’t think of this as relevant technology.

In his presentation, Deon shared a great case study of how IBM created a series of marketing campaigns to bring relevance to their mainframe product and create a more contemporary approach for the way the product is used. Below is a case study of how IBM took on a challenge of changing industry perception head on.

Case Study: How IBM Changed Perception of Their Product & Increased Revenue by 20% YOY

The Challenge

The whole industry is abuzz with moving all information to the cloud, which can quickly make a product like IBM’s mainframe, seem irrelevant. As the 50 year anniversary of one of their most popular products was quickly approaching, they knew it was time to transform the brand and reposition their offering.

The Journey of Brand Transformation & Repositioning

IBM had a new technology coming out in January of 2015 and the 50th anniversary of the launch of the mainframe 50 in April of 2014. Many people wanted to run away from the term “mainframe” because it was associated with a legacy concept (which in the IT world is a dirty word). The company used this milestone as an opportunity to project and flip the perception.

Instead, they focused on hitting some of the milestones and focus on what the product enabled, including helping put a man on the moon and ticketing systems for airline companies.

The team at IBM developed a client led communication program called “The Engines of Progress”. They went into some of their biggest clients, and enabled them to tell their own stories about how they have changed their industries and the world.

The Engines of Progress clients included Walmart, Visa and First National Bank. Each in their own right have had an impact, and here are their stories in their words:



First National Bank:

Part of what you’ll notice is that IBM leverages modern themes throughout this entire campaign and that they aren’t pushing their product. Within this series, they focused on brands that are leaders and seen as market movers. The other great thing about this client-focused campaign is that leadership within these companies wanted to be involved in the campaign. These videos helped tell IBM’s story digitally and the clients saw this as an association with something very iconic to be proud of.

In addition to celebrating what IBM had accomplished with current clients, they also wanted to start focusing on cultivating Generation Z. They created an academic initiative that included 180,000 students around the world, in 1,400 schools in 70 countries. They created a contest called “Master the Mainframe” which was a three round gaming contest designed to introduce mainframe gaming to the new generation.

The five finalists of the contest were brought on stage were highlighted as part of the 50th anniversary celebration. IBM was able to bring the next generation of skills into the fold to celebrate the anniversary of one of their first products.


Beyond the feel-good vibes that the campaign created, it’s important to determine if IBM was successful in changing the minds of their customers, potential customers, and their community at large. The results, speak for themselves. The campaign had:

  • More than 100 million social impressions
  • There were over 150 articles written about the campaign
  • More than 75 events supporting the campaign were hosted around the world
  • Additionally, 20-30 of IBM’s clients ran their own events to support the campaign.
  • This was incredibly inspiring and worked to reactivate IBM’s 400,000 employees who learned a lot more about the platform throughout the process.
  • Overall, revenue has increased 20% year over year

The lesson of this experience wasn’t that IBM sold a lot of mainframes (which they did) but that they found something contemporary with a credible story and linked these two things to help market and sell their platform.


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