E weeks ago I wrote in this column that Tesco had suffered an immediate image impact after the revelations over horsemeat in burgers – but that the supermarket giant was already starting to recover and the story could prove to be a storm in a teacup.
Our measurement of brand perception – called the Index score, a composite of six key image measures on YouGov’s BrandIndex – shows that this may well have turned out to be the case had the story not had another twist. And twist it has.
The unfortunate thing for Tesco is that the story did not even require their involvement to drag them back down, but rather it was news that frozen food maker Findus was peddling lasagne containing horsemeat.
The reach of Tesco on Twitter (the proportion of UK twitter users exposed to comments about Tesco) had been hovering around the 10 per cent mark on any given day, but rose to 31 per cent on Friday with the top two words associated with Tesco being “horse” and “Findus”. This latest story might have been about Findus, but Tesco suffered a knock-on effect and got dragged back down by association.
The Index chart shows how the supermarket had essentially recovered its perception level by mid last week, but that it also took an immediate hit sitting at +9 on Monday (compared to a crisis low of +8 and a 2013 high of +24).
And looking again at our social media analysis – known as SoMA – we can see that on Monday Tesco was in the news again, this time with horsemeat found in its spaghetti bolognese.
This reached 46 per cent of UK Twitter users and I’d expect it to have a further adverse effect on Tesco’s BrandIndex scores.
Tesco responded quickly to the first crisis and looked like it would shore-up perceptions of the brand. However, the past few days have shown that Tesco is becoming the face of the horsemeat scandal and they need to react just as fast to deal with that perception, even if it is one that they have gained somewhat unfairly.
Stephan Shakespeare is the chief executive of YouGov