Why did it work? Waitrose and ‘To Autumn’ | The Giles Agency


Here on The Giles Agency blog, we’ve emphasised the importance of localisation – of adapting your content to suit the region in which is it disseminated and consumed – a few times now, but we simply can’t overstate how crucial this is to the success of any and every company.

Localisation is a chance to truly connect and engage with your customers. Rather than producing cookie cutter, one-size-fits-all content and offering services that aren’t tailored to a region’s specific needs and pain points, localised content really shows that you understand your customer: you care about them, specifically, and want to speak to them in their language (quite literally).

At its heart, localisation connects closely to purpose. Crack a product’s purpose, and localisation is the next logical step. What, exactly, are you trying to achieve? And how do you get there?

The importance of purpose

This is something at the very core of good design, copywriting, and comms. Purpose is everything. You can create the most beautiful business card in the world, for instance, but if key contact information is missing or the text is too hard to read, then it’s unfit for purpose.

The very best copywriting seeks to create a connection with the reader; to inspire, motivate, understand, and evoke an emotional reaction. This is why some brands opt for poetic and abstract angles in their marketing material.

For example, an advertising campaign from supermarket giant Waitrose in the United Kingdom opted for a poetic voiceover combined with evocative imagery. Waitrose chose excerpts from a John Keats poem, To Autumn, as the soundtrack to a nostalgic choice of clips of browning leaves, conkers, stews, hot drinks, bonfires, toffee apples, rain, and roaring fires, adding their strap-line at the end to hammer home the warm, fuzzy feeling of their home video-style advert:

“Enjoy all the delicious flavours of autumn now at Waitrose.”

Their approach, despite providing scant information, is highly effective, and connects to the viewer’s emotional attachment to winter evenings around a fire, with the rain lashing against the windows and soup warming on the stove. At first glance, one might be left with questions about what the brand is actually selling, and even what or who the advert is for, but the advert is actually capitalising upon a feeling, an experience, an emotion, to encourage consumer loyalty and strengthen brand awareness.

However, this video might have a very different effect in another country; Yorkshire puddings, toffee apples, crumbles, and conkers on strings are quintessentially British autumnal activities, and if someone from Hong Kong, for example, were asked to define autumn, their mind’s eye would likely play a very different film.

Ensuring that your content and products are appropriate and effective in your target market, as Waitrose did, is key to success. In fact, over half of consumers care less about pricing than they do about their ability to access information in their language – and two-thirds of multinational enterprises believe that localisation is important or very important to achieving higher revenues.

However, rather than being a ploy to lure in as many eyes as possible to up a company’s profits, localisation is a way of ensuring that what you’re offering is actually useful to the consumer. There’s no point running a strapline in Singapore if it relies on cultural nuances in Hong Kong, for instance – it may be a beautifully witty piece of wordplay, but it’s unlikely to be effective, and thus offers no value to consumers. Likewise, a video drawing on the memories of a British childhood, with vinegar-hardened conkers and children huddled around a Guy Fawkes effigy on Bonfire Night, is likely to cause confusion rather than comfort to an audience in China.

As Waitrose have twigged, no matter where you are, purpose reigns supreme.