Subscribe to the daily newsletter.

Anything You Can Do, We Can Do Better: The vital role of online media coverage in the supermarkets’ war


With the on-going cost of living crisis, supermarkets now need to pay more attention to online media coverage as the battle for consumers’ hearts and minds around cheap prices intensifies, explains Mark Westaby, Director at Metricomm. Here he uses data from Metricomm’s Media Audience Reputation Index (MARI) to delve into the impact of online media coverage on performance.

For those too young to remember, ‘Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better’ was a famous song during the time when grocery stores were run by middle-aged men wearing brown warehouse coats; and while the original lyrics might have come from the Broadway musical, Annie Get Your Gun, they could just as easily be applied to today’s UK retail grocery market as the cost-of-living crisis bites deep and hard.

Given the pledges made by the biggest UK supermarkets to price-match the discounters you might be forgiven for thinking they would be the ones belting out the old musical showstopper, but in fact you would be wrong.

Supermarket price wars

Any price comparison obviously depends on the products chosen for the basket, but there is plenty of evidence that the original discounters, Aldi and Lidl, are once again winning the price war.

Indeed, there is every likelihood that Aldi will overtake Morrisons to become the UK’s fourth largest supermarket over the next 12 months while Lidl continues to maintain its impressive share as others stumble around them. But given the huge amounts thrown at advertising by the UK’s biggest supermarkets to beat the discounters, how is it that Aldi and Lidl are able to maintain such impressive market share?

One explanation, which is very likely to surprise a lot of people, will have played a much bigger part in Aldi and Lidl’s success than is likely to be appreciated by the marketing and advertising industries. If ‘Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better’ goes back a long way, so too does the prevailing view among many advertising and marketing professionals that media coverage plays a relatively minor role in the marketing mix. That might have been the case when the country’s news was delivered to doorsteps entirely in printed form, but things have changed dramatically since then.

Going back to the musical theatre, it is an interesting fact that when movies were first introduced the producers simply filmed what they were used to seeing on stage without realising or appreciating the power of the new medium.

A remarkably similar thing is happening with the shift from print to online media, with a surprising number of advertising, marketing and, believe it or not, PR people unable to believe that anything not appearing in print counts as ‘proper’ media coverage. Nothing could be further from the truth, with indisputable evidence now available that online media coverage is proving to be an extremely powerful driver of consumer behaviour from consideration through to sales.

Pictured: Media Audience Reputation Index (MARI) for Tesco, Aldi and Lidl to June, 2022
Pictured: Media Audience Reputation Index (MARI) for Tesco, Aldi and Lidl to June, 2022 (Figure 1)

All of this makes understanding what is happening with brands’ online media coverage vital and nowhere is this more important, nor evident, than in the UK supermarket sector. Metricomm’s Media Audience Reputation Index (MARI) provides an overview of brand performance in online media coverage, combining trends for audiences generated by online media coverage with Google search to provide a simple but effective indicator of how an organisation’s reputation is developing.

Growth of discount retailers and online coverage analysis

Figure 1 is taken from the most recent MARI analysis for the UK supermarket sector and reveals a number of key points. First, note how both Aldi and Lidl grew strongly to 2019 when the latter started to fall away but Aldi’s ascent continued, catching and overtaking Tesco later that year.

Tesco subsequently came back during the pandemic and again during the second half of last year, when its drive to price-match the discounters was in full swing, but as the cost-of-living crisis has taken hold it is Aldi that has once again taken a lead over the UK’s biggest grocery retailer. Also significant is how the other big discounter, Lidl, has once again started to grow on MARI and is now neck-and-neck with Sainsbury’s.

Fig2.  Share of audience from online media coverage about cheap prices over the past 18 months
Above: Share of audience from online media coverage about cheap prices over the past 18 months

What Metricomm’s data also reveals is how Aldi, in particular, is once again winning the price war against its bigger rivals. Figure 2 shows the share of audience for online media coverage about cheapest prices for UK supermarkets, with the deep inroads made by Tesco until April this year clearly evident.

In the last quarter, however, Aldi has taken a whopping 40% share of the audience generated by online media coverage around the key topic of cheap prices to take it back to levels it last enjoyed over 12 months ago.

Clearly, the next six months are going to be critical for UK supermarkets, with inflation forecast to get worse and the battle for consumers’ hearts and minds around cheap prices intensifying. While more spend on advertising and marketing will undoubtedly be important, the war will not be won without paying far more attention to online media coverage.

To explore the data further, visit MARI.

Related News

Related Jobs

Communications Lead


Head of Production

THG Studios

Events & Marketing Coordinator / Executive

David M Robinson