Jamie Oliver in Boots – And then he rolled over

It was a good effort, but for me was doomed from the start. Jamie Oliver in Boots. More about volume than brand alignment.

It’s a bit like Asda selling Bose, Bentley or maybe a premium food range by Heston Blumenthal. The brands just don’t connect and their audiences have almost no overlap, so they are doomed to fail from the start. The danger for the premium brand is that it becomes tarnished by hanging out with the cheaper one.

A while ago I predicted they would need to include it in the Boots meal deal for it to succeed. And then more recently, they blinked and made a mini meal deal with an alignment with Innocent – which was a good thing.

And now they have gone one better (cheaper) again and made a real meal deal with a drink and a snack for the fixed price of £4.95. This is almost as cheap as some of the sandwiches on their own. It may be a last roll (or salad) of the dice, but it does feel like an important price point to have ducked under and for me is now far more likely to succeed. What it will do for the long term brand equity of Jamie Oliver is less sure, but it’s a step downwards that will be very hard to recover from.

Jamies does (cheap) lunch via the meal deal at Boots
Jamies does (cheap) lunch via the meal deal at Boots

Thanks for the picture Leo.

Jamie Oliver in Boots – The other guy blinked

 Jamie Oliver in Boots - A sort of meal deal with Innocent
Jamie Oliver in Boots – A sort of meal deal with Innocent

I have written about Jamie Oliver in Boots a few times and the brand asking to extend the lunch price from £3.29 to nearer £7.00. A lovely idea, but unlikely in practice.

As much as I wanted to try it, I couldn’t quite bring myself to buy the sandwiches. Call it mental block or sheer tightwaddiness, But finally, the other guy blinked and they have added the whole Jame Oliver range into a form of meal deal. It’s not within the full £3.29 spectacular, but rather a £4 partnership with Innocent.

This is quite clever. Brands hang out with brands that work for them and make each other look good. By sharing the deal, the two brands feed off each other and may both benefit.

So, I bought one. A ‘Proper Salmon Sarnie’ and I have to admit it was up there with the nicest sandwiches I have ever had from a supermarket. Certainly equal to the taste of the ‘Taste the Difference’ sandwiches in Sainsbury’s, which are part of their £3 meal deal.

So, maybe there’s hope for the range yet.

Jamie Oliver in Boots – Two brands that don’t work together

I quite like Jamie Oliver and I quite like Boots. I sometime pop into the latter for a cheap meal deal and something to make me look less old or ugly. BUt I don’t think they are brands that sit well together. As i’ve said before, brands work well together when they approach similar audiences who share a close match when you overlay their combined values. This isn’t the case with Boots and Jamie.

And I have some evidence to prove it.

Jamie Oliver and his so far unsuccessful assault on Boots lunch time audience

If you look at these two shelves side by side the one on the right is the normal Boots meal deal fare. £3.29 for sandwich, drink and crisps. On the left is Jamie’s good work. Sandwiches (which look lovely) starting at £3.70 and specifically excluded from the meal deal. By the time you add crisps and a decent smoothie you are at £6 or nearly double their normal price. 50p off isn’t going to impress or influence anyone.

As you can see one gondola is very full and one is very empty. That shot was at 14.45 today, so very little else will sell today.

Now, I don’t consider myself a tightwad in the lunch department, but this is a big step up in price for Boots customers. Too big. In Waitrose it may work, but not here.

This range will have to be included in the meal deal  – even with a small price premium – or it will fail fast.

It’s not because the sandwiches are bad or the retailer is at fault. It’s just that there is nowhere near enough overlay in the values.

The promo video

This is what Jamie Oliver said before the launch.

I genuinely believe he is passionate about the product, but sadly unless there is a fundamental shift in Boots customers’ buying behaviour, it will be in the meal deal and dumbed down to meet the price point, or  sadly it will fail.

Update 25.10.12

I went in again today at 17.05 to see how it was getting on today. The picture still doesn’t lie. There is an enormous amount left in Jamie’s stand and far less in the one on the right. It looks more even because the standard one has been re-merchandised to bring the remaining stock forward. And of course, we don’t know whether they had a jamie delivery overnight and how much will have to be thrown away.

Jamie Oliver's lunch in Boots - Stlll not really selling very many sandwiches
Jamie Oliver’s lunch in Boots – Stlll not really selling very many sandwiches

Jamie’s Italian in Nottingham and Carluccio’s too – How lucky are we?

Jamie's Italian Nottingham - I can't wait

Over Christmas, we ate in Carluccio’s in Canterbury and I have to say that I think it was the nicest food I have eaten this side of Venice or Rome. It was beautifully fresh, incredibly tasty and pretty remarkable value. Five of us had starters, main courses a bottle of wine and some drinks for the kids. It came to £80. Not absolute KFC bargain bucket, but great value for such top quality cooking and simple unfussy service. Carluccio’s wasn’t a brand I had been particularly aware of before this, so it was a nice surprise as my expectations probably weren’t that high.

So I was quite pleased to see they have a new one opening in Nottingham. Building work is well underway. I guess it will be February or so for the opening.

The website just says it is opening soon.

Also over Christmas, I cooked a rather gorgeous turkey and leek pie that I adapted from a Jamie Oliver recipe. Basically I added ham and some other leftover veg from Christmas dinner to make sure I had enough to feed the 14 hungry mouths around the table. It got quite remarkable critical acclaim, so thanks Jamie. I have to confess that I do rely on a few of his recipes, with his pizza base and tomato sauce topping recipe from his Italian book still being the nicest one I have ever made.

And then, I noticed that there is an all new Jamie’s Italian opening just up from Carluccio’s in February too. The difference is, I have high expectations of the Jamie Oliver brand. I know it so well, that I expect it to be excellent simple food and good value too. The whole Jamie Oliver brand is built on this platform, so it has to deliver.

I am genuinely excited to have an ‘eat off’ and see who does the best grub. I am convinced that the food in Jamie’s will be absolutely gorgeous. Friends have been rubbing it in about which ones they have eaten at and the reports are excellent.

It’s my birthday later this week, so I’m asking for a meal at both of these new places (when they open) rather than a conventional present.

I may invite AA Gill along so he can review them both with me. I’m sure he’s very welcome anytime in Nottingham.

According to the Nottingham Evening Post, Jamies Italian will open on Monday 7th February. Hopefully see you there soon after.

Updated 07.02.11
Just spoken to a friend who went last week as part of the soft launch. This was open to friends and insiders and seemingly, those who worked for Boots and was half price!

The verdict?

Fabulous food, really well thought out layout for a potentially difficult building, great value (even better at half price) and superb service.