Aldi Follows the Peak-end Rule

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Supermarkets have become frontline services in the Coronavirus pandemic, with a double responsibility: keep the nation fed, and keep their workers safe. This has put the spotlight on them and given them the opportunity to communicate their actions in a memorable and emotional way. It’s an opportunity Aldi has taken well, with this week’s 5-Star UK ad.

But as with any Coronavirus themed ad, you have to hit the right tone. Too upbeat or celebratory and the work risks feeling frivolous. Too dour, and it risks simply being lost in a sea of worthy, but identical, reassuring commercials.

As we saw last week with Jack Daniels, some brands have permission to strike a positive note. But for retailers, so prominent in this crisis, the key is to show leadership and emphasise the good actions you’re taking. For Aldi, that’s home delivery, special opening hours for vulnerable shoppers, and a commitment to keeping key items in stock at the usual low price.

Aldi’s ad scored 5-Stars, our highest mark – in fact it’s the first Coronavirus response ad to reach that score. It also performed well on short-term Spike and Brand Fluency measures.

What makes it generate such a warm response? It’s a reassuring ad with a positive message, but that isn’t always enough, particularly in a climate where people’s underlying mood has darkened.

But Aldi has a secret weapon. Right at the end of the ad, its recurring Fluent Device character, Kevin The Carrot, pops up with a light-hearted comment. We’ve often seen Fluent Devices boost emotional response – people respond well to something they know and like – but Kevin’s appearance in this ad is a stroke of particular genius for three reasons.

  1. It obeys the Peak-End Rule, the behavioural heuristic described by Daniel Kahneman which says that people’s response to an experience is determined by how they feel at its peak (good or bad) and its end. For advertisers, we advise making sure the end of your ad creates a peak of happiness. Kevin fits the bill.
  2. Kevin is isolated from the rest of the ad. If Aldi had made an animated carrot the star of its Coronavirus ad, it would have looked unacceptably frivolous. But having him appear as a surprise at the end means there’s no danger of him interfering with the overall purpose of the ad.
  3. Kevin reminds us of happier times. This is the first time Kevin has appeared in an Aldi ad outside of the Christmas season. Which means that people’s associations with him are very positive ones – about the time just before the virus. We might not know when we can go back to normal, but we do know Christmas will come around again. Kevin’s appearance is a reminder that yes, this will ultimately end.

We would ordinarily recommend using Fluent Devices early in an ad and heavily. But these are not ordinary times. Aldi has used their brand asset in a way that perfectly fits the moment, and that’s why it’s a 5-Star piece of work.