UK supermarket Asda is to recruit a panel of parents to advise it on its offerings. The Wal-Mart owned supermarket chain Asda is to create a second board made up exclusively of parents who will give the Asda board feedback on a checklist of products and services. The move is a welcome sign that the chain is trying to communicate with one of its core audiences, but it must not neglect those groups with different purchasing priorities.

Asda is hoping to include a single parent, a father, a young mum, a grandparent, a working mother, a stepparent and an older mum on the panel. Each member will be paired with one of the eight existing Asda executive board members. Successful recruits will be given shopping discounts in return for their feedback.

Asda is launching its strategy this week with a £7m (US$13.2m) TV advertising campaign fronted by Sharon Osbourne. The advertisements will suggest that Asda can help mothers to keep their families healthy.

A focus on health will appeal to parents and guardians as they are more wary of marketing and advertising aimed at their children, and are particularly worried about unhealthy, fatty food and drinks. Today’s consumers acknowledge the link between diet and health, with 80% of consumers in a recent Datamonitor survey believing that it is important to improve health through diet. There is a growing pressure on parents to take responsibility for the rising obesity levels in children and thus the provision of healthier food and drinks will appeal to them.

However Asda needs to beware the pitfalls of such a high profile initiative: there is a risk that the use of a celebrity endorsement such as Osbourne may lead to the idea being perceived more as a marketing ploy than as a meaningful attempt to meet consumers’ needs.

It is also possible that the chain will alienate some of its other core consumer groups if its family push is too ostentatious – for example, there are more single person households in the UK than ever before, and some single shoppers may come to believe that rival chains would cater for their needs better than Asda if the company becomes synonymous with the ‘family supermarket’ idea. The warning signs are there: Safeway launched a similar initiative to attract young mothers five years ago, but its customers failed to take to its family friendly stores and the project was abandoned.

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