Hardware giant Bunnings Warehouse has released the first advertisements for its new UK store, and while Australian shoppers are baffled by British accents reading from a familiar script, marketing experts say businesses can learn a lot from the retailer’s classic ads.
The chain’s first UK store opened at St Albans in February, after Wesfarmers purchased British hardware chain Homebase for more than $700 million in 2016 with the intention to convert Homebase stores into a similar format to Australian Bunnings stores.
The Australian public has been amused by the brand’s attempts to introduce the British public to the concept of the perfect sausage sizzle, but it’s the first “Lowest Prices” format ad that really has shoppers in a spin on social media.
The 30-second commercial is delivered in the same format as the brand’s Australian TV ads, with Bunnings employees chatting about the great deals on offer while the chain’s jingle plays in the background.
The ad has gained significant traction on social media in Australia, with local Bunnings aficionados struggling to wrap their minds around British accents delivering now well-known lines.
“I just don’t know what to think,” said one Australian shopper on Facebook.
“Ahahahahaha – copy, paste + Brit accents,” said another.
The journey to focus on staff
Bunnings traces its history back to 1886, when it was founded in Western Australia by the Bunning brothers. The retailer eventually expanded into other states in the 1990s, with Wesfarmers gaining 100% ownership of the business in 1993. As it grew over the next 20 years, it worked its way towards the now well-known TV ad format led by its own staff.
The company started rolling out its “Lowest Prices” slogan in the mid 1990s, and ran animated TV ads with basic information on specific product prices before moving to in-store interviews with staff in the late 2000s.
Smaller operators can learn a lot from the company’s strategy over the years, says independent brand strategist Michel Hogan.
“What they’re essentially doing is trying to put a face on what is essentially an impersonal experience,” Hogan told SmartCompany.
“The ads bring a personal and intimate experience that acts as an antidote to the impersonal experience of the store.
“These ads show you can look at something from your business that would potentially be a downside and say, ‘how can we counter that?’, and give people a different point of difference.”
Can British accents help the brand back home?
The hardware store has been very successful in Australia when it comes to conveying the value of workers, including older staff members, in its branding, says advertising expert and academic at the University of Melbourne Lauren Rosewarne.
“Part of Bunnings strategy—and success—is it’s faith in its workforce: a workforce on average that is older than in most retail environments,” she says.
Keeping that strategy alive in the British commercial shows the brand is committed to playing on those strengths in the UK too, Rosewarne says.
“This conveys the impression that Bunnings is a positive, fair and supportive working environment for employees as well a place where customers can interact with staff who know what they are doing,” she says.
Given the similarities between Australian and British audiences, taking the same script to the UK was an obvious win for the brand overall, says Marketing Angels founder Michelle Gamble.
“I’m not surprised that they’ve templated the formula, particularly in the UK. What the UK likes in advertising is similar to Australia,” Gamble says.
“I think it does help the brand. Australians love to see Australian brands do well overseas.”
Meanwhile, the strong reactions from Aussie shoppers to seeing the British ad online indicate the bond that Bunnings has made with shoppers at home, says Hogan.
“What I find more interesting is people would say, ‘it’s not right to have British people talking about this because it’s Australian!’” she says.
“The sense of the ownership is fascinating to me.”
Given how close Australians feel to the brand’s marketing, there was definitely no need to switch things up, says Hogan.
“If it’s not broken don’t fix it. Why would you reinvent that ‘just because’?”