BC tip: Asda - Merger, what merger?

The UK supermarket's reluctance to talk openly about a major deal is likely to frustrate website visitors

Asda's corporate home page - no merger in sight

Asda's corporate home page - no merger in sight

The Feature

Asda and Sainsbury’s, two of the UK’s biggest supermarket companies, have announced plans to merge, attracting a great deal of coverage in the mainstream media and even debate in the UK Parliament.

The Asda corporate site has nothing on its home page about the deal, and even navigating to the Newsroom still reveals nothing (as of the afternoon on the day the announcement was made).

It is only when the user clicks ‘See All Press Releases’, and accesses the press releases listings page, that a news article is shown – with no image and the utilitarian title ‘Proposed combination of J Sainsbury plc and Asda Group Limited’.

The article is brief and advertises a ‘Digital Press Kit’ – which turns out to be some standard images of employees and stores available at the bottom of the article.

Asda’s parent company Wal-Mart did carry a home page story about the deal – but many people may not be aware that Asda is a subsidiary of the US company.

The Takeaway

Given the huge public and media interest in the deal, since it would create a retailer with massive power over suppliers and potentially affect both customers and employees, Asda’s online reticence about the merger is unhelpful for people visiting its corporate site. (This approach contrasts with another current high-profile merger in the US, where both T-Mobile and Sprint have material on their customer-facing sites, and have created a dedicated website about the deal.)

Granted, the terms of the tie-up suggest Sainsbury’s is the dominant player, so it is possible that Asda as a company is less enthused than Sainsbury’s clearly is: Sainsbury plc’s corporate site has plenty of material, including videos, prominently displayed on the home page, and even posted an article about pre-deal speculation over the weekend before the formal announcement.  Or perhaps Asda is expecting rival bids and so is anticipating further announcements and changes.

But that is all guesswork. What is not, is that there will be plenty of users coming to Asda’s corporate site wanting to find out what the company thinks and says about the deal. Making a limited amount of information hard to find is likely to frustrate them, whether they are journalists, customers, jobseekers or employees.

Tearful toast to storytelling success

On Monday, something sad will happen in the world that Bowen Craggs spends its time closely watching.

One of the very best corporate websites, SABMiller.com, will be switched off. 

Why? Because the takeover of SABMiller by fellow brewing giant AB InBev will be completed. SABMiller’s 120-year history as an independent company will end. 

But the web team at SABMiller is dropping the final curtain in style. They've used their global site’s most distinctive feature – editorially and visually rich "stories" – to publish a poignant final piece reflecting on “the legacy SABMiller leaves the beer industry”. 

The headline and wistful image for the article dominated the home page for the final week of the site’s existence...

SABMiller's home page during its last week as an independent company

SABMiller's home page during its last week as an independent company

The approach, far more powerful than a bog-standard press release, has garnered positive coverage in the business press – and been warmly received by employees too, judging by the tweets from some of them. 

It also offers an important parting lesson to web managers at other companies on how the heavily hyped but often badly executed idea of corporate "storytelling" can be used to bring an organization’s past achievements and future plans to life. 

SABMiller is currently ranked third in the Bowen Craggs Index of Online Excellence ‘Message’ metric, and 14th overall among the world’s 200 largest companies.

When it relaunches online on Monday evening as a newly-merged entity, AB InBev's website has a tough act to follow. 

SABMiller published more than 160 'stories' on its global website. This is its last. 

SABMiller published more than 160 'stories' on its global website. This is its last. 

- By Scott Payton