Most Creative Marketers
Most Creative Marketers: Alessandra Bellini
Tesco’s chief customer officer and Advertising Association president Alessandra Bellini talks up the value of marketing and advertising, and the joy it brings
15 March 2023
“I sell bananas and avocados for a living. And I'm very passionate about it.” It is a convincing statement from Tesco’s chief customer officer Alessandra Bellini, often called “the voice of Tesco”.
Having held the role for six years, she’s seen as a key figure in Tesco’s turnaround – and has played a pivotal role in the Aldi Price Match, Clubcard Prices, and the recently launched Tesco Media & Insight platform (a Walmart-style media and insight platform with Dunnhumby), which turns Clubcard insights into revenue.
Alessandra, or Alé for short, has however widened her remit to beyond bananas and avocados and Clubcard points. As the Advertising Association president (she was appointed to the role in October 2021) her passion extends to taking action on the talent shortage.
The AA has since launched a three-year plan to make the industry more inclusive and sustainable. This is a cause that she says is very close to her heart. “We need a relentless senior focus, supported by data, which is the most effective way to shine a light on making our industry better represented,” she says.
Alessandra Is All In
So what has kept her in an industry, which we know is sadly just not top of the list as a career choice for most young people? Prior to Tesco, Alessandra worked for Unilever for over 20 years, holding different board-level positions in marketing and general management in Italy, Central & Eastern Europe and the USA. She started her career in advertising at JWT Milan, as an apprentice straight out of school, and worked in advertising for 12 years in Italy and the UK.
“This is an amazing profession, an amazing industry,” she says, "and I would say to new talent that if you're interested in human beings and behaviour, if you're interested in what makes them tick, what influences people in a positive way - their behaviour and their choices - this is for you. And the fact that you can add a dose of creativity to everybody's lives every day, that’s what makes it exciting.”
Under her leadership, one of the actions the AA has outlined to remedy the talent shortage is the All In Census - an industry-wide workforce inclusion survey. Today (March 15) marks the day when every individual working in the UK’s advertising and marketing services industry is encouraged to ‘stop the clock, take 15 minutes and Have Your Say’. People can take part here.
Her international background in advertising and marketing has seen her focus on developing people and growing brands, seeing these as the ultimate levers to a successful business. “Maybe we need to better articulate how we drive business growth, impact the economy and change society. But I also see this is as a great opportunity for us an industry, which is going through its own ‘reset’ moment’ on how it approaches work, talent and inclusion.”
She’s also keen to point out how “brilliant” she finds the UK advertising industry. “As an industry we are already ahead when it comes to creativity and we have to carry on winning more Cannes Lions and other awards to showcase ourselves to the rest of the world, but we also should continue to celebrate just how good our work already is.”
Alessandra goes back to the AA’s renewal of its commitment to “public trust, inclusion, climate action, exports growth, and media literacy for young people” and adds that the industry’s collective ambition to improve our performance will be key to attracting and retaining talent to this "wonderful" industry.
Joy to the world
As someone who is “obsessed” with marketing and “the everyday things that impact people’s lives”, Alessandra’s role as the chief customer officer for the UK’s largest supermarket means that she has a lot of customers to try and understand. So what are the big bets she’s making in 2023 for both the brand and the business in a challenging consumer demand and cost environment?
In 2020, Tesco had become the first supermarket to directly price match with Aldi with a perfectly timed campaign that was launched by Alessandra and her team in early March that year. On the eve of the pandemic, shoppers were reassured that time-poor and budget-savvy customers would get Tesco products at Aldi prices on products that matter to them.
“My job has always been about being close to our customers and making sure that we help them through the cost of living, all the way through. The first priority is to look through the lens of value, because that's what customers are looking at. But people don't just want cheap products, they want great value. So we continue to invest in the quality of our products, the sustainability around all of that, and also in making sure we make the shopping trip as easy as possible. Whether that is online or in-store. And we’re making big investments in making sure that it continues to be as seamless as possible, as convenient as possible. We also realise that our shoppers are more digitally engaged - so we have to respond to those changing needs and understand what they want from us. We will continue to invest in skills and technologies that require us to do all of that.”
For Alessandra, her job - both at Tesco and the AA - is about doing little things that makes a big impact. “I am the personification of ‘Every Little Helps’ and that is what I do every day. And I want the new talent coming to our industry to understand that they can be passionate about human behaviour, data, driving business value - we have space for all of you and more. This is a joyous industry that makes a lasting difference, so let’s continue to make it great.”
Talking of joy, it has somewhat been in short supply of late. This is one of the reasons why Tesco's 2022 Christmas campaign, created by BBH, was all around festive merriment. According to the retailer’s research, 87 per cent of people claim that Christmas brings them joy. At the time, Alessandra said: “We understand that it is a tough time at the moment with everyone’s finances under pressure, but we also know that people are looking forward to Christmas – in fact, our research shows that there is even more excitement around it than usual. This is why we decided to officially stand up for joy this Christmas. Through our campaign, we take a look at those moments during the festive period that unite us all – including the delight of eating delicious desserts, sitting around a table together with loved ones, movie nights in our PJs and even the inevitable confusion around bin day – to put a smile on people’s faces as we prepare for a season of meaningful celebrations.”
Where does Alessandra draw her own inspirations from, then? The industry, she says, continues to both excite and inspire her, but one of the real joys for this Italian in London comes from zipping around town on her “beloved” baby-blue Vespa. This allows her to be not just obsessing over the challenges ahead, but also be laser-focused on the things that she can influence, including making sure the value of the marketing and advertising industry is well and truly seen.