During 2007 and prior to the economic crash of 2008, the Co-operative Group were concerned about the encroachment of the big supermarkets into core Co-op business activities such as travel and insurance and, thus wanted to monitor movement by the big supermarkets into these markets.
At this time Social media was in its infancy and online forums remained the key area of public discussion regarding travel, financial services and particularly the best insurance deal.
Being able to monitor these key discussions and trends within various online forums on a large scale was desirable.
Advance notice given to the Co-operative Group via brand monitoring.
Thule Media built up three campaigns to monitor key online forums in the UK for financial services, travel holidays and motoring, each for key super-market brand names including the big six; Tesco, Asda, Morrisons, Sainsburys, Waitrose & Booths. Each campaign involved the daily or weekly monitoring of some 100+ forums and other key websites of interest for some 20+ keywords involving brand names, slang names for the brand names and key product names for each brand.
This was set up using Thule Media’s own Yalert online monitoring system based on web crawling technology developed with the help of Infolab21 at Lancaster University.
The outcome was very much an unexpected result and not what the online monitoring campaign was actually set up for albeit it was very much what the technology was designed for. Throughout January 2007 we picked up a steady rise in the reference to supermarket names and particularly Tesco and Morrisons fuel in relation to the automotive forum campaign only. Over the course of February such discussions increased and then spilled over into other more generic forums whilst both Tesco and Morrisons were denying any involvement in the supply of poor quality fuel to motorists.
Finally, at the beginning of March 2007 Tesco finally admitted fault and ran a series of adverts apologising to their customers. Meanwhile, the Co-operative group head office in Manchester were well aware of the problems that the fuel was causing some 25 days ahead of the news breaking in the mainstream media without maybe realising the sheer scale of the problem that the supermarket fuel forecourts were causing.