Using research data in marketing calls for accuracy. Food basket comparisons made by the Consumer Agency and State Provincial Offices are primarily meant to increase price awareness among consumers. A company with a high ranking in these comparisons may make use of the results, but only under the condition of openness.
National price control was discontinued in Finland in the late 1980s. Around the same time, the Finnish Competition Authority was established and the first Price Indication Decree issued. The concrete effects of the change were felt in consumers' lives when the price of milk suddenly varied from one shop to another. In particular for foodstuffs, price became a key factor in the competition between businesses.
To improve price awareness among citizens, the Consumer Agency began to undertake so-called food basket comparisons. At first the food baskets were put together at the national level. This was followed by a gradual move to local comparisons made in co-operation with State Provincial Offices. Price awareness among consumers has increased, and they now have access to a number of other comparisons as well.
One swallow does not make a summer
A company that scores a high ranking in food basket comparisons receives attention and often wants to build on that further. At times, however, exploitation of the results of food basket comparisons is almost too goal oriented. The supermarket chain Lidl campaigns on its attractive prices by highlighting its success in e.g. food basket comparisons. The campaign in question gave the impression that Lidl is the cheapest place to make purchases. In fact, the company had picked out only those categories where it had been most successful and then compared those results with the most expensive competitor. For example the claim that ”Lidl's prices for the same products 10 % lower than the competitor's” was based on the most expensive competitor included in the study, and the price differential to the rest was less than five percent. Even if information provided in marketing is, as such, correct, it may not be used if it conveys a misleading overall impression.
Using food basket comparisons in marketing is challenging, as the adverts concerned must convey an accurate overall impression of the results of the study. To do this, the company should also mention that while they were ranked among the cheapest in certain product groups, a competitor was ranked cheaper in others. If an advert neglects to mention a competitor's success in the same study, the overall impression conveyed regarding the results of the study is misleading and the company gains a distorted competitive advantage. KUV/10329/41/2008